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General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend Paperback – August 26, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

George Pickett will forever be associated with the charge at Gettysburg that bears his name. Yet "Pickett's Charge" is a misleading label, and so is much of what we know about Pickett himself. Gordon (history, Univ. of Akron) explores both the man and the stories about him, many of which were woven by his wife, LaSalle Corbett Pickett. George proved to be a mediocre Civil War commander; his personal life was marked by tragedy only partially obscured by LaSalle's efforts. Her emphasis on her husband's heroism, romanticism, and gallantry, so typical of Lost Cause mythmaking, required her to pass over less glorious episodes, including his execution of turncoat Confederate prisoners and his inept generalship at Five Forks, which won him Robert E. Lee's scorn. Although little in Gordon's rather thin account is new aside from the detailed reconstruction of the Picketts' relationship, readers looking for a concise biography will find this book rewarding.?Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A unique look at one of the most famous Confederate generals, and at how his wife built and controlled his memory after his death. Gordon (History/Univ. of Akron) looks carefully at the early years of General Pickett, leader of the most famous failed attack in American history (his charge at Gettysburg), and goes on to look at his career on the western frontier and his decision to serve in the Confederate army. Picketts career was solid but not stellar, and Gordon covers it in balanced detail. The story gathers momentum with Picketts marriage in 1864 to his third wife, LaSalle, and his command at Gettysburg. Following the war, the financially ruined couple fled to Canada to escape prosecution for war crimes, and Pickett was forced to lobby his West Point classmate Ulysses S. Grant for a pardon. After Pickett's death in 1875, LaSalle toured the country on the lecture circuit, portraying herself as a southern belle and her husband as the embodiment of all of the ideals southern masculinity and published Pickett and his Men. Gordon analyzes the sub-surface forces that shaped popular images of the Civil War in the years following it and looks at how LaSalle created a career for herself as a Confederate widow; she managed to make a living at it until 1931. Arguably, she shaped the manner in which Picketts career will forever be viewed by ``creating'' a cache of letters that offer a vision of the soldier that was far greater than his actual persona. Gordons analysis of Lasalle is cutting and offers a close-up of a major figure of the Civil War. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Civil War America
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (August 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807854271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807854273
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,715,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Unlike the previous customer reviewer, and like the scores of accredited professional reviewers itemized in part in Amazon's own professional listings, I found Gordon's new biography to be first rate. It is meticulously researched and introduces new materials about the general's life heretofore unpublished. And if Gordon's interest in the role that Pickett's marriage played in shaping his 'life' is offputting to some reactionary types, then so much the better. Biography requires the evocation of an individual's entire cultural ethos, both on the battlefield and off, and Gordon's evenhanded work here help us round out the picture of an important, if enigmatic historical personage.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Sopher on May 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Until this book hit the shelves, the image of Confederate General George Pickett was one of heroism. Known mostly for his failed assault at Gettysburg, the flamboyant and curly haired Virginian was a symbol for the South's "Lost Cause" myth. Attributing to his heroic portrayal was the Turner picture, "Gettysburg" and the Michael Shaara book, "The Killer Angels."

The reputation of LaSalle Corbell Pickett before Gordon's book was one of fondness for a wife of a famous general. The public generally believed her when she described her soldier as a champion of the South. Now, we can ascertain that LaSalle carefully and deliberately created a positive image of her husband in order to leave a lasting impression. Because of this, the story of George Pickett can be described as one of myth and confusion.

The true story of this man is revealed here. Though Pickett was mostly a good soldier who did his job, his depiction cannot be similar to the previous impression painted by LaSalle and past historians. It was interesting to see how Gordon pointed out that LaSalle left out stories and facts that did not favor her husband. By doing this, LaSalle loses all credibility and any references to her work must be looked at carefully.

Finally, Civil War scholarship is pushing towards the phrase "going against the grain," as it pertains to producing Civil War material. Rather than continue to generate work after work that does little to advance this field, scholars such as Gordon are a bright addition that will continually keep fresh perspectives on this time period. On a personal level, I very much look forward to studying under her as I begin my doctorate at the University of Akron in the fall of 2005.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Hurley VINE VOICE on January 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Lesly Gordon does a well done bio on Pickett the General associated withh three of the greatest disasters of Lee's Northern Army of Virginia. Pickett is obviously associated with the great charge at Gettysburg but also the crushing disaster at Five Forks and within a week the final crushing blow at Saylers Creek where Lee lost over 6,000 soildiers. The bio covers Pickett's early years with the Mexican War where he takes the flag from a wounded Longstreet to bound up the steps at Chapultepec, his realtionship with an Indian maiden that may have included marriage and the son that he seemingly abandoned and left in the northwest. Picket also is involved with a virtual skirmish with England over islands in the northwest near Pugent Sound.
But the best part of the book is Gordon's filling in of Pickett's Civil War career. After an early wounding during the Peninsula Campaign, Pickett's career stays on the back burner until Gettysburg. After discussion of Pickett's role and actions where he actually participates in 1/3 of the charge that holds his name Pickett has other assignments such as the retaking of North Carolina towns and his early defense of Petersburg where he holds back the Union forces with just a few thousand men until Beauregard arrives to take command. Pickett's miring in controversy is well brought out such as his decision to hang former Confederates that were captuted while fighting for the Union in North Carolina and his infamous part in the Five Forks battle where he was away from the fight eating shad and partaking in drink with Rosser and Fitz Lee while his command is virtually wiped out. The later is whispered but little known until after his death.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. Morris on June 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
George Pickett could be one of the biggest mysteries of the Civil War. After the war and then his death 10 years later his wife became a celebrated author. She wrote several popular books about the Civil War and specifically George Pickett including one that was suppose to be a collection of his letters to her during the war. The problem is Sallie Pickett's books were more fiction than fact. Creations of her imagination to glorify her husband.
The result is in trying to write a proper biography of George Pickett one has to deal with Sallie Pickett and try to separate the truth from the fantasy. This problem is compounded by the fact that Pickett's actual wartime letters and other papers are locked away and not available to modern scholars.
This is why it is so difficult for a biography of Pickett to be written. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from another puzzle in the box. Every time you pick up a piece you have to try and decide if it even belongs with the puzzle. That's the very difficult task that Lesley Gordon faced in trying to write this book.
Gordon does do a decent job of weeding out the fiction from the facts. Her writing style is very good and the book is an enjoyable read. She holds no punches and is tough on Pickett when the need requires but also gives him credit for the good things. The problem is there simply are to many gaps in the story which cause her to literally skim over important parts of Pickett's life. His life after the war is barely even touched and Gordon skims over some rather important events, most likely because there is so little factual information available about Pickett concerning those times. Perhaps not Gordon's fault but we as readers are still left scratching our heads wondering what went on.
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