THOMAS JEWETT GOREE ESSAY
An Essay By:
Roger Knight Jr.
Thomas Jewett Goree was the eldest child of Dr. Langston James and Sarah Kittrell Goree. He was born in Marion, Perry County, Alabama November 14, 1835. His mother was the matron of honor when Margaret Lea married General Sam Houston. The Goree family,the Kittrell family, and the Houston family were very close, and in fact, Thomas Jewett Goree attended Baylor when it was located at Independence and was a witness to the baptism of General Sam Houston.
The Gorees and the Kittrells arrived in Huntsville, Texas, from Alabama in 1850 and originally occupied the home of the Houstons known as “Woodland House.” They stayed there while their homes were being built on the east bank of the Trinity River approximately 30 miles from Huntsville on the present location of the Eastham Farm.
Thomas Jewett Goree had a degree in law but did not practice but for a short time. He left his career and set out in June of 1861 to join the Confederate Army. The route he chose was by steamboat from Galveston, Texas, and he was on his way to Virginia. It was during this trip that he met then Major James Longstreet, who ultimately served as a Lieutenant General (three stars) and the Commander of the famed First Corps of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet was called by Lee “My Old War Horse.” Longstreet was so impressed by the young Goree that he invited him to become a member of his staff and was aide-de-camp for the entire war. He served in every major engagement of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
While every Confederate veteran served bravely and ably, the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, was engaged in the bulk of the historical battles that we have come to associate with that noble cause known as the War Between the States and the Civil War. Thomas Jewett Goree’s service in that Army is historically noteworthy and more particularly so since he served on Longstreet’s personal staff and was his aide-de-camp. This means that he took and received messages and acted in some capacity as a courier for General Longstreet, and by implication, he knew of many of the major developments during the war and the battle plans for the First Corps. Robert E. Lee had reorganized the Army into three corps, one commanded by James Longstreet, one commanded by Richard Ewell, and one commanded by Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. After Jackson’s death following the Battle of Chancellorsville and after Ewell’s injuries, the commands of the three corps changed from time to time, but Longstreet, for the most part was in command of the First Corps for the longest of any of the corps commanders. Longstreet received serious injuries at the Battle of the Wilderness and had to stand down while he recuperated. The famed Texas Brigade served under Longstreet and in the First Corps.
The Army of Northern Virginia, and the First Corps in particular, was present at Manassas or the first Battle of Bull Run and was present when General Lee surrendered at Appomattox. This period covers both Robert E. Lee’s journies into Maryland first for the Battle of Antietam, and secondly, the Battle of Gettysburg.
Thomas Jewett Goree married Elizabeth Thomas Nolley, the daughter of Colonel Edward Nolley. The Gorees ultimately moved to Midway, Madison County, Texas, and he was partners in a mercantile business known as Goree & Wakefield.
There are two volumes of written works at the Madison County Library. One is entitled “The Kittrell Journal”, and the other is entitled “The Thomas Jewett Goree Letters Volume 1. The Civil War Corresondence.”One is about the Kittrells, and one is about the Gorees where most of this information was obtained. The Goree book is full of interesting and charming letters exchanged between Thomas Jewett Goree and his mother, Sarah Goree. The letters kept her updated on his day-to-day activities leading up to, during and after the Civil War. There is correspondence from Lieutenant General James Longstreet directed to Thomas Jewett Goree with responses from Mr. Goree. General Longstreet addressed Thomas Jewett Goree as Captain, and nearly all of the correspondence, although there is some corespondence that calls Thomas Jewett Goree a Major, I have not found his discharge records, and so I’m not exactly sure what rank he attained, but I strongly suspect he was a Captain in the Confederate Army.
Captain Thomas Jewett Goree was with General Longstreet’s First Corps from Manassas to Appomattox. He brings the War Between the States to life in his correspondence with his mother and other notables.
It is particularly interesting that Thomas Jewett Goree once worked and had a business in Madison County. I seriously doubt that there are any other Confederate veterans in this area who served in the Army of Northern Virginia and who were privileged to be so close to one of the principle forces and primary general officers or who shared a relationship that Goree did with General Longstreet. The Goree letters bring the war and the period exquisitely to life. I went to the Madison County Library where both of the volumes are contained, and as I read the Goree letters, it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. For any devotee of this period of our Country’s history and for any true lover and Confederate enthusiast, this book is must reading. It is particularly interesting because the Goree family and Thomas Jewett Goree spent the bulk of his time in Texas, in Walker, Houston, and Madison counties, Texas and he served in Robert E. Lee’s Army and was there on so many historical occasions.
Thomas Jewett Goree was obviously involved with Longstreet’s reluctance to attack the Union Center at Gettysburg. The attack became known as Pickett’s Charge, and it decimated Pickett’s division. There was ebb and flow between Longstreet and Lee, both in person and by courier, which Goree would, by necessity, have been involved. Our Camp is so proud to carry the standard of Thomas Jewett Goree, a man who once did business in Madison County, served in the Army of Northern Virginia, was a graduate of Baylor and a close personal friend of General Sam Houston and his wife.