“[Longstreet’s] de facto chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Moxley Sorrel, was the best staff officer in the Confederacy.” The Journal of Military History
At the tender age of just twenty-three Gilbert Moxley Sorrel earned his commission as captain and was posted as General James Longstreet’s chief-of-staff.
Through the next three years he would remain by Longstreet’s side, rising to the ranks of Major and Lieutenant Colonel, until he was eventually given command of his own brigade within Major General William Mahone’s division.
Moxley Sorrel made an immediate impression on Longstreet who wrote that he “came into the battle as gaily as a beau, and seemed to receive orders which threw him into more exposed positions with particular delight.”
Indeed he went on to witness some of the most famous battles of the American Civil War and his experiences are recorded here, from Manassas to Seven Pines, Sharpsburg to Fredericksburg, Gettysburg to Petersburg. He was even with Longstreet at the Battle of Wilderness when Longstreet was struck down by a bullet coming from their own men.
As Longstreet’s right hand man through the war until 1864 Moxley Sorrel was put into contact with some of the most remarkable figures of the Confederate army, and they are all vividly portrayed within his memoirs.
At Petersburg, during the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, he was wounded and feared mortally so, eventually he recovered but his military career ended here.
The historian Douglas Southall Freeman wrote that Moxely Sorrel’s Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer contains “a hundred touches of humor and revealing strokes of swift characterisation.”
Once the war ended Moxley Sorrel returned to the south where he entered business. His Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer was published in 1905. He died in 1901 in Roanoke, Virginia.