Chapultepec, from hero to zero.

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Waterloo50

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Image:https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/chapultepec-castle
Chapultepec castle.
George Pickett often comes in for heavy criticism, some describe him as a mediocre general who was more of a liability than an asset, many point out that he was the last in his class at West Point and that he was obsessed with self image but I believe that he is often unfairly and harshly judged. Why is it that his determination during the Pig War and his bravery and success during the battle of Chapultepec are very rarely mentioned. It’s my humble opinion that Pickett had great potential but through no fault of his own, he would often find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time ‘the shad bake’ springs to mind as one example, there, I believe he was just unfortunate.

I’ve been spending a bit of time reading up on the Mexican-American war and Picketts role within it, I have to say that if I listen to others, the Civil war Pickett that I read about seems like a very different person compared to the young Mexican-American war lieutenant Pickett. During his time in Mexico Pickett received a brevet promotion to captain for his bravery being the first to climb the parapet at Chapultepec Castle and to retrieved his unit colours, no mean feat when you consider what an imposing structure it is.
Then of course we have Pickett during the Civil War, the first battle of Bull Run, he arrives as a Major but again his bravery and dedication to duty earn him a promotion to colonel. So, here’s my point, why does Pickett suffer so much criticism, is there something that I’ve missed? what turned the reputation of a brave and dedicated officer to someone who is associated with vanity and the massive slaughter of Pickett’s charge?
As I stated earlier, I believe he has been unfairly and harshly judged.
 

DixieRifles

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So, here’s my point, why does Pickett suffer so much criticism, is there something that I’ve missed? what turned the reputation of a brave and dedicated officer to someone who is associated with vanity and the massive slaughter of Pickett’s charge?
As I stated earlier, I believe he has been unfairly and harshly judged.
I don't know much of the details of his career during the Civil War. It seems that he was the scapegoat for "Pickett's Charge" and that kind of negative publicity can ruin all that went before it.
 

Waterloo50

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I don't know much of the details of his career during the Civil War. It seems that he was the scapegoat for "Pickett's Charge" and that kind of negative publicity can ruin all that went before it.
That’s true enough, It was Pickett’s charge in name only, I guess it’s very similar to Custer being associated with little big horn, although in fairness, Pickett wasn’t responsible for the planning of the disaster that was Pickett’s charge.
 
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ealexander1865

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Though it probably might not have much impact, Pickett doesn't have a lot else besides Gettysburg and Five Forks to sway his legacy.

He was wounded at Gaines Mill and therefore missed Glendale, Malvern Hill, Second Manassas, and Antietam. His division was barely involved at Fredericksburg and detached to Suffolk during the Chancellorsville campaign. After Gettysburg, the command recuperated in North Carolina and then Richmond. Their involvement in the Bermuda Hundred campaign is overshadowed by the Overland campaign and then they remained around Richmond, mostly, during the combat at Petersburg.

There's opportunity to distinguish himself, sure, but he is missing a lot.
 

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For those with Netflix, there is a rather good Mexican documentary "Los Niños Héroes de Chapultepec," focusing on the six teenage boys who stayed behind when the young cadets were ordered out of the castle. They died fighting alongside the adult Mexican soldiers, and are remembered today as national heroes in Mexico. One of them wrapped his country's flag around him and jumped from the castle roof, to keep it from falling into enemy hands. The film doesn't mention Pickett, but gives a Mexican view of the battle. The subtitles are very well done.
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Memorial to los Niños Heroes, in Chapultepec park.​
 
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Luke Freet

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For those with Netflix, there is a rather good Mexican documentary "Los Niños Héroes de Chapultepec," focusing on the six teenage boys who stayed behind when the young cadets were ordered out of the castle. They died fighting alongside the adult Mexican soldiers, and are remembered today as national heroes in Mexico. One of them wrapped his country's flag around him and jumped from the castle roof, to keep it from falling into enemy hands. The film doesn't mention Pickett, but gives a Mexican view of the battle. The subtitles are very well done.
View attachment 302807
Memorial to los Niños Heroes, in Chapultepec park.​
One hell of a story.
I'd say Chapultepec would be comparable with the last stand at the Alamo, in terms of national significance. Looking further back, I'd even compare it with Spartacus' revolt, for the number of prominent Roman figures involved who would later go on to tear their Republic apart.
I'll watch the documentary this afternoon. Hopefully it has a good English translation, if not, Im ok with subtitles.
 

Zella

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I'm fairly sympathetic to Pickett, though I think some of his other non-Pickett-Charge actions during the Civil War don't do him any favors.

A couple of years ago I read an interesting book on the goats of West Point. The organizational structure is a bit of a disaster, but it still was an intriguing book that focused heavily on both Pickett and Custer.

One of the author's recurring themes was that the "goat" often had personal qualities (like determination and daring) that could make them effective officers.

My own personal take is that those personal qualities made Pickett an effective officer up to a point, but that he was eventually promoted to positions that he wasn't quite cut out for because he was too impulsive for his own good.
 
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ErnieMac

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jackt62

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I would agree that Pickett's reputation has suffered because of the association with the failed Gettysburg charge, and his untimely presence at the Shad Bake during Five Forks. Additionally, his disdain for R.E. Lee ("He had my division slaughtered"), the above mentioned hanging of purported Confederate deserters captured wearing Union blue, and the over-reaching attempts by his widowed wife Lasalle Corbell Pickett to glorify his record all contributed to impinging his historical reputation.
 

Waterloo50

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For those with Netflix, there is a rather good Mexican documentary "Los Niños Héroes de Chapultepec," focusing on the six teenage boys who stayed behind when the young cadets were ordered out of the castle. They died fighting alongside the adult Mexican soldiers, and are remembered today as national heroes in Mexico. One of them wrapped his country's flag around him and jumped from the castle roof, to keep it from falling into enemy hands. The film doesn't mention Pickett, but gives a Mexican view of the battle. The subtitles are very well done.
View attachment 302807
Memorial to los Niños Heroes, in Chapultepec park.​
John, I’m sure that I read somewhere that there were a number of Americans that had deserted and fought alongside the Mexicans..can’t seem to find that article anywhere.
 
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jackt62

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John, I’m sure that I read somewhere that there were a number of Americans that had deserted and fought alongside the Mexicans..can’t seem to find that article anywhere.
That would be the San Patricio Battalion of American deserters who fought with the Mexicans at Chapultepec. The battalion's members were heavily composed of immigrants who were actively courted by General Santa Ana who invoked claims of American discrimination against them. In any case, the captured San Patricio survivors were hung at the moment the American flag was raised over Chapultepec.
 

John Hartwell

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John, I’m sure that I read somewhere that there were a number of Americans that had deserted and fought alongside the Mexicans..can’t seem to find that article anywhere.
Those were the San Patricios. A couple of hundred U.S. regulars, all immigrants, mostly Irish, but including several other nationalities who deserted for various reasons. They made up the Battallion San Patricio in the Mexican army. Fought well at Churubusco, among other places. Many captured, tried. Those who deserted after the war began were executed at the moment the US flag was raised over Chapultepec. Those who had deserted before, were branded & kept at hard labor until the US left Mexico, then released. Celebrated as heroes today in both Mexico and Ireland.

If you get a chance, see "One Man's Hero," with James Longstreet err Tom Berenger as Major John Riley (aka Juan Reely), Galway born leader of the San Patricios. An OK, but interesting movie. (If you look quick, you'll see Prince Albert of Monaco portraying an artilleryman named "Kelly").

see Wikipedia article
 
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Waterloo50

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I have always considered the Shad Bake to be a dereliction of duty.
The only thing that I think he did wrong in that situation was his failure to inform anyone that he’d be disappearing for a while but even that is debatable considering that his subordinates were able to get a message through to him. As far as Pickett was concerned the enemy were in no rush to attack and his defensive position was complete, there’s also the fact that the Shad bake was held in a wooded area which muffled the sound of the attack. Unfortunately for Pickett, the Shad bake and Pickett’s charge will always raise questions about his competency to command, I’ve read plenty of articles that question why he wasn’t harmed during Pickett’s charge, some say that he hung well back at the rear of the attack which is really to suggest ‘cowardice’ yet that doesn’t fit with the actions of a young Lieutenant Pickett during the Mexican war!
 
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Waterloo50

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That would be the San Patricio Battalion of American deserters who fought with the Mexicans at Chapultepec. The battalion's members were heavily composed of immigrants who were actively courted by General Santa Ana who invoked claims of American discrimination against them. In any case, the captured San Patricio survivors were hung at the moment the American flag was raised over Chapultepec.
We’re some of those Immigrants Irish, that would make sense especially if they were Irish Catholic’s.
 

Zella

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I’ve read plenty of articles that question why he wasn’t harmed during Pickett’s charge, some say that he hung well back at the rear of the attack which is really to suggest ‘cowardice’ yet that doesn’t fit with the actions of a young Lieutenant Pickett during the Mexican war!
That has always struck me as a ridiculous criticism. How else was he supposed to coordinate the attack?!
 

John Hartwell

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We’re some of those Immigrants Irish, that would make sense especially if they were Irish Catholic’s.
Just about all were Catholics, whatever their nationality. Irish were by far the most numerous. Yes anti-Catholic sentiment in the US army, and identification with a poor Catholic Mexico fighting a rich Protestant USA was a strong factor.

They were also promised free land in Mexico. Those that survived got their land, as promised.
 
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Waterloo50

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I would agree that Pickett's reputation has suffered because of the association with the failed Gettysburg charge, and his untimely presence at the Shad Bake during Five Forks. Additionally, his disdain for R.E. Lee ("He had my division slaughtered"), the above mentioned hanging of purported Confederate deserters captured wearing Union blue, and the over-reaching attempts by his widowed wife Lasalle Corbell Pickett to glorify his record all contributed to impinging his historical reputation.
That was a complete mess at Kinston, I’m sure he was looking to reassert himself as a strict no nonsense officer and Kinston provided him with that opportunity.
It’s strange how Lassalle’s memoirs damaged Picketts reputation but Libbie Custer’s had a more positive affect on her husbands reputation. Lassalles style of writing was a bit flowery and some of the claims she made were a tad outlandish, I agree with you, Lassalle definitely impinged Picketts reputation.
 

Waterloo50

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That has always struck me as a ridiculous criticism. How else was he supposed to coordinate the attack?!
But then you had men like Armistead, sticks his hat on the tip of his sword and lead the charge, I guess it all depends on the character of the man, some were better leading from the front whilst others were able to gain a better idea of how things were playing out by sitting at the rear and coordinating the attack. It’s one thing to lead from the front but a dead or wounded officer is of little use to his men.
I’m pretty sure that @thomas aagaard has commented in the past about the best position for officers during an attack. Hopefully he’ll help us out with Pickett and his reason for remaining at the rear.
 
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