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George Pickett

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Portrait of George E. Pickett
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Portrait of George E. Pickett

George Edward Pickett (January 25, 1825July 30, 1875) was a major-general in the army of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.

After graduating last (59th out of 59) in his class at West Point (1846), he gained distinction during the Mexican-American War when he was the first to scale the heights during the Battle of Chapultepec. He was also involved in the Pig War.

He later served on the frontier in Washington Territory, and in 1856 occupied San Juan Island, where he prevented the landing of British troops and received the thanks of Congress for his services. In 1861 he resigned from the Federal army and joined the Confederate forces, becoming major-general in 1862.

During the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg, his men cut down the famous "Irish Brigade". He led the disastrous and foolhardy "Pickett's Charge" against Union lines in the Battle of Gettysburg, in the process losing almost his entire division (about 15,000 men). To his dying day, he bitterly mourned this great loss. After the war, it is said that he met once with General Lee in a singularly cold meeting. It was said by John S. Mosby that afterward he said bitterly "That man destroyed my division."

He lost the Battle of Five Forks in 1865, which lead to the fall of Petersburg and Richmond and to the ultimate capitulation of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. Pickett had difficulty obtaining a pardon after the Civil War due to his execution of a number of North Carolina soldiers who had deserted from the Confederacy to serve as Union troops, spending several months with his wife and baby in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

He was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1825 and died in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1876.

Decades after Pickett's death, his widow LaSalle Corbell Pickett become a well-known writer and speaker on "her Soldier," eventually leading to the creation of an idealized Pickett who was the perfect Southern gentleman and soldier. A considerable amount of controversy attends LaSalle Pickett's lionizing of her husband, generally involving the probable forgery of letters from Pickett. As a result, General Pickett has become a figure obscured by "Lost Cause" mythology.

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