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BOOK REVIEWS273 combat during the Mexican War, perhaps that as a Confederate General, he was promoted beyond his capabilities and was known almost as much for his dandified manner and romance with a much younger woman as for his generalship; certainly that on the third day at Gettysburg a disastrous assault by his Virginia division and other units against the Federal lines on Cemetery Ridge made Pickett's Charge one of the most famous episodes in American military history. "Great God, where, Oh! Where is my Division?" a distraught Pickett sobbed after the repulse (i 16). While an 1870 exchange between Pickett and John S. Mosby may be apocryphal, it still has the ring of truth about it. Pickett said of Robert E. Lee, "He had my division massacred at Gettysburg." Mosby replied, "Well, it made you immortal" (163). As this illuminating new study demonstrates, however, such immortality has been more the product ofhis widow's portrait of "her soldier" as the ideal Southem gentleman and Confederate hero than the result of any significant assessment of Pickett's life and career. LaSaIIe Corbell Pickett, who outlived her husband by more than fifty years, spent most of that time writing or giving lectures about him, their marriage, the Old South, or the Lost Cause, and helped create the popular image of Pickett as the tragic hero of the charge. Lesley J. Gordon's examination of George Pickett's life and legend is actually a dual biography of both Picketts, for LaSaIIe Pickett's postwar writings about her husband overshadow the other relevant sources to the extent that it is impossible to write about the general without writing about his widow, as "their identities were too entangled to do otherwise" (5). With few reliable manuscript sources to rely on—virtually all of the "wartime letters" attributed to Pickett and published in the early twentieth century were actually postwar inventions written by LaSaIIe Corbell Pickett herself, and Pickett's descendants have persistently blocked access to any family papers in their possession—Lesley Gordon's meticulous and often innovative research has produced the most complete portrait yet published. Insightful andjudicious, sometime unconventional, and combining a clear narrative thread with a persuasive analysis of available evidence, her biography is a convincing assessment of George Pickett's place in Confederate history, an intriguing examination of his—and LaSalle's—character and personality, and a valuable look at the Pickett of legend. "In death," Gordon observes, "George Pickett was more popular than he had ever been during his own lifetime" (173). This book explains just how, and why, that was so. J. Tracy Power South Carolina Department of Archives and History Controversies and Commanders: Dispatchesfrom the Army ofthe Potomac. By Stephen W. Sears. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Pp. xv, 300. $26.00.) With a biography of George B. McClellan and battle histories ofAntietam and Chancellorsville behind him, Stephen Sears is in a good position to reassess the 274CIVIL WAR HISTORY Army ofthe Potomac's checkered history. In some instances a recapitulation of his earlier findings, this collection ofessays rejects a few conventional interpretations . Eight ofthe ten chapters deal with officers who rose to prominence—or notoriety—before Grants arrival from the West. Sears begins with a bibliographic essay on McClellan rather than a more broadly focused treatment of the officer corps of the army he built. Although Little Mac the general enjoys no sweeping rehabilitation, the candidate of 1864 emerges as a tough-minded War Democrat who saw no purpose in surrendering Union-occupied areas in the South or accepting secession. Three subsequent chapters deal with prominent scapegoats Charles P. Stone, Fitz John Porter, and Gouverneur K. Warren; in each case, the emphasis is on the victim's inadequacies and bad luck rather than on a superior's unjust decision: Stone would never have been imprisoned after the Union debacle at Ball's Bluff had he been more popular with his subordinates; the Porter case would never have gone to trial had Burnside edited Porter's reports before passing them on; and Warren, although unjustly accused of foot dragging at Five Forks, had escaped the axe for such behavior at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. At...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 273-275
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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