RICKI LAKE: They say nothing is thicker than blood, but what happens when there is a family of no blood relation. Today we will examine the relationship between two great Rebel leaders: General Robert Edward Lee and Lieutenant General James Longstreet. The many years spent together on the battlefield allowed their relationship to blossom into a father-son kinship. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances and outcomes of the Battle of Gettysburg, and ultimately, the Civil War itself, their tie breaks. We bring them here today with hopes of reconciling their friendship. (To the audience) Are you guys ready to meet General James Longstreet?
(Audience applauds & cheers as Longstreet enters through left door and seats himself on left chair. Ricki quiets the audience.)
RICKI: Welcome, General Longstreet!
LONGSTREET: Thank you, Iím glad to be here.
RICKI: So tell us a little about yourself and General Lee.
LONGSTREET: Ahem, well, General Lee and I first fought together with the Union, but once Virginia seceded, General Lee and I knew that neither one of us would ever fight against our own families. We betrayed the Union oath for our obligation to Virginia.
RICKI: So when you two became leaders of the Rebel army, your relationship became close, is that right?
LONGSTREET: Yes, General Lee and I were very close. . . very close. Many times, we would just ride together. It was nice, getting away from the war, even though it was only for a short while.
RICKI: Can you explain what caused the change in your relationship?
LONGSTREET: Well, it happened during the Battle of Gettysburg. General Lee and I disagreed about war tactics. The Battle of Gettysburg was a crucial battle that would be the deciding point of the whole Civil War. We attained our bad position due to Lieutenant General Richard Ewell. When General Lee ordered him to take Cemetery Hill and take hold of the high ground, Ewell did not follow the orders. Thus, the Unionís army was able to get the high ground first and began setting up their line that stretched for miles. The Union line went from Culpís Hill to Cemetery Hill, and all the way up Cemetery Ridge to Big Round Top. We had the whole Union army staring down at us from up above on those hills. Any way we attacked would be disastrous. On July 2, 1863, we tried to flank them on the left, but the Unionís Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlainís brigade was ready for us. The following day, Lee ordered our troops to attack the center of the Union Line. It required us to march across about a mile of plain lands with Union artillery and cannon fire falling like rain upon us.
RICKI: Sounds like a tough situation to be in. Why donít we bring out General Robert Edward Lee, and hear his side of the story.
(Audience applauds and cheers as General Lee walks out from the right door and seats himself on the right chair. Longstreet rises in respect.)
RICKI: Welcome, General Lee!
LEE: Hello, Ricki.
RICKI: We just heard from Lieutenant General Longstreet about the Battle of Gettysburg, what would you like to say?
LEE: Well, Ricki, Longstreet wanted to move our troops south, "swing[ing] around between [General Meade] and Washington and get astride some nice thick rocks and make [General Meade] come to [us], and [then we would have] him in the open" (83). But I didnít agree. Morale was up from the last two days of warfare. Our boys were ready. I knew that the Union had fortified the left and right flanks of their lines because of the attacks yesterday. I knew they would not be strong in the center.
LONGSTREET: But you were blind General! Stuart and his cavalry were joyriding at our expense! You ordered an attack that was impossible. It resulted in more than half of the men dead or wounded. We should have moved down south as I said.
LEE: You always choose the defense attack. In Gettysburg, we could not retreat. The fight was there. Meade would not attack, so we had to. Those are the plain facts. I really tried to look at the situation and pick the best attack tactic.
LONGSTREET: So many men. So many dead. Lew Armistead, Pickettís brigade shot to pieces. . .
(Longstreet rises in anger.)
LEE: (eyes red and teary) Please James, I am so sorry. Believe me, Iíll never forget those boys who gave their lives for the South. Every night before I go to sleep I can see their faces. No matter how hard I shut my eyes, they wonít go away.
LONGSTREET: (Pause) I know how you feel, General Lee. After my children died, it was never the same. During the war, I just wanted the fighting to go on and on. I did not want the fighting to end because "when the fire was gone and the dark had truly come there was no way [I] could avoid the dead faces of [my] children" (135).
(Lee gazes up at Longstreet through tired eyes)
LEE: Can you ever forgive me, James?
LONGSTREET: I will die believing "that the battle [of Gettysburg] was lost by [you], Robert E. Lee", but I will never forget the kinship we had.
(Longstreet comes to attention and salutes Lee. The audience is quiet. Lee carefully raises himself from his chair.)
LEE: Thank you, James.
(Lee comes to attention and salutes Longstreet back.)
(Audience erupts in applause.)
RICKI: Well folks, there you have it, the reunion of General Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant General James Longstreet. Join us tomorrow for our show on Secret Confessions.
(Audience applauds and cheers.)
Click here to read my poem The Rebel March.
Click here to read my essay on Civil War deaths
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