William Longstreet
William Longstreet was an inventor. He made a steamboat
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

 and improved the cotton gin
Cotton gin
A cotton gin is a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, a job formerly performed painstakingly by hand...


As a boy, he moved to Augusta, Georgia
Augusta, Georgia
Augusta is a consolidated city in the U.S. state of Georgia, located along the Savannah River. As of the 2010 census, the Augusta–Richmond County population was 195,844 not counting the unconsolidated cities of Hephzibah and Blythe.Augusta is the principal city of the Augusta-Richmond County...

. As early as 26 September 1790, he addressed a letter to Thomas Telfair
Thomas Telfair
Thomas Telfair was a United States Representative from Georgia. Born in Savannah, Georgia, he graduated from Princeton College in 1805. He studied law, was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Savannah....

, 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 Robert Fulton
Robert Fulton
Robert Fulton was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing the first commercially successful steamboat...

'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
Savannah River
The Savannah River is a major river in the southeastern United States, forming most of the border between the states of South Carolina and Georgia. Two tributaries of the Savannah, the Tugaloo River and the Chattooga River, form the northernmost part of the border...

, 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 River
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...


Besides this invention, Longstreet patented a valuable improvement in cotton gin
Cotton gin
A cotton gin is a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, a job formerly performed painstakingly by hand...

s, 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, Georgia, which were destroyed by the British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 in 1812. These disasters exhausted his resources and discouraged his enterprise, though he was confident that steam would soon supersede all other motive powers.

He was the father of Southern author Augustus Baldwin Longstreet
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet was an American lawyer, minster, educator, and humorist, known for his book Georgia Scenes.-Biography:...

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