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AND HIS MEN
LaSALLE CORBELL PICKETT
(Mrs. G. E. Pickett)
WITH SIXTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS
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PHILADELPHIA & LONDON
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
THE NEW YORK
AST OR. Lf NOX AND
TiLOt N FOUNDAriONS.
R ^S'a L
By LaSalle Corbell Pickett
By J. B. LiPPiNcoTT Company
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To my husband, the noble leader of that band of heroes whose deeds
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are sparkling jewels set in the history of the great Army of Northern Vir-
ginia, I would gladly inscribe this book — to him alone, to whom my life
has been dedicated; but remembering how often, in the humility of his
great soul, he has said, "I did not do it — my men did it all," I feel that
he would be better pleased to know that the brave men whom he led
through those four long, dark years have held a high place in my thought
as I have written. Hence —
To the men of Pickett's Division, who yet clasp hands with me in
V the friendship that was cemented in blood to grow stronger through all
«» - the passing years, and to the memory of those who have gone from our
sight to be ever present in our hearts and on the most glorious page of
our country's history, this volume is lovingly dedicated.
Why do I write this book? To add my tribute to the
memory of my hero husband and the noble men who fol-
lowed him through the trials, dangers and hardships of a
four years' war. The impulse which moves me is love,
and I have endeavored that nothing should be written un-
worthy of that motive. If anything expressed or implied
shall give pain to any, whether he wore the gray or the
blue, it is contrary to the purpose or the wishes of the
author — contrary to the chivalrous soul of the soldier
and patriot, George E. Pickett, whose courage and con-
stancy this work is intended to commemorate.
In the compilation of this record the reader must know
that I could not bring personal witness to the events de-
scribed. They are based upon the official and other re-
ports of eye-witnesses and participants. In treating of
the maneuvers and engagements herein mentioned, I have
excluded every disparaging statement which the facts of
history and justice to all participants would possibly per-
mit. I have purposely avoided reading histories of the
conflict by authors on both sides, and based my own nar-
rative upon original material, to avoid the possibility of
traveling over ground already covered by others.
Upon the battle-field I visited last year grew a wonder-
ful wealth of white daisies, piled drift upon drift like the
banks of snow that glitter in the light of the winter sun.
So blossom the flowers of peace and love and hope in the
hearts which yet fondly cherish the memory of the long-
gone days of darkness and of blood.
Though the dream nation about which clustered so
many beautiful visions will never take its place among
the courts and powers of earth; though the ideal which
led the South through efforts of heroism not surpassed
in all the records of the world will never be crystallized
into that reality known to mortal eyes, yet in the
higher realm of thought, where the ideal is the true real,
it dwells in transcendent glory which transmutes into a
golden veil of light the war-clouds by which it was en-
That dream nation did not crumble into ruins and fade
away into naught. The setting sun reflected from its
gleaming minarets makes more radiant the light by which
our united country marches on its way to national glory.
The bells in its towers ring out a paean to swell the grand
symphony which circles the world.
The gallant sons of heroic fathers who fell on battle-
fields of North and South now stand together to defend
our common country. Side by side North and South are
marching against the foe; step by step they keep time
to the mingled notes of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and
"Dixie," blending into the noblest battle-hymn that ever
thrilled the heart of soldier to deeds immortal.
Three phases of loyalty sway the Southern heart to-
day — loyalty to memory, loyalty to present duty, loyalty
to hope. There is no rivalry among these phases of the
same noble sentiment. Together they work for the evolu-
tion of a regenerated nation. He who is untrue to the
past is recreant to the present and faithless to the future.
LaSalle Corbell Pickett.
Washington, D. C,
March 4, 191 3.
I. — Mexican and Indian Wars 1-9
II.— San Juan 10-21
III. — San Juan Continued 22-36
IV. — Pickett's West Point Appointment and Military
Service in the United States Army 37-41
V. — Slavery 42-50
VI. — Secession 51-65
VII. — At Yorktown and Williamsburg _ 66-73
VIII.— Seven Pines 74-86
IX.— Gaines's Mill 87-98
X. — Frazier's Farm 99-102
XI. — Second Manassas 103-106
XII. — Antietam 107-116
XIII. — Reorganization 117-123
XIV. — Pickett's Generals 124-130
XV. — Fredericksburg 131-144
XVI. — " Dogs OF War " in lyEASH 145-147
XVII. — Foraging Expedition — Suffolk 148-151
XVIII. — Chancellorsville 152-161
XIX. — The High Tide of the Confederacy 162-168
XX. — Pennsylvania Campaign 169-178
XXI.— Gettysburg — First Day 179-191
XXII. — Gettysburg — Second Day 192-204
XXIII. — Gettysburg — Third Day 205-221
XXIV. — Where Were the Guns? 222-226
XXV. — Newbern 227-234
XXVI. — Pickett's Voluntary Defense of Petersburg. . . 235-241
XXVII. — A Strange Birthday Celebration '?42-247
XXVIII.— Cold Harbor 248-252
XXIX. — The Peace Commission — The I^ast Review of
Pickett's Division 253-258
XXX. — On to Dinwiddie Court-house 259-264
XXXI. — Five Forks 265-272
XXXII. — Sailor's Creek 273-287
XXXIII.— The Blue and the Gray 288-298
George E. Pickett Frontispiece
G. E. Pickett 4
Military Bridge across Whatcom Creek 8
" Idlewild," Captain Pickett's Headquarters, Friday Harbor, San Juan
Island, Washington 36
Jefferson Davis, President C. S. A 50
General J. E. Johnston 78
Major-General George B. McClellan 92
Major-General Philip Kearny 104
Major-General John Sedgwick 112
Major-General George G. Meade 172
General Hancock and Staff Crossing the Road 188
Cowan's Battery. General Hunt and Staff 202
Pickett's Charge. Webb and Staff 211
Continuation of Pickett's Charge. Longstreet's Corps 220
Confederate Commanders 258
Monument in Memory of Pickett's Division, Army Northern Virginia . 304
The distinguished subject of these memoirs I first
met as a cadet at West Point in the heyday of his bright
young manhood, in 1842. Upon graduating he was as-
signed to the regiment to which I had been promoted,
the Eighth United States Infantry, and Lieutenant Pickett
served gallantly with us continuously until, for merito-
rious service, he was promoted captain in 1856. He served
with distinguished valor in all the battles of General
Scott in Mexico, including the siege of Vera Cruz, and
was always conspicuous for gallantry. He was the first to
scale the parapets of Chapultepec on the 13th of Septem-
ber, 1847, ^"d w^s the brave American who unfurled our
flag over the castle, as the enemy's troops retreated, firing
at the splendid Pickett as he floated our victorious colors.
In memory I can see him, of medium height, of grace-
ful build, dark, glossy hair, worn almost to his shoulders in
curly waves, of wondrous pulchritude and magnetic pres-
ence, as he gallantly rode from me on that memorable
3d day of July, 1863, saying in obedience to the impera-
tive order to which I could only bow assent, " I will lead
my division forward. General Longstreet." He was de-
voted to his martial profession, tolerating no rival near
the throne, except the beautiful, charming and talented
lady, whose bright genius and loyal heart have penned
these memoirs to her noble soldier husband, and who,
since he left her, has fought, single-handed and alone, the
battle of life. Of her and other ex-Confederate widows
it can be said that they have, since the war between the
States, fought as fierce battles as ever their warrior hus-
bands waged, for in the silent passages of the heart many-
severer battles are waged than were ever fought at Get-
George E. Pickett's greatest battle was really at Five
Forks, April i, 1865, where his plans and operations were
masterful and skilful, and if they had been executed as
he designed them, there might have been no Appomat-
tox, and despite the disparity of overwhelming numbers,
a brilliant victory would have been his, if reinforcements
which he had every reason to expect had opportunely
reached him; but they were not ordered in season and
did not join the hard-pressed Pickett until night, when
his position had long since been attacked by vastly su-
perior numbers with repeating rifles.
He was of an open, frank and genial temperament, but
he felt very keenly the distressing calamities entailed
upon his beloved Sunny South by the results of the war,
yet with the characteristic fortitude of a soldier, he bowed
with resignation to the inevitable, gracefully accepted the
situation, recognized the duty of the unfortunate to ac-
cept the results in no querulous spirit, and felt his obliga-
tion to share its effects.
No word of blame, or censure even, of his superior offi-
cers ever escaped Pickett's lips, but he nevertheless felt
profoundly the sacrifice of his gallant soldiers whom he
so loved. At Five Forks he had a desperate but a fight-
ing chance, and if any soldier could have snatched victory
from defeat, it was the intrepid Pickett, and it was cruel
to leave that brilliant and heroic leader and his Spartan
band to the same hard straits they so nobly met at Gettys-
burg. At Five Forks Pickett lost more men in thirty
minutes than we lost, all told, in the recent Spanish-
American war from bullets, wounds, sickness or any
other casualty, showing the unsurpassed bravery with
which Pickett fought, and the tremendous odds and in-
superable disadvantages under and against which this in-
comparable soldier so bravely contended; but with George
E. Pickett, whether fighting under the stars and stripes at
Chapultepec, or under the stars and bars at Gettysburg,
duty was his polar star ^ and with him duty was above con-
sequences, and, at a crisis, he would throw them over-
board. Fiat Justitia, per eat mundus.
"Green be the turf above thee,
Friend of my better days!
None knew thee but to love thee,
Nor-^named thee but to praise. "
October 12, i8g8.
PICKETT AND HIS MEN.
MEXICAN AND INDIAN WARS.
When in 1819 the United States, in the exuberance of
her territorial wealth, voluntarily threw Texas into the
hands of Spain as a bonus for the cession of Florida, for
which adequate compensation had been already given,
it would have taken a far-sighted statesman to foretell
that the lavish extravagance would sometime fuTnish
occasion for an unjust war of aggression.
The seeds were sown then with spendthrift hand, to be
reaped in a harvest of darkness little more than a quarter
of a century later and, whatever a soldier may have
thought of the justice of the cause, his duty was to follow
The West Point class of 1846 probably held that all
that *' pomp and circumstance of glorious war" was set
upon the stage especially for their instruction and em-
ployment. Whether it was or not, that fortunate class
was ushered upon the scene just in time to get the full
benefit of the situation.
Thus it happened that when General Scott led to
the siege of Vera Cruz his devoted band of warriors,
accompanied by a pontoon-train, " to cross rivers," in
a region conspicuously devoid of those picturesque
physical features. Lieutenant George E. Pickett, just
from West Point, was one of the number. I quote from
a letter just received from Major Edwin A. Sherman,
2 PICKETT AND HIS MEN.
of California, a comrade of Lieutenant Pickett in those
I knew the gallant George E. Pickett when he first received his
commission as second lieutenant in the United States army and joined
his regiment, the Eighth United States Infantry, Colonel and Brevet
Major-General William J. Worth, soon after the battle of Monterey;
and at Saltillo, Mexico, under General Zachary Taylor; and under Gen-
eral Winfield Scott from Vera Cruz to the capture of the City of Mexico,
He was in the first line in order of landing on the
beach of Collado on the 9th of March, 1847, when the
setting sun was reflected from the silvery crown of Ori-
zaba, the batteries of San Juan de Ulloa frowning down
upon the intruders and giving them grim welcome with a
menacing salute of heavy guns.
On March 22 General Scott summoned the city of Vera
Cruz and the castle to surrender, an invitation which
was declined with the distinguished politeness which marks
the bearing of the Spaniard, whether in the sunny land
of the ancient Castilian, or the more rugged surroundings
that environ the inhabitants of the Spanish regions of the
Unfortunately for the gallant little city of Vera Cruz,
revolutions do not stop in Spanish-American countries for
a slight circumstance like a foreign invasion. Invasions are,
in a manner, accidental and epidemic in character — revo-
lutions are endemic, perennial, and necessary to civic and
aesthetic existence. The only time that a Spanish-Ameri-
can may be said to be in danger of falling into melan-
cholia and contracting hypochondriac dyspepsia is in the
accidental interlude that may once in a very great while
intervene between revolutions.
One of these festivities was at that time prevailing in
the City of Mexico, and the brave little town of Vera
Cruz, with its garrison of thirty-three hundred and sixty
MEXICAN AND INDIAN WARS. 3
men, counting the castle force, was left to choose between
death and the eternal stain of infamy which would blot her
honor if she tamely surrendered. She chose death.
The sister city of Puebla, having a vacation between
revolutions, sent twenty thousand dollars to assist in pre-
paring for the siege, and medical and surgical supplies
were procured with money gained by the ladies of Vera
Cruz by means of amateur theatrical performances. Per-
haps it is well for the race that the human mind does not
lose its interest in the mimic stage even in the presence
of the most solemn and impressive tragedy of real life.
With a thorough knowledge of the fact that the city
could not be successfully defended by an inside force,
even though it had been much larger than it actually
was, heroic little Vera Cruz shut herself up within her old
Spanish walls to die for honor.
For seven days the doomed city endured a combined
assault of Scott's army and a terrific tempest of wind and
sand which nature had precipitated upon the unfortunate
little town. On the morning of the 29th of March the
garrison marched out with all the honors of war through
the Gate of Mercy, stacked arms in the Plain of Cocos,
the lowered colors saluted by a conqueror whose respect
and admiration could withhold no honor which might be
granted to a vanquished but not inglorious foe.
It may be interesting to the reader of subsequent his-
tory to note that the batteries turned with such telling
effect against the courageous little garrison of Vera Cruz
were arranged by Robert E. Lee, captain of engineers, a
member of General Scott's military staff, with the assist-
ance of Lieutenant Beauregard.
Plucky little Vera Cruz having been disposed of, Gen-
eral Scott started on a northwest march, his object being
the City of Mexico, two hundred miles away. Santa Anna
4 PICKETT AND HIS MEN.
had some days the start of him, and when the division
of General Twiggs reached the pass of Cerro Gordo he
found there a battery and a hostile line crossing the road.
Captain Joseph E. Johnston, topographical engineer,
discovered these obstacles to comfortable progress, hav-
ing the misfortune, while prospecting for them, to arrest
two musket-balls proceeding on their lively way. Some
of us may be impressed by the fact that Joseph E. early
formed the habit of stopping musket-balls, and that it
lingered with him uncomfortably until a much later period
in his military career.
Santa Anna, being aware of these explorations on the
part of the invader, spent the I2th of August in examin-
ing his lines and preparing for an attack the next day.
Having attended to his military duties, he dined with his
staff and high officers, enjoying the patriotic music of his
fine band, and congratulating himself and his friends upon
the prospect of having yellow fever as a valuable ally in
fighting the enemy, a pious aspiration which has since
been known to bring solace to the Spanish mind.
The longed-for ally did not appear in time to be of
service, and the next day the crags of Cerro Gordo,
through which Santa Anna had said "not even a goat
could pick his way," were overrun by the soldiers of
General Shields. Santa Anna's chief of cuirassiers,
Velasco, fell at the foot of Telegrafo; and Vasquez, the
central hero of the Mexican army, the admiration of
friend and foe alike, surrounded by the guns of his bat-
tery, had the happiness to meet a soldier's glorious
In the rocky cliffs of the Telegrafo, Captain John B.
Magruder gave evidence of tho-se fighting qualities which
were afterward to be used against the flag for which he
was now doing such valiant battle.
MEXICAN AND INDIAN WARS. 5
The way to Mexico was opened on the 19th and 20th
of August by the battle of Contreras, in which our young
Second-Lieutenant Pickett received his first wound in the
service of his country. This experience, however, did not
prevent his doing good work at the battle of Churubusco,
he being in one of the two regiments which crossed the
Rio Churubusco and held the causeway which led to the
city. The historian says:
Brevet-Major George Wright, Captains Bumford and Larkin Smith,
First Lieutenant and Adjutant James Longstreet, Second Lieutenants
James G. S. Snelling and George E. Pickett, of the Eighth Infantry,
were all distinguished at this point.
There is more than one name in that list of the glorious
old Eighth which will be seen again in the record of the
nation's history. The brevet which Lieutenant Pickett
received for distinguished gallantry at Contreras and
Churubusco must have had as much influence as the min-
istrations of the surgeons in healing all his wounds.
He was more fortunate in the battle of El Molino del
Rey from which, though he was one of the storming party
that Worth sent against the mill in this most bloody of
the battles of the Mexican war, he emerged without a
scratch. His brother lieutenant, J. G. S. Snelling, was
less happy, being severely wounded in the charge.
After this battle, which resulted in the complete rout
of the Mexican army, Santa Anna, to revive the sinking
spirits of his people, proclaimed that he had won a great
victory. This circumstance may serve to recall to the
mind of the reader of recent events the old adage, "His-
tory repeats itself."
East of Molino del Rey was a magnificent grove of
cypress trees planted by the kings away back in the days
of Aztec glory. Here Montezuma had his villa, Chapul-
6 PICKETT AND HIS MEN.
tepee, "the hill of the grasshopper," and here, on the
morning of July 13, 1847, ^^^^ ^he last descendant of that
brave old monarch, fighting with the usurpers under
whose cruel hand had sunk the glory of his great ancestor.
Chapultepec was the key to the City of Mexico and,
as it stood in sullen strength, crowned by batteries, sur-
rounded by breastworks and defended by mines, it must
have seemed to the observer that the capital was securely
locked and bolted.
Fourteen hours of steady fire on the 12th of Septem-
ber prepared the way for the grand assault of the 13th.
In this attack Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. Johnston led one
column. Lieutenant Lewis A. Armistead, of the Sixth
Infantry, was the first to leap into the great ditch sur-
rounding the fortress.
Ascending the hill to the castle, Lieutenant James
Longstreet was severely wounded, and was carried off the
field by Captain Bumford. As he fell Lieutenant Pickett
sprang to his place and led on the men. The colors of
the regiment were borne by Corporal McCauly of Company
I, who fell wounded, being the sixth color-bearer to be shot
within five days. Lieutenant Pickett seized the flag, carried
it as he charged up the height, and, while the battle raged
below, took down the Mexican standard and planted the
colors of the Eighth Regiment with the national flag in
triumph on the summit of the castle of Chapultepec.
For this act of gallantry he was brevetted captain.
Mr. Sherman says of Lieutenant Pickett at this time:
In all the battles from the siege of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, Chu-
rubusco, and Molino del Rey, when he was the first to plant the American
flag and the colors of his regiment upon the parapet of the castle of
Chapultepec, to the surrender of the City of Mexico, he carved a path-
way of glory and fame in the years of his younger manhood, that com-
manded the admiration and pride of all who had the honor to serve with
and under him to the entrance of the Halls of the Montezumas. His ex-
MEXICAN AND INDIAN WARS. 7
ample inspired the rank and file of his regiment to the highest pitch of
courage and valor, that warranted the promotion of some of them from
the ranks to commissioned ofi&cers in the army for gallantry upon the
field of battle.
Lieutenant Jackson, later known to fame as "Stone-
wall," led a section of Magruder's artillery, and was bre-
vetted major for skill and bravery.
The battle of Chapultepec was pervaded with a literary
atmosphere by the presence of Captain Mayne Reid.
Having successfully turned the key, the American
army proceeded to march on to the citadel by the way of
the gates Belen and San Cosme. Over the Belen gate
Quitman, after a fierce contest, waved the flag of the
Palmetto regiment in token of victory.
The gallant Eighth was a part of the column led by
Worth against the gate of San Cosme. In the fierce
struggle which resulted in the surrender of the last bar-
rier to the Mexican capital, Lieutenant Pickett did valiant
service, for which he has received honorable mention in
history. On the night of the 13th Santa Anna evacuated
the City of Mexico, and on the morning of the 14th
Scott's army took possession of the Halls of the Monte-
Thus the curtain fell on the first act in the drama of
the military career of the youthful warrior who was des-
tined to lead the greatest charge known to history.
After the close of the Mexican war Lieutenant Pickett
served for a number of years in Texas and upon the
He commanded a company in the Ninth Infantry,
which was recruited and organized at Old Point Comfort
in the summer of 1855. Early in December the regiment
was ordered to the Pacific coast by way of the Isthmus,
and left Fortress Monroe on the St. Louis. Before it
8 PICKETT AND HIS MEN.
reached the Isthmus it was divided, six companies under
Colonel Wright being placed on one of the Pacific steam-
ers. Four companies, one of which was Captain Pick-
ett's, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Casey, set
sail on another steamer.
The voyage to San Francisco, where the first stop was
made, consumed between three and four weeks. Here
the regiment was ordered to Oregon and Washington
Territories, six companies going to Fort Vancouver, and
four to Puget Sound.
Captain Pickett's company was one of those which
went to the Sound, and was soon after stationed at Bel-
lingham Bay, where their captain remained as command-
An Indian war was then raging, the tribes in all the
region from California to British America, numbering
about forty-two thousand warriors, having risen against
the northwestern settlers. Opposed to this formidable
array were fourteen hundred regulars and two thousand
volunteers. Two years of warfare reduced the Indians to
such a degree of submission that no tribe among them,
except the Modocs, ever again made war.