The Old War Horse

General James Longstreet was Robert E. Lee's second-in-command.  The "Old War Horse," so named by Lee, played a pivotal role in many battles, including Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness.  One of the Confederacy's most gifted tactical commanders, Longstreet was highly regarded, particularly by southerners. 

That changed after the Civil War.  When Longstreet became a Republican and supported President Ulysses S. Grant, the once-famed Confederate general was seen as a traitor.  He was rejected and shunned by those around him.  In fact, Longstreet was literally shunned by his Episcopalian congregation.  Shunning is a practice of protestant evangelical churches.  Outcasts are banned from the community.  When the rejected Longstreet wandered into the nearby Catholic congregation, Father Abram Ryan, the priest (and also a former Confederate Army Chaplain), told Longstreet his church shunned no one.  Longstreet found his home.  He converted to Catholicism in 1877.  The "Old Catholic War Horse," in his remaining 26 years of life, was not only the ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, a U.S. marshal, and the U.S. railroad commissioner, he was also a devout communicant.

The Catholic Church's openness to the troubled Longstreet is what brought the general into the faith and made him a champion of Catholicism.  

Something similar occurred with another wandering Civil War veteran.  William Frederick Cody used his marksmanship to kill 4,280 bison to supply meat for railroad workers.  The fame from this feat led him to create his traveling show, "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," which toured for 24 years.  Over 2 million people from all over the world saw the spectacle.  But that wouldn't be Buffalo Bill's crowning achievement.  The day before Cody died in 1917, he asked for a Catholic priest and was admitted into the Church.  Like Longstreet, he found a home in Catholicism.

back to top