Monday, October 3, 2011

31 dayers: Day 3

Civil Wat Chronicles--Month 7--Maria Garland Longstreet

Maria was born to an Army officer on March 6, 1827. Due to father's position, she frequently met young military officials and was courted by many. Known to be "devilishly pretty", she frequently visited her father when he was stationed at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. While there, she encountered James Longstreet, a West Point Cadet and cousin to Julia Dent. Longstreet was good friends with Ulysses Grant and introduced his cousin to him.

Maria and James began a courtship soon after their first meeting in 1844. Her parents preferred that the couple not rush into marriage so they waited to wed until March 1848. Soon after their marriage, the couple attended the wedding of Julia Dent and Ulysses Grant. The couples remained friends throughout their lives.

Maria had 10 children during the course of the marriage, but her life was marred by tragedy. In 1853, she lost her son William to a childhood illness. Writing about his death, she commented "He gave thee, He took thee, and He will restore thee. For death has no sting since the Savior hath died." Little did Maria know that she would need the comfort of these words again and again over the years. In 1860, her daughter Harriett died from scarlet fever.

Then, in 1862, another bout of scarlet fever attacked the family. Over the course of 8 days, 3 more children died frm the disease. Maria was overcome by grief and asked that her husband come home from the battlefield. By now a seasoned battle leader, the deaths affected James greatly, prompting even his aides to notice a difference in his demeanor.

Maria visited James when he was stationed at Fredericksburg in the winter of 1862. While there, James arranged for sleigh bells to be attached to an ambulance so he could take his wife on a winter's evening ride. She stayed about a mile from his battleield location, and the couple was able to enjoy several evenings together. They celebrated the birth of a 6th child in 1863.

Wounded during the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, James began a long convalescence in Lynchburg, TN. Maria was able to join him there and patiently nursed him back to health although he remained somewhat disabled by his wounds the rest of his life.

In Feb 1865, other Confederate officers met with Longstreet to discuss whether a negotiated settlement could end the war. Several of the men knew that Maria was friends with Julia Dent Grant. Hoping that the friendship might be the foundation for an agreement, the men urged Longstreet to arrange a meeting between the women and have the men in close proximity. Maria was asked to come to Richmond, VA to be available for a meeting with Julia. Robert E. Lee planned to invite Ulysses Grant to meet at the same time. Maria was thrilled to have a chance to see her friend and potentially bring an end to the war. Unfortunately, Pres Lincolm was not interested in a settlement--he preferred a total surrender from the South. Grant was directed to reply to Lee that  no negotiations were possible. Maria return to Lyunchburg very disappointed.

Following the end of the war, Longstreet was able to resume his friendship with Grant who appointed him surveyor of New Orleans, a very lucrative position in the post-war years. Fellow  southerners were appalled at Longstreet's decision to befriend the enemy and the Longstreets were shunned by many former friends. Louise quietly accepted this fate just as she had borne the loss of 5 of her children and her husband's frequent absences.

From Homestead Hearth, Mexico, MO.

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