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What Battles Did James Longstreet Fight In?

James Longstreet was known as “Old War Horse'' for a reason. He proved himself to be Robert E. Lee’s top talent, a reliable figure who relied on his elite training at West Point and experience in the Mexican-American War to lead his Confederate troops.

He is remembered as the second most prominent Confederate general of the American Civil War, after only Lee himself. He fought in many battles throughout the war and played a vital role in several key Confederate victories. Longstreet's military prowess, tactical skill, and strategic thinking made him a respected figure among his peers, and he is still studied today.

Longstreet's leadership in major Civil War battles

Statue of General James Longstreet at the Gettysburg Battlefield
Statue of General James Longstreet at the Gettysburg Battlefield

The Old War Horse appeared in some of the biggest moments in the American Civil War. Below, we’ll dive into the tactical skill of James Longstreet in battle.

First Bull Run (Manassas)

The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the Battle of Manassas, was fought on July 21, 1861, near Manassas, Virginia. It was the first major battle of the Civil War and resulted in a Confederate victory. Among many notable moments, Thomas J. Jackson earned his famous moniker “Stonewall.”

Longstreet commanded a brigade of Confederate troops during the battle and played a crucial role in securing victory.

During the battle, Longstreet's brigade sat under relentless artillery that pushed them out of the fighting. As the day progressed and the Union forces faltered, Longstreet wanted to pursue them as they retreated, but his commanders would not allow that to happen.

Though victory was no doubt sweet for the Southern forces at the time, both sides became deeply concerned. It was then that they realized just how long and brutal this war would be.

The Peninsula Campaign — the Battle of Seven Pines

On May 31, 1862, the Civil War came to Henrico County, Virginia. The Union’s Army of the Potomac was moving in to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital city. This was known as the Peninsula Campaign.

Southern troops met the invading force on the outskirts of the city. The fighting would come to be known as the Battle of Seven Pines, or the Battle of Fair Oaks. And Longstreet played a significant role in the battle, commanding a corps of Confederate troops.

Commanding General Joseph E. Johnston came up with an elaborate plan, and sent out incredibly hard to decipher orders. This caused much confusion during the fighting, wasting the Confederate advantage.

The chaos led to what was more or less a total draw. In the fighting, Johnston was injured, and Robert E. Lee took over the Army of Northern Virginia. While Longstreet was skeptical of this new leadership, the two men would form an important alliance.

Second Bull Run (Manassas)

The Second Battle of Bull Run (or the Second Battle of Manassas), was fought on August 28-30, 1862, in Prince William County, Virginia. Longstreet played a significant role in the battle, commanding a wing of Confederate troops.

For a time, the Union commander John Pope seemed to have the upperhand on the Confederate forces, but Longstreet arrived at midday on August 29th. Pope probably didn’t know this, because the next day he launched a major attack, which was met by Longstreet’s 25,000 men. This was the largest single deployment of the two armies in any battle of the war, and it ended with Union retreat.

Longstreet's role in the Second Battle of Bull Run was uncharacteristically brash and aggressive, and it helped secure his reputation.


The Confederacy tried to keep up momentum after the victory at Second Manassas, leading to a push northward. This led to the famous Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, outside Sharpsburg, Maryland.

The fighting was brutal and persistent, but by the end, Lee gave Longstreet the nickname of Old War Horse. The performance at Antietam was also a major part of earning Longstreet promotion to lieutenant general.

Although the battle ended in a draw, Longstreet's role in the Battle of Antietam demonstrated his tactical skill and leadership abilities, as well as his dogged determination and indomitable spirit.

Role of James Longstreet in key battles

Portrait of General James Longstreet
Portrait of General James Longstreet

James Longstreet Civil War battles would continue into the next phase of the war.


The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought on December 11-15, 1862, in and around Fredericksburg, Virginia. Here, Longstreet would prove exceptionally capable in leadership.

Through the fighting, Longstreet confidently repelled Union attacks, leading to shocking losses. The general stood firm, and his men were responsible for the vast majority of success there.

Victory at Fredericksburg was a significant morale boost for the Confederate forces and further solidified Longstreet's position.


From April 30 to May 6, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville was fought in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

At the time, Longstreet and his men were fairly far to the south, forcing them to hurry to the fighting once they got word. They ended up missing the battle, inspiring scathing criticism from his rivals.


In early July of that same year, Lee pushed his men into Pennsylvania with the hopes of capturing Philadelphia. They met strong Union resistance in Gettysburg, leading to the famous battle.

In keeping with his reputation, Longstreet opposed Lee's plan to launch a frontal assault on the Union forces. He often preferred a more defensive stance. But Longstreet eventually launched what would be known as Pickett’s Charge, despite repeatedly telling Lee it would fail.

The operation did fail, leading to a major Union victory that helped turn the tide of the war in their favor.


The Battle of Chickamauga was fought on September 18-20, 1863, in Chickamauga Creek, Georgia. Longstreet played a significant role in the battle, commanding a corps of Confederate troops.

During the battle, Longstreet's troops launched a successful attack on the Union forces when gaps in their line opened up due to miscommunication. His ability to perceive opportunities and change tactics accordingly proved a winning combination.

The Confederate victory at Chickamauga was a significant achievement, as it forced the Union forces to retreat and gave the Confederacy control of the region.


James Longstreet played a significant role in many key battles of the Civil War. His tactical skill, strategic thinking, and leadership abilities were crucial in securing Confederate victories and cementing his position as one of the most talented generals of the war.

He played a major role in battles like:

  • the First Battle of Bull Run

  • the Battle of Seven Pines

  • the Second Battle of Bull Run

  • Antietam

  • Fredericksburg

  • Gettysburg

  • Chickamauga

Although his role in the Battle of Gettysburg remains controversial, there is no doubt that his leadership and tactical skills played a crucial role.

After the war, he encouraged his fellow Confederates to accept Reconstruction and to honor the abolition of slavery — something that made him controversial in the South. This led to many Confederate sympathizers to tarnish his reputation as a military commander. But as we look through his achievements, we can see that for all his faults, he was a significant general of the Civil War.

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