Pickett spent the next thirteen years in the frontier army, in scattered outposts in Texas and in the far West. During these years, he faced personal tragedies. In November 1851, his first wife, Sally Minge, and their newborn daughter died in Texas. While stationed at Fort Bellingham in Washington Territory and finding himself frequently caught between the interests of white settlers and Indians, he married a Haida Indian. She also died, however, soon after the birth of their son James Tilton Pickett in 1857.
The Civil War brought Pickett home to Virginia to fight for the Confederacy. By the spring of 1862 he led an all-Virginia brigade under the command of his old army friend James Longstreet. Pickett fought ably in the battles of Williamsburg (1862), and Seven Pines (1862), earning commendations from his superiors. At the Battle of Gaines's Mill (1862), Pickett was severely wounded and, as a result, left active service for the rest of the summer. He returned to the field in the autumn of 1862, winning promotion to major general. Pickett and his division remained largely in reserve during the lopsided Confederate victory at Fredericksburg (1862) and did not participate at all in the stunning victory at Chancellorsville (1863). His division was instead with Longstreet, laying siege to Suffolk. It was there, however, that Pickett became increasingly distracted by his courtship with LaSalle Corbell. They married in Saint Paul's Church in Petersburg on September 15, 1863, just a few weeks after the fateful Battle of Gettysburg.
After Gettysburg, Pickett assumed command of the Department of North Carolina, an assignment made difficult by high rates of desertion, Unionist sentiment in the area, and guerrilla warfare. His situation went from bad to worse. In February 1864, Lee ordered him to take the coastal city of New Berne, North Carolina, from Union control. Pickett faltered and failed, and in his report he lashed out at fellow officers. Pickett also discovered that a group of Union prisoners were, in fact, former Confederate soldiers who had switched sides. He angrily ordered them tried by court-martial, and twenty-two were summarily hanged in Kinston, North Carolina, as their family and friends stood witness. Their bodies were stripped and buried in an unmarked mass grave.
While the former general had spent his last years brooding about the disastrous charge that bore his name, his financially burdened widow decided to make the most of an opportunity. In an attempt to revitalize his memory, she became a prolific author and widely traveled lecturer, transforming Pickett into the hero of Gettysburg in the tradition of the Lost Cause. The Lost Cause was a view of the war that downplayed slavery and lionized the Confederate military. It is ironic, perhaps, that Pickett should so benefit from the pens of Lost Cause writers while his friend and mentor, James Longstreet, so suffered. Longstreet, who became a Republican Party member after the war, was blamed for the defeat at Gettysburg by former Confederate general Jubal A. Early, among others.
January 16, 1825 - George Edward Pickett is born on his family's plantation at Turkey Island in Henrico County.
1846 - George E. Pickett graduates last in his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
1846–1848 - George E. Pickett serves in the Mexican War, earning two honorary brevets for gallant conduct.
November 1851 - George E. Pickett's wife Sally Minge and the couple's newborn daughter die in Texas.
1857 - James Tilton Pickett, son of George E. Pickett and his second wife, a Haida Indian in Washington Territory, is born. Soon after, Pickett's wife dies.
May–June 1862 - George E. Pickett wins command of a brigade in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and fights ably during the Peninsula Campaign.
Autumn 1862 - George E. Pickett is promoted to major general in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
July 3, 1863 - George E. Pickett participates in the doomed frontal assault on the Union line on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The attack would come to be known as Pickett's Charge.
September 15, 1863 - George E. Pickett and LaSalle Corbell marry at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, in Petersburg.
February 1864 - George E. Pickett, commander of the Department of North Carolina, fails in his attempt to take the coastal city of New Berne, North Carolina, from Union control. He discovers that a group of Union prisoners are former Confederates and summarily hangs twenty-two of them.
May 1864 - George E. Pickett, former commander of the Department of North Carolina, rejoins his old division in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
April 1, 1865 - At the Battle of Five Forks, Confederates under George E. Pickett are defeated. They are poorly positioned for the fight when Pickett leaves the lines for a shad bake with Fitzhugh Lee. The battle is prelude to the fall of Richmond, and Pickett is removed from his command.
July 30, 1875 - George E. Pickett, who after the Civil War farmed, sold insurance, and battled declining health, dies at the age of fifty. He is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
- Civil War, American (1861–1865)
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Gordon, L. J. George E. Pickett (1825–1875). (2015, October 27). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Pickett_George_E_1825-1875.
- MLA Citation:
Gordon, Lesley J. "George E. Pickett (1825–1875)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 27 Oct. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: May 18, 2009 | Last modified: October 27, 2015