Augustus Baldwin Longstreet is often described as the first literary portraitist of Georgia's common man. Longstreet's Georgia Scenes, Characters, Incidents, Etc. in the First Half Century of the Republic (1835) was a groundbreaking work which drew the contemporary praise of Edgar Allan Poe for its penetrating understanding of Southern character.
A circuit-riding lawyer in Augusta and Greensboro in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Longstreet drew from his experiences to sketch Georgia Scenes' crossroads character types with their emerging dialects, manners, and moral conflicts. Fueled by Longstreet's acute ear for his characters' speech and his narrative pose of corrective laughter, the nineteen tales made for an immensely popular work that ran through eleven editions between 1835 and 1897.
Initially published as individual sketches in various newspapers (including Longstreet's own Augusta-based States Rights Sentinel), Georgia Scenes opened up a literary gold seam. As sketches of comic reality for antebellum readers, the book inspired the talents of 19th-century humorists and local color writers whose ultimate expression arrived with Mark Twain. Later, in the twentieth century, the moral conflicts of Longstreet's crossroads stakeholders, town rowdies, and backwoods louts would be resurrected in the humid and often violent landscape drawn by 20th-century Southern writers like Faulkner and O'Connor.
Longstreet never returned to the rowdy, comic writing of Georgia Scenes. Instead, he sold his newspaper and dedicated himself to educational and ministerial missions. He became a Methodist minister and served as president of four universities, including a newly founded Emory College from 1839 to 1848. He wrote numerous political pamphlets but only one other work of fiction, Master William Mitten, a dour moralising tale which critics have described as Longstreet's own reaction against the comic popularity of Georgia Scenes. During the Civil War he wrote articles supporting the Southern cause and served briefly as a chaplain of the Georgia militia. After the war he retired to Mississippi to live with his granddaughter and died there in 1870.
The following titles may be found in the Hall of Fame Library:
An Oration Delivered in the City of Augusta, on the Centennial Birth-Day of Georgia Washington. Augusta, Ga.: W. Lawson, 1832.
Letter from President Longstreet to the public and extract from the speech of Hon. Kenneth Rayner, of North Carolina. n.p., 1835?
Eulogy on the Life and Public Services of the Late Rev. Moses Waddel, D.D. Augusta, Ga.: Chronicle & Sentinel, 1841.
Letter on the Epistle of Paul to Philemon, or the Connection of Apostolical Christianity with Slavery. Charleston, S.C.: B. Jenkins, 1845.
A Voice from the South: Comprising Letter from Georgia to Massachusetts, and to the Southern States. Baltimore: Western Continent Press, 1847.
Know Nothingism Unveiled, Letter of Judge A.B. Longstreet, of Mississippi, Addressed to Rev. William Winans. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Congressional Globe, 1855?
Fast-Day Sermon: Delivered in the Washington Street Methodist Episcopal Church, Columbia, S.C., June 13, 1861. Columbia, S.C.: Townsend & North, 1861.
Shall South Carolina Begin the War? Charleston, S.C., 1861.
Master William Mitten. Macon, Ga.: Burke, Boykin, 1864.
Longstreet, Augustus Baldwin with Fitz R. Longstreet, ed. Stories with a Moral Humorous and Descriptive of Southern Life a Century Ago. Philadelphia: Winston, 1912.
Address Delivered at his Inauguration, 10th February, 1840. Atlanta: The Library, Emory University, 1955.
Georgia Scenes. Sagamore Press, 1957.
Georgia Scenes, Characters, Incidents, &c., in the First half Century of the Republic: by a Native Georgian.Atlanta: Cherokee, 1971.
Georgia Scenes, Characters, Incidents, &c., In the First Half Century of the Republic: by a Native Georgian.Savannah, Ga.: Beehive Press, l975.
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet's Georgia Scenes Completed: A Scholarly Text. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998.
Collections of Longstreet manuscripts can be found in the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina and in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library of Emory University.
Miscellaneous, scattered letters by Longstreet can be found in special collections in various libraries, including the following : Hargrett Library, University of Georgia; Perkins Library at Duke University ; the Library of Congress; Georgia Historical Society; Boston Public Library; Houghton Library, Harvard University; and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill