The current location of the General James Longstreet Memorial, in Pitzer Woods, (dedicated 1998) was not the original location approved by the National Park Service. The original site was dedicated in July, 1941 with the widow of General Longstreet in attendance. Today, the Soldier and Sailors of the Confederacy Monument marks the location that was originally set aside for the Longstreet Memorial. Please read details below.
Helen Dortch Longstreet
Born: April 20, 1863
Died: May 3, 1962
The second wife of Confederate General James Longstreet, Mrs. Helen Dortch Longstreet, devoted many years and much effort to the erection of a monument at Gettysburg, in honor of her late husband. Her hard work almost paid off when, in July 1941 a formal dedication service was held at Gettysburg. This dedication event would begin on Tuesday, July 1st with an evening reception at the Gettysburg Hotel. On the afternoon of Wednesday, July 2nd at 1:00 p.m. a grand parade was held in Gettysburg. This parade would proceed to the site set aside by the National Park Service for the Longstreet Memorial.
At 2:30 p.m. airplanes would fly over the site dropping flowers while a band played "Dixie". Following would be the unveiling of the model of the Longstreet Memorial (sculptor Paul Manship) by Mrs. James Longstreet. The ceremonies would include speeches from the Asst. Secretary of State representing President Roosevelt and Dr. J. Walter Coleman of the National Park Service. At the conclusion of the event, a formal ground breaking took place on the site.
Mrs. James Longsreet (striped dress) watches as actress Mary Pickford and U.C.V. General Julius Franklin Howell break ground at the proposed site of the Longstreet Memorial.
Original dedication program from the July 1941 dedication of the proposed site of the General James Longstreet Memorial
After the site for the Longstreet Memorial was approved by the National Park Service, prior to the formal dedication, Mrs. Longstreet wrote the Gettysburg National Military Park requesting a sign be placed on the site. She asked the sign read as follows:
"The National Park Service has set aside this site for an equestrian statue of General James Longstreet. The model has been finished by Paul Manship, famous sculptor, and the sculpturing will be advanced as rapidly as possible. Persons wishing to contribute to the monument fund will find parchment sheets in the Gettysburg National Museum on which to enter their autographs. These sheets, enrolling the names of all contributors will be bound in a gold book which will be preserved in the Congressional Library in Washington."
Mrs. Longstreets request was declined in a letter dated January 6, 1941 from the National Park Service:
"The erection of such a sign on Government property and the indirect solicitation of funds do not conform to Park Service policy and therefore cannot be authorized."
With the coming of World War II, the funds to build the monument ceased. After the war, available money and interest for Civil War monuments was gone. Mrs. Longstreet would continue to try and raise funds for her husbands monument but would die in 1962 before seeing it completed. Only three years later the Soldiers and Sailors of the Confederacy monument would occupy this ground.
Letterhead from the Longstreet Memorial Association Inc. lead by Helen Dortch Longstreet.
Autograph of Helen Dortch Longstreet
Mrs. Helen Dortch Longstreet at the site set aside by the National Park Service for the Longstreet Memorial, October 27, 1939. Pictured with Mrs. Longstreet is GNMP Superintendent James R. McConaghie (left of Mrs. Longstreet) and sculptor Paul Manship (right of Mrs. Longstreet). If you look carefully in the photo above, to the right of the pine tree can be seen the slope of Big Round Top.
In regards to the final location of the monument, on May 7, 1940 the National Park Service wrote Mrs. Longstreet:
"After inspecting various sites, your committee agreed that the site which afforded a full view of that portion of the battlefield wherein General Longstreet's troops operated on the Second of July seemed to be the most desirable. The tract is located adjacent to the recognized right flank of the Confederate Army. It is at the lower end of what is now called Confederate Avenue, and a few hundred feet south of the site occupied by the Alabama Monument. An area of some four acres exists at this location. The upper two acres are on the ridge and afford an excellent view of the entire lower section of the battlefield. It is proposed that the monument be located in about the center of these two acres and about one hundred feet in front of the avenue. The monument to face in a northeasterly direction".
The proposed Longstreet memorial by sculptor Paul Manship. This model of the memorial was unveiled at the site dedication event in July, 1941. The proposed memorial would be placed on a pillar or base atop a stone floor approx. 12 feet x 12 feet. The memorial would be surrounded by stone seats for viewing.
When a photograph of the proposed memorial was published in a local newspaper, the National Park Service wrote a letter to Mrs. Longstreet in regards to the fact that one of the horses legs was lifted. Superintendent McConaghie, on April 6, 1940, wrote Mrs. Longstreet and noted:
"There is one feature that has caused considerable local comment and one I feel to be of sufficient importance to be called to your attention. To you it may appear of minor value, but to the public visiting here is important.
The position of the horses' feet in each of the existing equestrian statues now in the park tell a story. This fact is widely known and has become one of the items of which the visiting public likes to check.
1. Both feet of the ground: Rider died in action.
2. One foot off the ground: Rider wounded in action.
3. All four feet on the ground: Rider unscathed.
As far as I have been able to determine this uniformity of position is but a happenstance. However, it is true within the park."
On April 9th Mrs Longstreet would reply:
"This will thank you warmly for your constructive criticism of the model of the proposed equestrian statue of General Longstreet for the Gettysburg field. I am forwarding it to Mr. Manship, the sculptor, who will, I am sure, appreciate it as sincerely as I do. I know it is Mr. Manship's intention to make the Longstreet Memorial the noblest on the Gettysburg battlefield and to correspond in every respect with the magnificent memorials already there."
Today there is a bronze equestrian in honor of General James Longstreet at Gettysburg (sculptor Gary Casteel) located in Pitzer Woods. We can only wonder if Mrs. Longstreet would have approved. And in regards to the position of the horses' hooves on the equestrian monuments at Gettysburg, the "story" is no longer completley true.
Original dedication program of the General James Longstreet Memorial dedicated on July, 3 1998.
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