Pickett Was Pickett confident his attack at Gettysburg would succeed.

WJC

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Lee really believed it could be done.
Thanks for your response.
I have no doubt that he believed it could be done.
Belief is more than half the battle. We have examples around us every day of people accomplishing tasks that everyone else thinks are impossible. We watch athletes find that they can run a little further or a little faster than they thought, all because a respected coach demands it of them while emphasizing his/her confidence that they can do it. Military training is one example after another of soldiers learning that they can be more and do more than they thought possible at the urging of respected Drill Instructors who confidently convince them that they are capable of more.
Lee was so respected, his men so believed in him that they knew they could win the field despite the ordeal. That's the kind of respected leadership anyone who has been asked to lead wishes he/she could attain. And like him or hate him, you have to admire Lee for that quality.
 

rpkennedy

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While Pickett may have been confident of success (as many Confederate commanders were in that army), he also may have been somewhat of a realist. Before starting off, he told Garnett to get up as fast as he could for he was going to catch hell.

Ryan
 

Northern Light

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Indeed, the wonder is the number who actually made it across that field! We know that Brockenbrough's Brigade only went a short distance before they broke under the intense fire and left the field. I've read accounts of soldiers who picked up their wounded comrades and helped them back to safety rather than continuing on. One wonders how many of the 'surviving heroes of Gettysburg' were such men who turned back rather than continue to face the deadly fire.
At the same time, we ought not to be quick to judge: these men were human, just like us, with the same failings. We will never know how we would have done were we in their place.
It is one thing to be willing to die for your country, but another to actually throw your life away for no purpose. I think many of these men could see no purpose in this charge.
 

WJC

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It is one thing to be willing to die for your country, but another to actually throw your life away for no purpose. I think many of these men could see no purpose in this charge.
Thanks for your response.
That's where respect and trust in one's leaders, together with discipline, comes in. Logically it makes no sense at all to risk almost certain death as these men did. Somehow that logic has to be overcome for someone to do what they, and many others, have done.
 

Northern Light

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Thanks for your response.
That's where respect and trust in one's leaders, together with discipline, comes in. Logically it makes no sense at all to risk almost certain death as these men did. Somehow that logic has to be overcome for someone to do what they, and many others, have done.
Perhaps, but we are not all quixotic enough to "march in to hell for a heavenly cause".
 

randy596

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It is one thing to be willing to die for your country, but another to actually throw your life away for no purpose. I think many of these men could see no purpose in this charge.
I totally agree. It's my understanding Lee wanted this to be the last battle of the war. His belief his men could overcome the % of Union soldiers which in 1863 at Gettysburg the numbers and logistics ended up a miscalculated nightmare.
 

WJC

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Perhaps, but we are not all quixotic enough to "march in to hell for a heavenly cause".
Thanks for your response.
Maybe you and I aren't, but there are many who are.
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." --- George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945).
 

Northern Light

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Thanks for your response.
Maybe you and I aren't, but there are many who are.
"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." --- George S. Patton, Jr. (1885-1945).
"He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again."- Tacitus
 

Tom Elmore

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Colonel Birkett D. Fry, who commanded Archer's Alabama brigade on July 3, went to see Pickett to determine who would be the guiding command to dress on during the charge. Fry wrote of Pickett, "He appeared to be in excellent spirits, and, after a cordial greeting and a pleasant reference to our having been together in work of that kind at Chapultepec, expressed great confidence in the ability of our troops to drive the enemy after they had been 'demoralized by our artillery.' "

Chapultepec castle was a formidable obstacle to overcome during the Mexican War. The Marines who took such heavily casualties there inspired the "Halls of Montezuma" line in their anthem. So Pickett knew it would be a desperate undertaking with a large loss of life. But it was overconfidence in the ability of Confederate artillery to significantly damage or demoralize the Federal defenders that is particularly telling. The smoke and noise generated by the grand artillery cannonade over the course of 90 minutes seemed convincing proof that it was successful in achieving the desired effect, but no one knew for sure, because the Federals kept well hidden behind stone walls and low barriers. It was a fatal error, but if we judge the Confederate high command harshly for it, we may equally wonder why the lesson has never been learned. The Somme has been mentioned from World War I, and we can also point to Normandy and the Pacific islands held by the Japanese, where the ground was mercilessly pounded over time by naval gunfire and aircraft, yet the infantry defenders remained relatively unscathed.
 

Coonewah Creek

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I have read in the past that General Longstreet paid special attention to George - made sure he clearly understood his directions. I always think about that when I see Tom Berenger drawing out the plan for him in the dirt right before the "charge."
Reminds me of the stories that Napoleon had a soldier of, let's just say, limited mental capacity, on his staff. After he would write out his orders to his various commanders, he would have them read to this particular individual and have him repeat to Napoleon in his own words what the orders said. If the soldier could not repeat in his own words the correct intent of Napoleon's orders, they were re-written until he could...
 

John S. Carter

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I would not think any general about to launch an attack would want to show subordinates that they were not certain of success. Moves and such like to show a General Pickett as sure of success, but was he so sure?

This was not Pickett's first battle and he must have had some doubts that the attack would achieve its goals. He had to expect that, if he succeeded in making a penetration, that the Union would attempt to counter attack, and if they did so, he would be short of additional support. I just do not see Pickett getting much additional help as part of the planned attack.

So why was Pickett so sure of success? He had to know that the attack would cause casualties in his forces and at some point the offensive momentum would slow down. Then his disorganized men would probably be subject to a counter attack.
There is a saying IN the military that all junior officers or officers of divisions learn from the days at the Academy ; It is not my duty to question ,agree or disagree with superiors but to carry out the orders to the fullest to my ability",and that is what both Longstreet ,Armstead,and Picket did on that day.Those privates carried out the orders from the sargent and he from the captain ,then he from the Major.Grant did the same at Cold Harbor and the privates carried out the orders from.........
 

UKMarkw

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I don't think any soldier with an ounce of strategic knowledge could have looked out across a wide expanse of open ground with numerous obstacles, with a target a mile away and be confident in success. I think imo that most of the confederate high command knew it was folly but went anyway.
 

Saint Jude

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Is it true that Pickett was confident of success? His public statements of bravado to his men before the assault may have been a necessary part of commanding leadership, but I seriously doubt that he, together with Longstreet and Alexander, was thrilled with having to carry out Lee's order.

I agree.
 

Waterloo50

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Pickett had a complex personality he was an enigma, as a leader, he displayed courage and audacity and yet he could also be lazy and incompetent, he’d insist on his orders being followed to the letter and yet he didn't always follow orders himself, sometimes he could be precise and issue orders with great clarity and yet there were occasions when his orders were vague and open to misinterpretation, sometimes he didnt even bother to issue orders but instead expected the junior ranks to anticipate his thoughts. More often than not, his decisions were based upon his own sense of right and wrong, his moral compass often made him quite an emotional character who could act impulsively. As a tactician he was found lacking and as a result his actions were often reactive rather than proactive, I honestly don’t think Pickett had the ability to see the bigger picture and if he did, then he never showed any real skill in anticipating the next move.
Having said all of the above, I have read other posters say that he was a realist but I don’t think that was the case at all, he was an impulsive character who looked for anything that would elevate his name and character, he was all about the glory and Pickett’s charge ‘had it succeeded‘ could perhaps have provided him with the adulation that he needed.
His bravery cannot be questioned, if Pickett was told to attack then thats exactly what he would do. If he had nothing else going for him, he at least benefited from an unwavering sense of honour and self pride, When he received his orders at Gettysburg, he probably understood that the odds weren’t great but Pickett being the type of man that he was, would most likely have just resigned himself to the fact that the attack was going to happen and I beleive that he faced it with a ‘what will be will be‘ attitude, as for the outcome being a success, I think that like every other man that day, he simply thought ‘let’s just get through this’.
 
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Pete Longstreet

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At the time of Pickett's charge, he was overwhelmed at a chance for glory. He was elated to triumph and write his name in the history books of leading the charge that won independence for the Confederacy. I think even if the odds were much worse... he still would have made the charge, because at that point, his judgement was clouded by having his name cemented into history as a hero. Unfortunately for Pickett, the charge failed. Although I don't fault him.
 

rpkennedy

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At the time of Pickett's charge, he was overwhelmed at a chance for glory. He was elated to triumph and write his name in the history books of leading the charge that won independence for the Confederacy. I think even if the odds were much worse... he still would have made the charge, because at that point, his judgement was clouded by having his name cemented into history as a hero. Unfortunately for Pickett, the charge failed. Although I don't fault him.

I think that this assessment is a bit harsh to Pickett. At the time, he was overly confident (just like the vast majority of soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia) in what the men could accomplish but he had a realistic appraisal of what his men were facing. He was the one to tell Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett to get his men up there as fast as he could because they were going to "catch Hell" on the way. The entire army had become somewhat a victim of their own success in that they felt that they could overcome anything no matter the odds.

That said, Pickett likely would have been proud that his division was the one chosen to make this attack, particularly since his division had missed most of the fighting since Antietam the year before.

Ryan
 

Pete Longstreet

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I think that this assessment is a bit harsh to Pickett. At the time, he was overly confident (just like the vast majority of soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia) in what the men could accomplish but he had a realistic appraisal of what his men were facing. He was the one to tell Brigadier General Richard B. Garnett to get his men up there as fast as he could because they were going to "catch Hell" on the way. The entire army had become somewhat a victim of their own success in that they felt that they could overcome anything no matter the odds.

That said, Pickett likely would have been proud that his division was the one chosen to make this attack, particularly since his division had missed most of the fighting since Antietam the year before.

Ryan
It may be harsh, but Pickett looked at this opportunity to make up for lost time, as you referenced, he missed most of the war and was out of action for a period of time. I like Pickett, but even after looking at the open field waiting for Porters's artillery bombardment to cease, he was anxiously waiting to go forward. Pickett never showed any signs of being concerned like Longstreet and others. And even when he asked Longstreet if he shall go forward... he received only a head nod. He never asked Longstreet anything further. Some of his soliders recalled his speech very animated just before he gave the order to move forward. I truly believe all he saw was triumph and destruction of the Union army by his Virginians, and felt at that time he and his division were incapable of defeat.
 
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John S. Carter

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What was it that he said to his troops which instilled the courage to march into this pit of Union cannon ? Would it had not been better to have been delivered by the commanding officer Longstreet ?Was there a bit of a chock in Pickett's voice? It must have been delivered with a bit of sadness since he did not like this plan of sending his and Armistead troops into this Fredericksburg {just no hill} .Did Armistead deliver a heroic speech to his troops?Pickett was a young officer who was intralled as most young officers of the ANV was to have such an opportunity to be the one to lead his divisions into a heroic attack that could bring glory[fame to his troops and victory to the ANV against such a force as the entire AP.and to be under the command of General Robert LEE ,who had led his army to victory for two years,Antietam still questionable since he left the field first.I do believe if any general had regrets as to this was Longstreet since he had been at Fredericksburg with Lee.
 

rpkennedy

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It may be harsh, but Pickett looked at this opportunity to make up for lost time, as you referenced, he missed most of the war and was out of action for a period of time. I like Pickett, but even after looking at the open field waiting for Porters's artillery bombardment to cease, he was anxiously waiting to go forward. Pickett never showed any signs of being concerned like Longstreet and others. And even when he asked Longstreet if he shall go forward... he received only a head nod. He never asked Longstreet anything further. Some if his soliders recalled his speech very animated just before he gave the order to move forward. I truly believe all he saw was triumph and destruction of the Union army by his Virginians, and felt at that time he and his division was incapable of defeat.

Being anxious to get going was pretty common. I don't particularly blame Pickett for wanting to start.

I disagree that Pickett didn't show concern. He ordered his officers to walk rather than ride into combat, for example. He told Garnett that the division was going to "catch Hell" and to get to the Union lines as quickly as possible. Pickett was never one to have an overabundance of caution but he did his due diligence in giving his men the best chance possible.

Longstreet had given pretty specific instructions about how the attack was supposed to proceed so I don't think that Pickett needed to question him.

I don't think that there's a question that Pickett was confident in his troops but the same thing could be said about Lee himself.

Ryan
 
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