Obviously I don't know what Lee thought or knew before he ordered the assault...before he reached the point of no return where he felt he couldn't revoke his own orders, but if I think about Pickett's Charge long enough, I always think back to a quote from Intruder in the Dust, by William Faulker. Maybe it speaks a spark of truth to thoughts going through Lee's and his men's minds at that instant in time..."General Lee had the absolute confidence of his own troops and the almost unquestioning support of his subordinates. He had, by a series of successes, completely overawed the Federal commander, and was wholesomely feared by the Federal rank and file, who undoubtedly considered him the easy superior of their own generals. These were tremendous advantages."
"...For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago..."