Before July 3, 1863, George Pickett was best known among his comrades for finishing last in his class at West Point, being a jocular but courageous soldier, and his carefully perfumed locks. As part of West Point's most famous Class of 1846, Pickett was classmates with men like Stonewall Jackson and George McClellan, and despite his poor class standing he distinguished himself fresh out of school during the Mexican-American War.
Pickett's reputation for bravery extended into the early years of the Civil War, to the extent that former West Point classmate George McClellan wrote, "Perhaps there is no doubt that he was the best infantry soldier developed on either side during the Civil War." A native Virginian, the impeccably styled Pickett represented all of the antebellum South's most cherished traits, and as such he was a "beau-ideal" Confederate soldier.
After proving himself a capable brigadier during the Peninsula Campaign, during which he was wounded and forced to recuperate, Pickett was given command of a division in Longstreet's corps of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, putting him in position for a rendez-vous with destiny. Today Pickett is best remembered for the charge that has taken his name and is now remembered as the most famous assault of the Civil War. Having failed to dislodge the Union Army of the Potomac on either flank during the first two days at Gettysburg, Lee ordered a charge of nearly 15,000 at the center of the lines.
I thought I had read all the biographies of Civil War Generals. I was, therefore, most surprised that I had not read anything about General George Pickett (1825-1875). This is a short book just over three hours long by the Charles River Editors. I have read a few books the group has published and found them interesting, if short.
George Pickett finished last in his West Point class of 1846. His goal was to score just enough to pass and still allow him lots of time to play. He revealed his abilities and bravery in the Mexican War. I found the section about his time stationed in the State of Washington most interesting, particularly keeping the British from landing on San Juan Island. The book covers the famous “Pickett’s Charge” at Gettysburg but also provides a brief review of this life before, during and after the Civil War.
The book is well written and researched. A significant amount of the information comes from the letters Pickett wrote to his wife. The authors point out the falsehoods and rumors from the facts about Pickett.
Dan Gallagher does a good job narrating the book.
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