On March 14 the Stonewall Jackson Civil War Roundtable featured a talk and slide presentation entitled "Jackson, Longstreet and Randolph: Sons of Appalachia in Living History." The presentation by Nicholas E. Hollis, president of the Agribusiness Council (ABC) and Pat Griffith, a former press secretary of the late US Senator Jennings Randolph (and native of Clarksburg) provided a unique weave of themes linking the Civil War to the present. Hollis described how genealogical research last summer, connected with ongoing efforts to memorialize Randolph, had uncovered the kinship ties with Longstreet's family, opening a rich vein of historical inquiry.
The talk illuminated several threads weaving rural backgrounds, childhood tragedies, military experience and command styles of two of the most famous generals in US history, providing examples of their leadership and courage under fire, as "brothers in arms" at key engagements such as Second Manassas, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. As he profiled the two generals , Hollis refuted notions that Old Jack (Jackson) and Old Pete (Longstreet) had anything but a deep mutual professional respect for eachother while they made history together.
Beyond the Civil War, Hollis' talk included perspectives on Longstreet's struggles during the Reconstruction Era and his penchant for speaking truth to power, his prescience with military tactics and technology and links with his relative, Jennings Randolph, who became a great (if unheralded) "warrior for peace" throughout the 20th century in the spirit of his namesake, William Jennings Bryan, three time Democratic nominee for president (1896, 1900, 1908). The slides also featured some examples from Randolph's international statesmanship during the last major energy price spike by OPEC in the late 1970s (i.e. Agri-Energy Roundtable). In addition Randolph's efforts as a modern day Populist and the last of the New Dealers were described - much to the delight of the overflow audience. The program also included a special focus on Harrison County (WV) where two of the Sons were born and bred, and where the third (Longstreet) visited while commissioner of railroads in the late 1890s when Clarksburg was a prosperous city on the nation's "mainstreet" railroad (Baltimore & Ohio). Longstreet was raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge near Gainesville, Georgia.
Hollis encouraged more cooperation on citizenship development among history, genealogy and civil war groups aimed at involving young people and drew a sharp correlation between voter apathy, youth violence and the willingness of so-called political leaders to engage in perpetuating "Half-truths, falsehoods and innuendo to distort honest history for momentary advantage"...The young people know what is going on," Hollis continued, "No one is fooling them. The country is awash in lies and the 20th century has been soaked in blood", he continued, reminding his audience that Randolph, known as the "Father of the 26th Amendment" fought for younger adult suffrage (at age 18) after witnessing American youth march off to four foreign wars in this century by 1971. Randolph was saddened by the decline in voter registration and interest in civic affairs."Randolph knew our Nation would reap the whirlwind if we continued to accept falsehoods as currency in our public discourse," Hollis stated. He then outlined the tragedies which beset Longstreet and Randolph, who unlike Jackson, who died of battle wounds after Chancellorsville (May 1863) lived long lives on the public stage -- and were victimized by the negative politics of their times.
By the end of the evening a resolve emerged from certain members of the audience that remembering honest history with accent on the positive nature of these heroes of Appalachia could create an exciting foundation to advance good works and citizenship outreach to a broader network of Americans interested in lighting our Nation's future by learning the lessons of our preserved heritage.
It is anticipated that more discussions will take place aimed at convening a larger program in the coming months. Your support would be be most appreciated as we forge new bonds among those who want to reach out to our young people and inspire them with lives of those who came before and sacrificed for their beliefs.
The Jennings Randolph Recognition Project (JRRP) and the General Longstreet Recognition Project (GLRP) are sponsored by the Agribusiness Council (ABC), a nonprofit, educational organization and a number of state agribusiness council affiliated associations, including the West Virginia Agribusiness Council (WV/ABC) which provides logistical support for the JRRP.
For more details contact email: May61864 @aol.com or WVagbiz @aol.com or call (304) 622-8000 or telefax (202) 887-9178.
Submitted by Nancy Jackson.