Truth about Civil War medicine
This week in the Civil War for September 1, 1863

Helen Longstreet - A True Confederate Rosie the Riveter

Confederate General James Longstreet of the Civil War died long before WWII.  However - his wife outlived him by many decades.  She, Helen Dortch Longstreet, at the age of 80 obtained a job at the Bell Aircraft bomber plant in Marietta, GA.  She was a riveter and assembler working on B-29s.   She refused to join the Union saying that there was no place for a Union in wartime.  

She said, "I was at the head of my class in riveting school. In fact I was the only one in it."

She worked at the plant for 2 years and never missed a day.  This feisty lady said that WWII was "the most horrible war of them all.  It makes General Sherman look like a piker."  She was a real character in her own right. 

General James Longstreet 's second wife was Helen Dortch b. 1863 whom he married in 1897.  He had 10 children of whom 5 lived to adulthood by his 1st wife Maria Louisa Garland 1827-1889.  He had no children with Helen. Tragically in 1862 between Jan 20 and Feb 2, 3 of his young ones died of Scarlet fever.  it was a source sorrow for the rest of his days. Longstreet died in 1904 at age 83.

Helen Dortch was born in Carnesville, Georgia, and attended Georgia Baptist Female Seminary (now Brenau College) and the Notre Dame Convent in Maryland. Having met Longstreet through her roommate, she married him on September 8, 1897, when she was just 34 and he was 76. She was widowed in 1904, childless.
Known as "The Fighting Lady." Helen was a champion of womens' rights, preserving the environment,  editor of a newspaper, first female postmistress in GA., and even ran for Governor as she was opposed to some racist positions the Governor was taking.  

Prior to marrying Longstreet, she was the first woman in Georgia to serve as Assistant State Librarian in 1894. She also authored the "Dortch Bill" (which became law in 1896) to allow a woman to hold the office of State Librarian.

Before and after becoming a widow, Helen Dortch Longstreet devoted much time to ensure that General Longstreet was accurately portrayed by history. In 1905, she documented her husband’s account of the Civil War by publishing the book "Lee and Longstreet at High Tide."

She was a VERY remarkable woman.   Regrettably, she died in the mental hospital in Milledgeville, GA, in 1962


 Hugh T. Harrington

author of "Civil War Milledgeville, Tales From the Confederate Capital of Georgia" 


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