Pickett, George Edward (1825-1875).
Born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of a Henrico County planter (January 28, 1825); after briefly studying law, he entered West Point (1842), and was commissioned a 2d lieutenant in the infantry after graduating last in his class of fifty-nine (1846); served under Gen. Winfield Scott during the Mexican War; took part in the siege of Veracruz (March 9-27, 1847); won a brevet to 1st lieutenant at Contreras and Churubusco (August 18-20); distinguished himself in the storming of Chapultepec (September 13), where he was first over the parapet and tore down the enemy flag to replace it with his regiment's, and so won a further brevet to captain; served on garrison duty in Texas (1849-1856); promoted to captain (March 1855); served in the Northwest, where he was involved in the San Juan Island boundary dispute with Great Britain, commanding a post on San Juan Island (1859-1861); returned to Richmond to resign from the U.S. Army to enter Confederate service (June); commissioned a colonel (July 23); promoted to brigadier general (January 14, 1862); fought with distinction at Williamsburg (May 4-5), Fair Oaks/Seven Pines (near Richmond) (May 31-June 1), and Gaines's Mill (near Richmond) during the Seven Days' Battles (June 27), where he was badly wounded; out of action for several months, he was promoted to major general (October 10); commanded a division in Gen. James Longstreet's Corps at Fredericksburg (December 13); engaged in the Suffolk campaign (May 1863); at Gettysburg, his division arrived late and formed the core of the force Lee launched in an attack later known as Pickett's Charge against the center of the Union line on Cemetary Ridge (July 3); Pickett's force suffered severe casualties, and he apparently blamed Lee for the costly repulse; appointed to command the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, where his attempt to recapture New Bern, North Carolina, miscarried (February 1864); halted an advance by Gen. Benjamin Butler at Bermuda Hundred near Petersburg (April), but was then replaced by P. G. T. Beauregard; rejoined his old division at Cold Harbor (June); fought at Petersburg (June 15-18); commanded two divisions in a counterattack which slowed Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's offensive at Dinwiddie Court House (March 29-31, 1865); was overwhelmed by Sheridan's renewed attack at Five Forks (April 1); and surrendered with Lee at Appomattox (April 9); refused a brigadier general's commission in the Egyptian Army, and afterward earned a meager living as an insurance agent; died in Norfolk, Virginia (July 30, 1875).
A brave but unimaginative soldier, Pickett was an able brigade commander, though affected by a penchant for romantic gestures of knight errantry; his abilities were not suited to directing larger forces, as demonstrated at Five Forks. <BL>
Sources: Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee's Lieutenants. 3 vols. New York, 1942-1944. Inman, Arthur C., ed., Soldier of the South: General Pickett's War Letters to His Wife. Boston and New York, 1928. Stewart, George R., Pickett's Charge: A Microhistory of the Final Attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. Boston, 1959. Warner, Ezra, Generals in Gray. Baton Rouge, 1978. Dictionary of American Military Biography. Edited by Roger L. Spiller, Joseph G. Dawson III, and T. Harry Williams. 3 vols. Westport, Conn., 1984. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 24 vols. Chicago, 1966. Webster's American Military Biographies. Springfield, Mass., 1978.
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|Publication:||The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography|
|Article Type:||Reference Source|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1992|
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