Historical Marker Text
Following the Battle of Fredericksburg in Dec. 1862, Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet established his headquarters in a tent near here. His command center was in close proximity to Generals Robert E. Lee and J. E. B. Stuart. Longstreet commanded the Army of Northern Virginia’s First Corps, a force totaling approximately 40,000 men. In Feb. 1863 Longstreet left Fredericksburg with the divisions of Maj. Gens. George E. Pickett and John B. Hood to conduct an independent military operation near Suffolk. He rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia in May following the Battle of Chancellorsville. 
When Union General Ambrose E. Burnside withdrew the Army of the Potomac back across the Rappahannock River, he ended the Fredericksburg Campaign and both armies established their winter camps. The divisions of Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps included those led by Major Generals George E. Pickett and John B. Hood. They all settled down for a relatively calm winter, not more than a few miles from either General Robert E. Lee’s or Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s headquarters.
On February 14, 1863, Confederate headquarters received news that a Union corps had been sent down the Potomac toward Hampton, at the mouth of the James River (Freeman 467). Already in southeast Virginia were Union forces, with Confederate forces to defend against them, as there was great fear that they would conduct raids along the vulnerable North Carolina coast (Eckenrode 152). Lee understood that quite possibly this could be a threat to Richmond, because a quick journey up the James River could take the Federals directly to the Confederate capital (Freeman 468). Having been told that the entire Army of the Potomac might concentrate at the James, that the North Carolina port of Wilmington was in dire risk of attack, and partly because his army seriously lacked supplies, Lee finally acquiesced to demands and had already sent ahead Pickett’s division, followed by that of Hood, toward Suffolk.
The commander of the Department of Southern Virginia and North Carolina, General Gustavus W. Smith, after not receiving requested reinforcements from Lee’s army, resigned his position and transferred to a Georgia command. This left his Virginia forces without a commander, and thus opened the opportunity of independent command to Longstreet, who was currently the Army of Northern Virginia’s second-in-command (Eckenrode 153-54). On February 18, Lee ordered Longstreet to join his divisions, and on February 26, Longstreet assumed command of the Department of Southern Virginia and North Carolina (159-60). His absence from the Army of Northern Virginia weakened its forces, and now the Confederacy had no large, concentrated force at any one place. This, however, the struggling army would overcome to triumph at the Battle of Chancellorsville the following May.
“Portrait of General James Longstreet,” Civilwarphotos.net (accessed April 3, 2008).
For Further Reference
DiNardo, Richard L. and Albert Nofi, eds. James Longstreet: The Man, the Soldier, the Controversy. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Pub., 1998.
Eckenrode, H. J. and Bryan Conrad. James Longstreet: Lee’s War Horse. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1986
Freeman, David Southall. Lee’s Lieutenants: A Study in Command. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943.
Jacobs, Lee. The Gray Riders: Stories from the Confederate Cavalry. Shippensburg, PA: Burd Street Press, 1999.
Wert, Jeffry D. General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.