Another Look at “Pickett’s Charge”

Yesterday fellow blogger Craig Warren posted an anonymous poem about Pickett’s Charge over at Civil War Literature.  I inquired as to the author and today Craig revealed that he is in fact the masked poet.  Here it is:

“WHAT IF?”

What if at Gettysburg the troops of Pickett and Pettigrew and Trimble
were already the bronze and marble men
who later gazed northward above green courthouse lawns?

Would Yankee tenacity stop the advancing rows of
stone and metal stalwarts?

Or would the Union ranks break in blue waves
before those defiant, sculpted expressions of the Lost Cause?

– Craig A. Warren

I just the love the way Craig turns the tables on our traditional understanding of the battle.  This is the "high water-mark" of the Confederacy and everything supposedly hinges on the decisions being made in Lee’s camp.  Confederates are typically understood as the actors while the Federals aligned along Cemetery Ridge, etc. tend to react.  The popularity and pervasiveness of the Lost Cause continues to fuel a cottage industry of books purporting to tell us where it all went wrong for Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.  Where is the Lost Cause equivalent that explains or celebrates the stand of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg?  Even George Pickett understood that the Federals had something to do with their defeat.

Thanks and well done Craig.

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One thought on “Another Look at “Pickett’s Charge”

  1. J. L. Bell

    Although the “high-water mark” metaphor makes Pickett’s Charge sound like the height of the Confederacy, and height is generally a good thing, that phrase actually invokes a Northern perspective of watching dangerous floodwaters lap at one’s home.

    You’re right that the focus on the charge makes the Confederate Army the actors, the Federal Army the reactors (and non-movers). But that also highlights how that part of the war was, even by the C.S.A.’s territorial claims, an invasion of free territory.

    The memory of fending off a charge by invaders might have reinforced the Union veterans’ feeling of righteousness as much as it played to old rebels’ self-romanticizing.

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