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Gettysburg - Original Order for Pickett's Charge

Gettysburg - Original Order for Pickett's Charge American History Civil Wars Famous Historical Events Famous People Geography Social Studies Visual Arts

One of the most-discussed battle maneuvers in the Civil War was "Pickett's Charge" which occurred on the third day of Gettysburg.  This is a facsimile of the original dispatch which Confederate General Longstreet issued to Confederate Colonel Edward P. Alexander on the 3rd of July, 1863.

The Library of Congress provides us the detail regarding this Order for battle:

During the first three days of July 1863, Union and Confederate forces met in battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, an encounter that many historians consider the turning point in the Civil War.

The culminating event of the battle was Pickett's Charge, the unsuccessful assault on the Union center ordered by Gen. Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) and executed by numerous troops, including an infantry division under the command of Gen. George E. Pickett (1825-1875). Preparations for the famous charge, which occurred on the battle's third day, included the traditional artillery barrage described in these documents.

In a letter written on the field of battle, Gen. James Longstreet (1821-1904) informed Col. Edward P. Alexander (1835-1910), reserve artillery commander, of the intended Confederate advance, which he said would be dependent on Alexander's battery providing the necessary artillery support. Longstreet also ordered Alexander to advise General Pickett when to initiate the charge.

Having retained Longstreet's order, Alexander later mounted the item on a larger backing sheet and added to it copies of his battlefield dispatches to both Longstreet and Pickett, which depict the increasing urgency of the Confederate position.

At 1:25 p.m., Alexander wrote to Pickett, "If you are to advance at all, you must come at once or we will not be able to support you as we ought . . . " Fifteen minutes later, the artillery commander wrote again to Pickett, "For God's sake come on quick or we cannot support you. Ammunition nearly out."

Although Pickett's name is associated with the failed charge, he did not command the attack, and his troops comprised only a portion of the advancing columns. He was responsible for forming the brigades involved in the charge and conducted himself honorably throughout the engagement. Still, history has treated him unfairly, and he will forever bear the onus of defeat.

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Media Credits

Image on line, Courtesy American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress - Janice E. Ruth and John R. Sellers, Manuscript Division.

 

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