On this day in 1863, Maj. Gen. George Pickett, along with three other Confederate generals, advanced on the Union line under the command of Lt. Gen. James Lonstreet. Earlier, Longstreet attempted to convive Gen. Robert E. Lee that the charge would fail. He was right.
The infantry assault was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment that was meant to soften up the Union defense and silence its artillery, but it was largely ineffective. Approximately 12,500 men in nine infantry brigades advanced over open fields for three-quarters of a mile under heavy Union artillery and rifle fire. Although some Confederates were able to breach the low stone wall that shielded many of the Union defenders, they could not maintain their hold and were repulsed with over 50% casualties, a decisive defeat that ended the three-day battle and Lee’s campaign into Pennsylvania. Years later, when asked why his charge at Gettysburg failed, General Pickett replied: “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it(
In the poem posted below, I’d try to capture, through the eyes of a Confederate soldier, Longstreet;s frustration – how it could have happened. The poem is from my manuscript Private Hercules McGraw: Poems of the American Civil War.
Off pissing behind a tree, I saw Lee trading
words with Gen. Longstreet. Had to admit it –
Lee looked more like Camelot’s
king then one of us southern folk. His hair
was as white as God’s. And the way he moved –
more like floating than walking. Surprised me
that Longstreet had the brass to spit on Lee’s opinion
the way he did. From what I gathered,
Lee wanted us to charge at a rock wall
way over yonder. Yanks were choking
the ridge beyond that wall. Our big guns
were already barking away like a horde
of hungry hell hounds hoping to put a dent
in the enemy line. We was gonna plug that dent
with a bit scream and shit, scare them Billies
back to Abe. Seemed Longstreet was sure as certain
that we’d all be as easy to shoot as blind ducks
in a mud pool once we started charging `cross
that yonder I mentioned. I pissed a bit more,
squeezed it out like juice from an orange.
I figured it was the last piss I’d be taking –
At least until I pissed in Jehovah’s outhouse.
- Is James Longstreet considered a hero in the southern US (wiki.answers.com)
- On This Day… (thelintinmypocket.wordpress.com)