After joining the Confederate Army, Longstreet quickly established himself as an able officer and a tough fighter. Assigned to the South's Army of Northern Virginia, he was immediately promoted to brigadier general because of his West Point background and service in the Mexican War. In January 1862, however, Longstreet's concentration on military duties was shattered when three of his children died from scarlet fever. According to some historians, Longstreet never fully recovered from this loss.
Despite his personal problems, Longstreet distinguished himself during the first two years of the war. Emerging as one of General Robert E. Lee's most trusted officers, Longstreet helped secure Confederate triumphs in several major battles, including the First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861), the Seven Days' Campaign (June 1862), the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 1862), and the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 1862). Of course, not every battle went in favor of the South. But even in engagements like the bloody Battle of Antietam (September 1862), in which the North clawed out a narrow victory in western Maryland, Longstreet's troops displayed great spirit.
Many famous Civil War battles are actually known by two different names, because the North and the South used different ways to name the engagements. The Union Army, for example, usually named battles for nearby creeks or rivers, while the Confederate forces often named battles for nearby towns. As a result, some battles came to be known by two different names:
Union Name Confederate Name for Battle for Battle
Stones River Murfreesboro
Bull Run Manassas
This system was also used by the two sides to name their armies. For example, the Union used river names like the Potomac and the James as names for their forces. The Confederacy, meanwhile, named armies based on the geographic region in which they operated (Army of Northern Virginia, Army of Tennessee, Army of Mississippi, etc.)
Longstreet's divisions filled vital roles in many of these clashes. In some battles, they led offensive charges that sparked rebel (Confederate) victory. In others, Longstreet used his knowledge of military tactics (movement of troops and ships) and strategy to erect strong defensive positions that were difficult for Union forces to penetrate. But whatever the assignment, Longstreet's troops seemed to do a good job of it. As Longstreet's reputation for steady battlefield performance increased, Lee began referring to him admiringly as "my old war horse."
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