Saving Longstreet’s headquarters

Sometime about 1985, I think it was, I drove south from visiting in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley into Tennessee in search of the First Corps’ winter camp near Russellville.

Eventually, I drove past a state historic marker, turned around and went back to a two-story frame house in dilapidated condition. A faded sign in the front yard identified it as the home of Bird’s Nest Antiques.

It was a Sunday, it was raining, and the house looked closed. I sat in the rental car and contemplated that winter of 1863-64 when the snow probably was deep on the ground. The marker identified the house as Gen. Longstreet’s “Billet,” his headquarters that winter, after his First Corps had retreated from Knoxville, northeast towards Virginia. Later, I learned that the Mississippi Brigade had camped a mile or so south of there, on the other side of the road.

I wonder now where Gen. McLaws’ court-martial was held. Somewhere nearby, if not in the house itself.

In late 2005, it seems, the property was rezoned commercial and there were plans to tear down the house and put up a Dollar Store. Some work by the local SCV camp and others managed to buy the house, with plans to restore it to its wartime condition and turn it into a visitor’s center. Dan Patterson, a great-grandson of Longstreet’s, describes the effort here.

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
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