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Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Longstreet, William

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LONGSTREET, William, inventor, b. in New Jersey about 1760; d. in Georgia in 1814. He removed in boyhood to Augusta, Ga. As early as 26 Sept., 1790, he addressed a letter to Thomas Telfair, then governor of Georgia, asking his assistance, or that of the legislature, in raising funds to enable him to construct a boat to be propelled by the new power. This was three years before Fulton's letter to the Earl of Stanhope announcing his theory “respecting the moving of ships by the means of steam.” Failing to obtain public aid at that time, Longstreet's invention remained for several years in abeyance until, at last securing funds from private sources, he was enabled to launch a boat on Savannah river, which moved against the current at the rate of five miles an hour. This was in 1807, a few days after Fulton had made a similarly successful experiment on the Hudson. Besides this invention, Longstreet patented a valuable improvement in cotton-gins, called the “breast roller,” moved by horse power, which entirely superseded the old method. He set up two of his gins in Augusta, which were propelled by steam and worked admirably; but they were destroyed by fire within a week. He next erected a set of steam mills near St. Mary's, Ga., which were destroyed by the British in 1812. These disasters exhausted his resources and discouraged his enterprise, though he was confident that steam would soon supersede all other motive powers. — His son, Augustus Baldwin, author, h. in Augusta, Ga., 22 Sept., 1790; d. in Oxford, Miss., 9 Sept., 1870, was graduated at Yale in 1813, studied in the law-school at Litchfield, Conn., and was admitted to the bar in Richmond county, Ga., in 1815, but removed to Greensboro, Ga., where he soon rose to eminence in his profession. He represented Greene county in the legislature in 1821, and in 1822 became judge of the Ocmulgee judicial district, which office he held for several years, and then declined re-election. He then resumed the practice of the law, becoming well known for his success in criminal cases, and, removing to Augusta, he established there the “Augusta Sentinel,” which was consolidated in 1838 with the “Chronicle,” continuing, meanwhile, the practice of the law. In 1838 he became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church, and was stationed at Augusta. During this period of his ministry the town was visited with yellow fever, but he remained at his post, ministering to the sick and dying. In 1839 he was elected president of Emory college, Oxford, Ga., where he served nine years, after which he became president of Centenary college, La. Shortly afterward he became president of the University of Mississippi, at Oxford, Miss., which post he held for six years, resigning at that time to devote himself to agricultural pursuits. But in 1857 he was elected to the presidency of South Carolina college, Columbia, S. C., where he remained till just before the civil war, when he returned to the presidency of the University of Mississippi. In 1844 he was a member of the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, and was conspicuous in the discussions that led to a rupture of the church, siding throughout with his own section. In politics he belonged to the Jeffersonian school of strict construction and state rights. At an early age he began to write for the press, and he made speeches on all occasions through his life. “I have heard him,” writes one who knew him, “respond to a serenade, preach a funeral sermon, deliver a college commencement address, and make a harangue over the pyrotechnic glorifications of seceding states. He could never be scared up without a speech.” His pen was never idle. His chief periodical contributions are to be found in “The Methodist Quarterly,” “The Southern Literary Messenger,” “The Southern Field and Fireside,” “The Magnolia,” and “The Orion,” and include “Letters to Clergymen of the Northern Methodist Church” and “Letters from Georgia to Massachusetts.” His best-known work is a series of newspaper sketches of humble life in the south, “Georgia Scenes, Characters, Incidents, etc., in the First Half Century of the Republic, by a Native Georgian,” which were collected into a book that appeared first at the south and then in New York (1840). A second edition was issued in 1867, and though it purported to be revised, he would, it is said, have nothing to do with it. It is said that he sent men through the country to collect and destroy all copies of the first edition. This book is full of genuine humor, broad, but irresistible, and by many these sketches are considered the raciest, most natural, and most original that appeared at the south before the civil war. He also published “Master William Mitten,” a story (Macon, Ga., 1864). Many unpublished manuscripts were destroyed with his library during the war.