Author: Lesley J. Gordon

a professor of history at the University of Akron. She is the author of George E. Pickett in Life and Legend (1998), and most recently coeditor of Inside the Confederate Nation: Essays in Honor of Emory M. Thomas (2005)

LaSalle Corbell Pickett (1843–1931)

LaSalle Corbell Pickett was a prolific author and lecturer, and the third wife of George E. Pickett, the Confederate general best known for his participation in the doomed frontal assault known as Pickett’s Charge during the American Civil War (1861–1865). After her husband’s death in 1875, she traveled the country to promote a highly romanticized version of his life and military career that was generally at odds with the historical record. George Pickett emerged from the war with a strained relationship with Robert E. Lee—whom he partly blamed for the destruction of his division at Gettysburg (1863)—and accused of war crimes. But in his wife’s history, Pickett and His Men (1899), this not-always-competent soldier was transformed into the ideal Lost Cause hero, “gallant and graceful as a knight of chivalry riding to a tournament.” This image largely stuck in the American consciousness, leaving historians to spend much of the next century attempting to separate Pickett from his myth.


George E. Pickett (1825–1875)

George E. Pickett was a Confederate general during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and one of the most controversial leaders in the Army of Northern Virginia. Described by his admirers as swashbuckling, he was famous for his tailored uniforms, gold spurs, and shoulder-length brown hair. (His contemporary admirers were relatively few in number, however, and this image of Pickett is likely more myth than fact.) Confederate general James Longstreet commented on his friend’s “wondrous pulchritude and magnetic presence” and is said to have mentored Pickett, who was last in his class at West Point. At Gettysburg (1863), Pickett’s name became permanently linked, in both fact and myth, with Pickett’s Charge, the doomed frontal assault on the battle’s third day. He had little responsibility for the attack’s planning or its failure, and the loss of his division, which he partly blamed on Robert E. Lee, devastated him. Accused of war crimes for executing twenty-two Union prisoners in 1864, Pickett ended the war broken and in bad health. His reputation, however, was thoroughly rehabilitated after his death by his third wife, LaSalle Corbell Pickett, whose writings turned the often incompetent general into an idealized Lost Cause hero.