Guide Pickett’s Charge: The History and Legacy of the Civil War’s Most Famous Assault

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Lee , Roy Blount, Jr. I plunged back into it for this book, and am relieved to have emerged alive. Army commission to defend Virginia and fight for the Confederacy, on the side of slavery.

Pickett’s Charge, July 3 and Beyond, Omnibus E-book

In the excerpt that follows, the general masses his troops for a battle over three humid July days in a Pennsylvania town. Its name would thereafter resound with courage, casualties and miscalculation: Gettysburg. In his dashing if sometimes depressive antebellum prime, he may have been the most beautiful person in America, a sort of precursorcross between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. He was in his element gossiping with belles about their beaux at balls. In theaters of grinding, hellish human carnage he kept a pet hen for company.

He had tiny feet that he loved his children to tickle None of these things seems to fit, for if ever there was a grave American icon, it is Robert Edward Lee—hero of the Confederacy in the Civil War and a symbol of nobility to some, of slavery to others. We may think we know Lee because we have a mental image: gray. That is all that makes life valuable. As battlefield generals go, he could be extremely fiery, and could go out of his way to be kind.

But in even the most sympathetic versions of his life story he comes across as a bit of a stick—certainly compared with his scruffy nemesis, Ulysses S. For these men, the Civil War was just the ticket. Lee, however, has come down in history as too fine for the bloodbath of To efface the squalor and horror of the war, we have the image of Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves, and we have the image of Robert E.

Henry, the scion who was to become known in the Revolutionary War as Light-Horse Harry, was born in Washington became his patron and close friend. With the war nearly over, however, Harry decided he was underappreciated, so he impulsively resigned from the army. In , he was elected to the Continental Congress, and in he was elected governor of Virginia.

In Washington put him in command of the troops that bloodlessly put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. In he was elected to the U. He and his second wife, Ann Hill Carter Lee, and their children departed the Lee ancestral home, where Robert was born, for a smaller rented house in Alexandria.

Under the conditions of bankruptcy that obtained in those days, Harry was still liable for his debts. He jumped a personal appearance bail—to the dismay of his brother, Edmund, who had posted a sizable bond—and wangled passage, with pitying help from President James Monroe, to the West Indies. In , after five years away, Harry headed home to die, but got only as far as Cumberland Island, Georgia, where he was buried.

Pickett's Charge--The Last Attack at Gettysburg | Earl J. Hess | University of North Carolina Press

Robert was Robert appears to have been too fine for his childhood, for his education, for his profession, for his marriage, and for the Confederacy. Not according to him.

According to him, he was not fine enough. When he was superintendent of the U. Military Academy, Lee acquiesced to Mrs. By what can we know of him? The works of a general are battles, campaigns and usually memoirs. And he wrote no memoir. He wrote personal letters—a discordant mix of flirtation, joshing, lyrical touches, and stern religious adjuration—and he wrote official dispatches that are so impersonal and generally unselfserving as to seem above the fray. During the postbellum century, when Americans North and South decided to embrace R.

Lee as a national as well as a Southern hero, he was generally described as antislavery. This assumption rests not on any public position he took but on a passage in an letter to his wife. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. He was not one to hide his looks under a bushel. His heart, on the other hand. Perhaps it broke many years before the war. He only wanted a Virginia farm—no end of cream and fresh butter—and fried chicken. Not one fried chicken or two—but unlimited fried chicken. One thing that clearly drove him was devotion to his home state.

But if she secedes though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution , then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.

George Pickett: Early Life and U.S. Military Career

The North took secession as an act of aggression, to be countered accordingly. When Lincoln called on the loyal states for troops to invade the South, Southerners could see the issue as defense not of slavery but of homeland. A Virginia convention that had voted 2 to 1 against secession, now voted 2 to 1 in favor. Army commission he had held for 32 years. The days of July , , still stand among the most horrific and formative in American history.

Lincoln had given up on Joe Hooker, put Maj. George G. Lee had actually advanced farther north than the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when he learned that Meade was south of him, threatening his supply lines. So Lee swung back in that direction. On June 30 a Confederate brigade, pursuing the report that there were shoes to be had in Gettysburg, ran into Federal cavalry west of town, and withdrew.

It was almost a rout, until Maj. Howard, to whom Lee as West Point superintendent had been kind when Howard was an unpopular cadet, and Maj. Winfield Scott Hancock rallied the Federals and held the high ground. Excellent ground to defend from.

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That evening Lt. James Longstreet, who commanded the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, urged Lee not to attack, but to swing around to the south, get between Meade and Washington, and find a strategically even better defensive position, against which the Federals might feel obliged to mount one of those frontal assaults that virtually always lost in this war. Still not having heard from Stuart, Lee felt he might have numerical superiority for once.

The next morning, Lee set in motion a two-part offensive: Lt. To get there Longstreet would have to make a long march under cover. Longstreet mounted a sulky objection, but Lee was adamant. And wrong. It nearly prevailed anyway, but at last was beaten gorily back.


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So Lee was forced to improvise. Confederate artillery would soften it up, and Longstreet would direct a frontal assault across a mile of open ground against the center of Missionary Ridge. Before Gettysburg, Lee had seemed not only to read the minds of Union generals but almost to expect his subordinates to read his.

He was not in fact good at telling men what to do. His usually cheerful detachment patently covered solemn depths, depths faintly lit by glints of previous and potential rejection of self and others. It all seemed Olympian, in a Christian cavalier sort of way. As a father Lee was fond but fretful, as a husband devoted but distant. As an attacking general he was inspiring but not necessarily cogent. At Gettysburg he was jittery, snappish.

He was 56 and bone weary. He did have rheumatism and heart trouble. He kept fretfully wondering why Stuart was out of touch, worrying that something bad had happened to him. He had given Stuart broad discretion as usual, and Stuart had overextended himself. On July 3, , Gen. Lee selected Pettigrew's division to march at the left of Maj. George Pickett 's in the famous infantry assault popularly known as Pickett's Charge sometimes called "Longstreet's Assault" or the "Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Assault", since Pickett led only one third of the men engaged in the attack.

Lee had not consulted with Pettigrew beforehand and was unaware of the terrible condition of Pettigrew's division.

GETTYSBURG - July 3rd (Pickett's Charge) - Ultimate General: Civil War Historical Battle - CSA

As the division advanced, it received murderous fire. After Pettigrew's horse was shot out from under him, he continued on foot. As he approached within yards 90 meters of the stone wall on Cemetery Ridge which was partially held by his cousin John Gibbon , leading Second Division of the Union II Corps , he was severely wounded in the left hand by canister fire. Despite being in great pain, Pettigrew remained with his soldiers until it was obvious that the attack had failed. Holding his bloody hand, as Pettigrew was retreating towards Seminary Ridge, he encountered General Lee. Pettigrew attempted to speak, but Lee, seeing the wound, spoke first: "General, I am sorry to see you are wounded; go to the rear.

During the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg , Pettigrew remained in command until Heth recovered. Stopped by the flooded Potomac River at Falling Waters, West Virginia , Pettigrew's brigade was deployed in a dense skirmish line on the Maryland side, in order to protect the road to the river crossing.