Pickett is well known for the charge at Gettysburg that carries his name and is considered the high water mark of the Confederacy and led to it’s ultimate defeat (yes, I know, it isn’t over yet for many).
But what many don’t know is that Pickett, who graduated last in his class of 59 cadets in the class of 1846, bravely led a charge during the Mexican War that helped win that war for the United States. By the way, the class ‘goat’ is the cadet who finishes last in ranking but still manages to graduate. Another famous goat is George Armstrong Custer, but more about him in another post, as he also makes an appearance as a lieutenant in Duty, Honor, Country.
An officer came scurrying down the trench. Another West Pointer. The opposite of Longstreet in appearance, but not quite the same as Lee. The man had long hair, curling down to his shoulders. His uniform held all the accoutrements of rank one could possibly sew or pin on and had somehow been freshly cleaned and repaired.
“Major Lee, may I present George Pickett, ’46,” Longstreet said by way of introduction. “Also of the 8th Infantry.”
Pickett only had eyes for Lee. “Major, I—“
“Time,” Lee said, flicking shut the face of the watch and heading down the trench, continuing whatever task the general had assigned.
Pickett was staring after Lee, red-faced. More concerned about the lack of acknowledgement from the West Point legend than the pending assault.
Grant stiffened, peering through the telescope. “The standard bearer of the 8th is down! Old Pete has the colors.”
Even without his scope, Rumble could see the regimental flag waving back and forth and moving inexorably toward the walls of the fort. Grant and Rumble started out of the ditch when the flag suddenly dipped to the ground as Longstreet fell to his knees, wounded. Another officer, Pickett, grabbed the colors from Longstreet and dashed forward, displaying them over his head with dash and screaming for the men to follow him. He reached the wall of the fortress and climbed up on the rubble where the cannons had done the job of breaching the stone. Pickett paused for a moment, bullets flying all about him, then disappeared into the fortress, a flood of blue clad soldiers following, an inexorable tide of destruction.
Grant and Rumble found Longstreet lying with his back against a boulder, blood flowing from a wound in his hip.
“George is something isn’t he?” Longstreet greeted them. “Never hesitated.”
“You were something,” Grant said. “Didn’t see you stopping either, till you got hit.”
“It’s nothing,” Longstreet said. “A flesh wound.”
Rumble knelt next to Longstreet and checked the wound. “It isn’t bad.” He reached into his haversack and pulled out some bandages. “I put the odds at ten to one you’ll be walking within a week.”
Longstreet laughed through his pain. “I won’t bet against myself. One of my rules.”
Rumble tightened down the cloth. He spotted a couple of stretcher-bearers and called them over. Bugles blared to their rear.
“Assembly for the 4th,” Grant said. He put a hand on Longstreet’s shoulder as the stretcher-bearers lifted him. “Take care of yourself, Pete.”
“Both of you stay safe,” Longstreet called out as he was carried away.
Grant and Rumble dashed back down the rock-strewn slope to rejoin the regiment. Now that the fortress had been taken, the way to Mexico City was open.
A new blog post every day leading up to the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War on April 12th and the publication of Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War, the first in my series.
Tomorrow: Benny Havens, his infamous tavern outside West Point, and Edgar Allen Poe