Pickett George. E. Pickett. A re-evaluation.

Waterloo50

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I don't condone either. One can, perhaps, find justification for Custer. But I do not know how one can justify Pickett's murder of those thirteen men- in their home town, in front of their neighbors!

The day is so cold that the assembled troopers complain. The 13 men climb the scaffold and leave behind no record of their last words, save a general protest that they are not guilty. A brass band plays the death march. This time the executioner is a mysterious cross-eyed stranger from Raleigh. He strips clothing off some of the corpses, cuts buttons from the coats of the others. Now some of the dead lie naked to the biting February cold. Others are stripped down to long johns.
Families brave enough to dare Pickett’s wrath claim the bodies of their men. “Plenty would have been willing to have assisted me, but did not dare for fear of being called Unionist,” laments the widow of William Jones, who lies dead wearing only his socks. Other bodies are buried in a shallow grave at the foot of the scaffold.

https://www.ourstate.com/kinston-hangings-part-2/
 

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The day is so cold that the assembled troopers complain. The 13 men climb the scaffold and leave behind no record of their last words, save a general protest that they are not guilty. A brass band plays the death march. This time the executioner is a mysterious cross-eyed stranger from Raleigh. He strips clothing off some of the corpses, cuts buttons from the coats of the others. Now some of the dead lie naked to the biting February cold. Others are stripped down to long johns.
Families brave enough to dare Pickett’s wrath claim the bodies of their men. “Plenty would have been willing to have assisted me, but did not dare for fear of being called Unionist,” laments the widow of William Jones, who lies dead wearing only his socks. Other bodies are buried in a shallow grave at the foot of the scaffold.


https://www.ourstate.com/kinston-hangings-part-2/
Thanks for your response and the excerpt showing the callous, inhumane treatment not only of the prisoners but of their families.
 

Waterloo50

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Here's a short archive post from Bonnie:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/pi...-shot-58-others-charged-with-desertion.73914/

It's kind of hard to understand this type of behavior - Pickett's mind was not in a good place dealing with all of this. I suspect these men died for somebody's else's accumulated sins rather than their own.
Yep, he obviously had a a nasty side, if he didn’t hang them he had them branded, a big letter (D) for deserter. I really think that he was trying to blame someone, anyone for another failed attack, those poor union boys gave him just the excuse that he was looking for, morale was low and things were so bad that even those in his own ranks had thoughts of deserting, I’m wondering if he was worried that his men were losing faith and respect in him. A lot of folk claim that Pickett had a habit of shifting the blame for his own failings on to others and I guess those hangings could have been used by him as a distraction and in a roundabout kind of way enabled him to regain a position of authority over his own troops.
 

James N.

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At the outbreak of the Civil War, Pickett resigned from the United States military and was appointed as a colonel in the Confederate army. After briefly commanding the defense of the Lower Rappahannock River, he was appointed a brigadier general on January 14, 1862. Pickett first saw combat during the Peninsula Campaign, where he led his brigade at the battles of Williamsburg, Seven Pines, and Gaines’ Mill. At Gaines’ Mill, Pickett was wounded in the shoulder and forced out of command until September of 1862. In October of 1862, Pickett was promoted to major general and placed in command of a small division in General James Longstreet’s corps. He and his command were present at the battle of Fredericksburg, but saw only little combat, and then took part in the Suffolk Campaign. Pickett’s most important role in the war however would come at the Battle of Gettysburg...
Pickett's men did miss the fighting at Chancellorsville and saw little action at Fredericksburg but they did their share of the fighting in many of the other battles of the Army of Northern Virginia. I have a direct ancestor who served in Pickett's brigade and division who received three wounds in three separate battles under his leadership. His division was so wrecked after Gettysburg that it was of little use to the Army of Northern Virginia for months after that battle. I agree that he was not a very good choice for division command or an independent command but as a brigade commander he showed potential in the three battles where he fought in that role.
As I've pointed out before in the forums, Pickett's Division wasn't any smaller than any of the others except A. P. Hill's Light Division before it was broken up following Chancellorsville. Hill's had six brigades while the others had four or five, including Pickett's; the rub was that at Gettysburg only three of them were present: Garnett's, Kemper's, and Armistead's. Two others had been left behind in Virginia, Eppa Hunton's and another whose commander I can never seem to recall. (Corse?) No doubt the three included in the famous charge had been wrecked, but the division overall was in no worse shape than many of the others in Lee's army.
 
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James N.

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Well, because the ideal of a dashing, hard charging cavalryman generally does not include long, curled hair and perfume.

Somehow, I just can't see John Buford prancing about the battlefield looking like Lana Turner. He was too busy finding Rebels for his men to kill.

Stuart had his flourishes, for sure, but the baseline for him is that he was a hard boiled killer as well.

Pickett's mode of grooming is part and parcel of how he is perceived. A little more battlefield success - whether it was his fault or not that his resume is pretty thin in that regard - would have changed that perception. Instead of a pomaded dandy he'd be seen as something of an eccentric perhaps.

And that, I think, is the difference between him and Custer, whose reputation extends to a bunch of fighting and killing, with great gusto. His hair is not his only claim to fame.

I guarantee that if Pickett's men had broken through at Cemetary Hill, his hair would be a footnote.
Napoleon's brother-in-law Marshal, Prince, and ultimately King of Naples and Commander of the Cavalry Reserve of the Grande Armee Joachim Murat would no doubt beg to differ!

Murat.jpg
 
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James N.

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Guess we’ll never really know about Picketts mind set on the day of that charge but he was clearly a man capable of heightened emotions. Some may say that a man in his position should at least be able to keep his emotions in check but I don’t think he was capable of that, you could well be correct in your assumption that he lacked maturity, there are many incidents where his fragile emotional state appeared to have got the better of him, this can especially be seen in his letters to Sallie.
Oh, God! I can't write you a love letter today, my Sallie, for, with my great love for you and my gratitude to God for sparing my life to devote to you, comes the overpowering thought of those whose lives were sacrificed - of the brokenhearted widows and mothers and orphans. The moans of my wounded boys, the sight of the dead, upturned faces flood my soul with grief; and here am I, whom they trusted, whom they followed, leaving them on the field of carnage.
The text of the letter sounds suspiciously like some of the "editing" (read: writing or re-writing) Sallie herself has been accused of!
 

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As I've pointed out before in the forums, Pickett's Division wasn't any smaller than any of the others except A. P. Hill's Light Division before it was broken up following Chancellorsville. Hill's had six brigades while the others had four or five, including Pickett's; the rub was that at Gettysburg only three of them were present: Garnett's, Kemper's, and Armistead's. Two others had been left behind in Virginia, Eppa Hunton's and another whose commander I can never seem to recall. No doubt the three included in the famous charge had been wrecked, but the division overall was in no worse shape than many of the others in Lee's army.
At Gettysburg, it was Corse's and Jenkins's brigades that were missing from Pickett's division. You do bring up a good point about the strength of Pickett's division after Gettysburg when you take into consideration that Corse's and Jenkins's brigades were still at full strength after the battle. The other three brigades - Garnett's, Armistead's and Kemper's were in tatters though, especially Garnett's which was
reduced to guard duty for months after the battle until new recruits could be found and a new commander who was Eppa Hunton, the former colonel of the 8th Virginia Infantry.
 

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In any case, while Pickett, in his reported wrath over his overwhelming defeat at New Bern (which post, in a pattern which we all recognize, he was sure would be a walkover but everybody else knew was going to be impossible) claimed he was hanging "deserters" in fact it's more complicated than that and he knew it.

The men he hung were North Carolinians who had been conscripted into Confederate service and used as bridge guards or local militia on picket duty.

They were Union sympathizers who disliked the Confederacy and slavery and had been trying to be left alone but when push came to shove they preferred fighting for the Union.

They were not, as Pickett wanted everyone to believe, enlisted Confederate soldiers who changed sides. Most had never been in Confederate service at all but were local men who had enlisted with the first North Carolina Volunteers (Union).

Whats more, the court martial was made up entirely of Virginians, who looked down on poor NC farmers as ignorant backwoods rabble. They were not allowed to have representation or in most cases even speak. The whole thing was a disgrace.

Fortunately for Pickett, US Grant was an old West Point pal who got him off the hook. Congress and the War Department wanted Pickett in chains and court marshaled .

Sallie can write all the letters she wants about her warm hearted husband, but in this case at least he was a cold hearted murderer who engaged in a hanging party because his ego was bruised.
 
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diane

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Well, because the ideal of a dashing, hard charging cavalryman generally does not include long, curled hair and perfume.

Somehow, I just can't see John Buford prancing about the battlefield looking like Lana Turner. He was too busy finding Rebels for his men to kill.

Stuart had his flourishes, for sure, but the baseline for him is that he was a hard boiled killer as well.

Pickett's mode of grooming is part and parcel of how he is perceived. A little more battlefield success - whether it was his fault or not that his resume is pretty thin in that regard - would have changed that perception. Instead of a pomaded dandy he'd be seen as something of an eccentric perhaps.

And that, I think, is the difference between him and Custer, whose reputation extends to a bunch of fighting and killing, with great gusto. His hair is not his only claim to fame.

I guarantee that if Pickett's men had broken through at Cemetary Hill, his hair would be a footnote.


:laugh: I always use the example of the English or French cavalier who wore skirts, lace, curly hair to the waist, high heels and bows on his shoes so big he had to turn his feet sideways to walk - and could kill 20 guys while mincing down the street half a block! It's like being mistaken for a fancy lap poodle when you're actually a rottweiler. Being a dandy didn't mean you weren't plenty to avoid in a fight - Pickett wasn't that kind of a killer but Jeb Stuart was without a doubt. He would finish your business for you and look good doing it!
 

diane

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It's always hard to analyze from long distance what was going on in somebody's head when they do something horrific. Pickett was mad in more ways than one at the time of this event and that is the way of war. It always brings out whatever dark things are lurking inside someone, that would never have come out anywhere else. The war started out gentlemanly - troops picking berries on their way to Bull Run, then it ceased to be a gentleman and became what it was - and you have Custer in a whizzing contest with Mosby over who can hang each other's men faster, or Pickett suddenly feeling insecure and furious at everything with 'deserters' to hand to vent on.
 

James N.

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:laugh: I always use the example of the English or French cavalier who wore skirts, lace, curly hair to the waist, high heels and bows on his shoes so big he had to turn his feet sideways to walk - and could kill 20 guys while mincing down the street half a block! It's like being mistaken for a fancy lap poodle when you're actually a rottweiler. Being a dandy didn't mean you weren't plenty to avoid in a fight - Pickett wasn't that kind of a killer but Jeb Stuart was without a doubt. He would finish your business for you and look good doing it!
It's always hard to analyze from long distance what was going on in somebody's head when they do something horrific. Pickett was mad in more ways than one at the time of this event and that is the way of war. It always brings out whatever dark things are lurking inside someone, that would never have come out anywhere else. The war started out gentlemanly - troops picking berries on their way to Bull Run, then it ceased to be a gentleman and became what it was - and you have Custer in a whizzing contest with Mosby over who can hang each other's men faster, or Pickett suddenly feeling insecure and furious at everything with 'deserters' to hand to vent on.
I would again like to mention that in case nobody here has any idea who or what he was, the aforementioned Napoleonic Marshal Joachim Murat (d. by firing squad, 1815) was every nineteenth century cavalryman's ideal beau sabreur, including but by no means limited to both Stuart and Custer. There is a ludicrous opening scene in Errol Flynn's Custer biopic They Died With Their Boots On where Flynn/Custer reports to West Point done up in his idea of what a cavalryman ought to look like - although ridiculous, the scene nevertheless captures the sort of romanticism inspired by tales of massive Napoleonic cavalry charges like those at Eylau, Friedland, and Waterloo. One of my old prints from the 1840's by Currier's rival M. W. Kellogg depicts in cartoonish fashion Murat's charge against Russian grenadiers at Eylau, now part of Poland; rest assured that even here in America these exploits were well-known.
 
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David H.

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Found this book over the weekend, As it says on the inside flap why is it called Picketts Charge, and not for example Richardsons Charge at Antietam or Humphreys Assault at Fredericksburg. Why does Picketts Charge still evoke admiration of bravery of both the southern attackers and northern defenders. Usually we turn to the objective "history'' to resolve such questions, and Picketts Charge holds a special place as the "high tide of the confederacy" Why does Picketts Charge endure in the imagination. Over the years soldiers, journalists, politicians, orators, artists, poets and educators have shaped, revised and even sacrificed 'History" of the change to create "memories" that met the ever-shifting needs and spoke to the deeply felt values. Why is Picketts career judged by Gettysburg. It is on my list of to be read so I cannot give an review of the book. Has anyone read this book.

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Excellent Book. Dr. Reardon knows her stuff. Years ago I attended a conference with her and walked the route of Pickett's charge with her - she taught and showed our group how important the terrain was. Have heard Dr. Reardon speak several times and went to a bookstore on Gettysburg where she recommended Porter Alexanders book. I recommend her book.
 

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I'm asking because I do not know, not because I think he was or was not deserving (that's what I'm hoping to find out) but how did Pickett rise to Division commander? Was it out of necessity/need or ability?

I also don't really know his true role was in "Pickett's" charge. I guess he set the brigade alignments but once in motion, did he do anything?
 

Waterloo50

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I'm asking because I do not know, not because I think he was or was not deserving (that's what I'm hoping to find out) but how did Pickett rise to Division commander? Was it out of necessity/need or ability?

I also don't really know his true role was in "Pickett's" charge. I guess he set the brigade alignments but once in motion, did he do anything?
I think the answer to your question is ‘necessity, it was also due in part to his alleged abilities, allow me to explain myself.
In 1846, Pickett attended West Point military academy and he didn’t really do that well, he came last in his class but there was one quality that he did have and that was courage. He may well have graduated last in his class but he graduated none the less and he attained the rank of second lieutenant. He was called upon to serve during the Mexican-American war and that is where he made his mark, he was involved in the assault on Chapultepec castle and this I believe was the moment that raised his profile. During the storming of the castle the flag bearer was wounded, on seeing this, Pickett took the flag and with a handful of men proceeded to fight his way towards the flagstaff, he pulled down the Mexican flag and raised the American flag, as you can imagine this action got him noticed by his superiors, it was also significant in that the fallen flag bearer whom Picket took the flag from was none other than James Longstreet. After his actions in Mexico, Pickett's was later described by Winfield Scott as being ‘distinguished’, even William Worth described Pickett as ‘distinguished for gallantry and zeal’ and Bvt. Maj Willian R. Montgomery described Pickett as ‘noble and Gallant’, in fact it wasn’t long before Pickett earned another honorary brevet for gallantry for his actions at Chapultepec.
In my humble opinion, The Mexican war laid the foundations for Picketts future military career, we know that he was a below average West Point student and many would agree that Pickett had a certain arrogance about him but that’s how some people are when they have a lot of self belief, I don’t think that Pickett lacked the necessary skills to lead men but the more I read about him the more I’m left feeling that something changed within him (an assumption on my part but I actually think that he suffered from depression)
Whilst he served in Texas, he was responsible for training men and developing infantry tactics, he certainly would have understood how to lead from the front and get the best from his men and there were certainly rare occasions when he showed good tactical understanding but just as he did at West Point, he never really applied himself.

It’s also of some significance that Picketts father was quite influential and wasted little time in calling in a few favours. It really was the case the George’s father (Robert) ‘a retired Colonel’ wrote letters and campaigned endlessly to secure a promotion for his son, Robert even contacted Longstreet and asked him to write supporting letters, of course George eventually got his promotion(s)and steadily worked his way to the top.
I think you have to ask yourself, did George Pickett obtain his promotions through his own military skills and ability or was he given a helping hand. If you consider some of the glaring mistakes that he made during the CW, (Shad bake) for example, I’d say that he benefited from his actions in Mexico but he also massively benefited from having the surname ‘Pickett’ it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ best describes Pickett’s military career.

As for Gettysburg, he had very little to do with the planning or failure of that infamous charge.
 
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James N.

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… In my humble opinion, The Mexican war laid the foundations for Picketts future military career, we know that he was a below average West Point student and many would agree that Pickett had a certain arrogance about him but that’s how some people are when they have a lot of self belief, I don’t think that Pickett lacked the necessary skills to lead men but the more I read about him the more I’m left feeling that something changed within him (an assumption on my part but I actually think that he suffered from depression)

… I think you have to ask yourself, did George Pickett obtain his promotions through his own military skills and ability or was he given a helping hand. If you consider some of the glaring mistakes that he made during the CW, (Shad bake) for example, I’d say that he benefited from his actions in Mexico but he also massively benefited from having the surname ‘Pickett’ it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ best describes Pickett’s military career...
That's a true assessment for most of the higher command figures who happened to have been subalterns during the Mexican War: Lee, Grant, Jackson, Longstreet, McClellan, Bragg, Meade, and Beauregard all come instantly to mind. The courses of their subsequent careers can be recognized from their earliest service. As for the rest, I know you know, but it's definitely worth repeating that Pickett received his appointment to West Point, if not actually from Lincoln himself, it was at least through his law office.
 

Waterloo50

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:laugh: I always use the example of the English or French cavalier who wore skirts, lace, curly hair to the waist, high heels and bows on his shoes so big he had to turn his feet sideways to walk - and could kill 20 guys while mincing down the street half a block! It's like being mistaken for a fancy lap poodle when you're actually a rottweiler. Being a dandy didn't mean you weren't plenty to avoid in a fight - Pickett wasn't that kind of a killer but Jeb Stuart was without a doubt. He would finish your business for you and look good doing it!
Pickett was definitely going for the whole cavalier look, Custer did it better though, I’m sure that I read somewhere that Custer scented his hair with cinnamon oil. Custer liked big flowing scarfs and big hats, Pickett on the other hand was more of a swashbuckling type of guy, long curly brown hair, golden spurs and tailored uniforms. Who could ever forget the words that Sally wrote about him..—"gallant and graceful as a knight of chivalry riding to a tournament," whose "long, dark, auburn-tinted hair floated backward in the wind like a soft veil as he went on down the slope of death"—

Yep, nothing vain about those two guys.
 

diane

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Pickett was definitely going for the whole cavalier look, Custer did it better though, I’m sure that I read somewhere that Custer scented his hair with cinnamon oil. Custer liked big flowing scarfs and big hats, Pickett on the other hand was more of a swashbuckling type of guy, long curly brown hair, golden spurs and tailored uniforms. Who could ever forget the words that Sally wrote about him..—"gallant and graceful as a knight of chivalry riding to a tournament," whose "long, dark, auburn-tinted hair floated backward in the wind like a soft veil as he went on down the slope of death"—

Yep, nothing vain about those two guys.


:laugh: That's true! Jeb Stuart was another who loved the fancy clothes - red lined cape, gold spurs, ostrich plume in the hat and a luxurious beard that surprised even him when it came in. He did the super perfumed curls for a short time while in West Point but kept getting mistaken for his sister - got a lot of demerits for fighting!
 
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