Saturday, July 3, 2010

Charge it

One hundred and forty seven years ago today, July 3rd 1863, General Picket would lead 12,500 men through heavy artillery fire into a wave of small arms fire in what would come to be considered one of the greatest military mistakes ever recorded. This event would be forever called “Picket’s charge” and it would cement the battle of Gettysburg’s iconic place in history as the bloodiest battle (in terms of American troops) ever. More that 6,555 of the men (and at least one woman disguised as a man) that general Picket led on his infamous charge would lie wounded or dying in that Pennsylvanian landscape. Picket’s charge lasted little more than an hour and had little impact on the union forces.

Picket’s had ordered his men to form a long line and march to within a hundred yards of the union line. A line of 12,500 men stretches out for over a mile in width. I’m sure it was an impressive sight. There were few trees in the fields the march started in so the entirety of the force was in view. Slowly the line marched towards the union forces on little round top. When the line came to within artillery range it quickly shrunk; by the time it reached the bottom of the hill it was less than half a mile wide.

"They were at once enveloped in a dense cloud of smoke and dust. Arms, heads, blankets, guns and knapsacks were thrown and tossed in to the clear air. ... A moan went up from the field, distinctly to be heard amid the storm of battle." --Lt. Col. Franklin Sawyer, 8th Ohio

When, years later, General Picket was asked about the withering defeat, he quipped: "I've always thought the Yankees had something to do with it."

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