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Confederate Leaders: Pickett

George E. Pickett (1825-1875)

After graduating from West Point Pickett saw combat duty in the Mexican War, where he was brevetted twice for gallantry. Afterwards he served at various posts on the frontier.

In Jun ’61, Pickett resigned his Regular commission to accept the rank of COL in the Confederate army. After serving on the lower Rappahannock River, he was promoted to BG (Feb ’62) and commanded a brigade under Longstreet during the Peninsula campaign. Wounded at the Battle of Gaines Mill Pickett did not return to duty until after the Battle of Antietam, when he was given command of a division. He was promoted MG (Oct ’62) and his division was lightly engaged at Fredericksburg (13 Dec ’62). During the Battle of Chancellorsville (1-4 May ’63) Pickett’s division was at Suffolk, Virginia collecting supplies.

Rejoining the main army in time for the march on Gettysburg Pickett’s division arrived on the field early on the morning of 3 Jul. Lee had originally intended for Longstreet’s three divisions to lead the attack that day, but after Longstreet argued against the use of Hood’s and McLaws’ divisions Lee organized a task force of Pickett’s division and six brigades of Hill’s corps. The ensuing attack, known as “Pickett’s Charge,” failed. After the assault Pickett’s division mustered less than one thousand of the four and a half thousand men engaged, with only one field officer not wounded or killed. In consequence of these losses Lee assigned Pickett’s division to provost duty guarding prisoners on the retreat South.

In Sep ’63 Pickett’s division was sent to recuperate and recruit in Department of Virginia and North Carolina. Pickett’s division participated in the battles at New Berne (Jan ’64) and Drewry’s Bluff (May ’64), then rejoined Lee’s army, participating in the siege of Petersburg and the subsequent retreat westward. When most of his division was captured during the retreat, and the remnants merged with other commands, Pickett was relieved of command and authorized to return home. However, he chose to remain, surrendering with the army at Appomattox.

Although offered a generalship by the Khedive of Egypt and the position of U.S. Marshal by President Grant, Pickett declined both to enter the insurance business in Virginia.

Note: Biographical information comes from the U.S. Army Center for Military History Gettysburg Staff Ride book.

Posted in Civil War.

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