In "Star-Crossed Banner" [op-ed, Dec. 16], George Will adds some gratuitous wit and more fuel to the latest bonfire (Confederate flag) issue plaguing the nation's racial wounds. Instead of using his platform to advance reconciliation, Will excoriates just about everyone, including American hero Gen. James Longstreet, charging him for a "sorry performance" at Gettysburg. Will should be aware that modern scholars and the Sons of Confederate Veterans have found Longstreet blameless for the Confederate defeat in Pennsylvania.
Longstreet realized that the direct assault over nearly a mile of open field, ordered by Confederate commander Robert E. Lee on July 3, 1863, was doomed to failure. Longstreet knew the military technology of the day favored flanking and defensive tactics for the numerically inferior Confederates. When Lee overruled, Longstreet dutifully carried out his orders and the disaster known as "Pickett's Charge" ensued--the last great frontal assault of its kind in military history.
After the Civil War, Lee's "Old War Horse" (Longstreet) spoke out for reconciliation and embraced republicanism in an effort to lead the South back into the Union. He was shunned and then blamed for the debacle of Gettysburg after Robert E. Lee died. In 1876 Longstreet led black troops in a federal militia to quell a white supremacist riot in New Orleans--and became a pariah for his courage.
Longstreet knew something about honest duty, individual integrity and the search for peace. Taking cheap shots at true American giants like Longstreet, who fought for reconciliation and paid the price, will not advance a compromise on the flag issue. Black Americans died fighting under the Confederate battle flag, and white racists have bemirsched its honor. If Longstreet (or Lee) could speak to us now, he would proffer compromise and peace in the national interest and turn his back on divisiveness and demagoguery.
--Nicholas E. Hollis