Pickett's Charge--the Last Attack at Gettysburg

Pickett's Charge--the Last Attack at Gettysburg

Pickett's Charge--the Last Attack at Gettysburg

Pickett's Charge--the Last Attack at Gettysburg

Synopsis

Sweeping away many of the myths that have long surrounded Pickett's Charge, Earl Hess offers the definitive history of the most famous military action of the Civil War. He transforms exhaustive research into a moving narrative account of the assault from both Union and Confederate perspectives, analyzing its planning, execution, aftermath, and legacy.

Excerpt

Pickett’s Charge is probably the best-known military action of the Civil War. Indeed, along with Bunker Hill, the Little Big Horn, and the Bulge, it is among the most popular military actions of all U.S. history. Schoolchildren and adult history buffs alike have been familiar with the story for many generations, particularly if they happened to live below the Mason-Dixon Line. It has come to symbolize the Confederate war effort itself, representing a valiant effort in a hopeless and somehow romantic cause. Celebrated as the high-water mark of the Confederacy, Pickett’s Charge has always seemed to be the pivot point beyond which the United States would either remain united, with slavery eliminated from its borders, or dissolve into separate and eternally antagonistic nations. Even though few modern Americans regret the ultimate outcome of the attack and of the war, they still insist on celebrating the heroism of the men involved. Knowing the outcome, many Americans still love to ponder what might have happened if the assaulting column had broken through the Federal line and swarmed across the stone fence and over the crest of Cemetery Ridge.

Pickett’s Charge easily lends itself to anyone who has a taste for the might-have-beens of history. It has assumed legendary proportions, both for its supposed impact on the course of the war and for the bravery of the nearly 12,000 men who swept across open, ascending ground under heavy artillery fire and into the face of massed musketry. When I speak to groups about the Civil War, the most commonly voiced sentiment is “How could those men have attacked in the open and up that slope? What motivated them to do it, and how did they find the courage?” The assault has become the ultimate example of the Civil War soldier’s bravery and willingness to sacrifice his life for a cause.

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