Once the war started, however, a passionate romance blossomed between Corbell and the famously long-locked general. For a time, Pickett slipped away nightly from his command to see her, behavior that did not always sit well with his fellow Confederate officers and soldiers. To Corbell, however, it was proof of his chivalric love and devotion to her. The two married on September 15, 1863, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Petersburg, just a few months after the disastrous Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, and Corbell claimed that she often joined her husband near the front lines while he served with the Army of Northern Virginia. Their son George was born in 1864.
Author and Speaker
Sallie Pickett lived for fifty-six more years, raising their surviving son, finding much-needed work in the U.S. Pensions office in Washington, D.C., and in the 1880s becoming an author and public speaker. Rather than address her authentic experience as the wife of a famous but troubled and controversial general, she invented a new self: LaSalle Corbell Pickett, "Child-bride of the Confederacy." She subtracted years from her age (sometimes five, sometimes even more) and told stories from the perspective of a child, smoothing the complexities of the antebellum South and slavery into a self-justifying myth soaked in the "fragrance of the snowy magnolias."
Many of her published writings blurred the lines between fact and fiction. Historian Gary W. Gallagher has convincingly argued that she plagiarized large portions of Pickett and His Men and, apparently, fabricated an entire wartime correspondence from her husband. (The Heart of a Soldier, As Revealed in the Intimate Letters of Gen'l George E. Pickett, C.S.A. was published in 1913, and Soldier of the South: General Pickett's War Letters to His Wife, edited by Arthur Crew Inman, appeared in 1928.) Those letters, meanwhile, have insinuated themselves into American memory. They have been cited by historians, used in Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Killer Angels (1974), and quoted by Ken Burns in his documentary The Civil War (1990).
Lost Cause Writer
By idealizing her husband as the hero of the Civil War's most famous battle, Pickett positioned herself to be at the center of American efforts to memorialize the conflict. At the 1887 Gettysburg reunion, for instance, she signed autographs and shook hands with veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies. In fact, because her writing, and Lost Cause writing in general, was accepted across sectional boundaries, it became an important part of the country's reconciliation. "Enthusiasm over Mrs. Pickett's lecture on Gettysburg surpasses anything ever known here," one Bostonian wrote in 1910. It was the "first time in history, [that] more than 2,000 Bostonians ever stood up when the band played 'Dixie.'"
LaSalle Corbell Pickett died on March 22, 1931, having achieved a good deal of personal autonomy celebrating a man and helping to create a myth.
- Pickett and His Men (1899)
- Kunnoo Sperits and Others (1900)
- Yule Log (1900)
- Ebil Eye (1901)
- Jinny (1901)
- Digging Through to Manila (1905)
- Literary Hearthstones of Dixie (1912)
- The Bugles of Gettysburg (1913)
- The Heart of a Soldier, As Revealed in the Intimate Letters of Gen'l George E. Pickett, C.S.A. (1913)
- Across My Path: Memories of People I Have Known (1916)
- What Happened to Me … (1917)
- Soldier of the South: General Pickett's War Letters to His Wife (edited by Arthur Crew Inman, 1928)
May 16, 1843 - Sallie Ann Corbell is born in Nansemond County, Virginia, the eldest of nine children.
September 15, 1863 - George E. Pickett and LaSalle Corbell marry at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Petersburg.
1864 - Sallie Ann Corbell, wife of Confederate general George E. Pickett, gives birth to the couple's first child, George.
1874 - Corbell Pickett, the youngest son of former Confederate general George E. Pickett and his wife, Sallie Ann Corbell, dies.
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.
March 22, 1931 - LaSalle Corbell Pickett dies.
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First published: July 28, 2009 | Last modified: January 8, 2014