Pickett'S Charge Essays

The T-shirt wars confirm that Pickett won out over Pettigrew.

The question of Pickett versus Pettigrew is an old one, asked most pointedly in a polemic published by North Carolinian William R. His is one of hundreds of primary sources Carol Reardon consulted for her study of Pickett's Charge.

Perhaps this reticence stems from her belief that historians can never know what happened in the past because individual recollections of it are not reliable.

"Even the best scholar," she writes, "could not tell the whole story.

The selectivity of the soldiers' memories had made this impossible" (p. Reardon has chosen not to sift through the conflicting testimony about Pickett's Charge to come up with a plausible scenario for the events of July 3, 1863, based on a preponderance of the historical evidence.

This decision sets up an odd dynamic in the book: Reardon's recurring discussions of the historical disputes among battle veterans and other observers are enervated by her reluctance to share her own conclusions about the battle with the reader.Indeed, she has looked at so many newspaper accounts, battle narratives, and unit histories that future historians will be in her debt for gathering together in one volume so much information about how Americans viewed Pickett's Charge between 18.Despite Reardon's determined effort to track down and cite obscure primary sources, however, she gives short shrift to relevant secondary sources, particularly those dealing with the popular legacy of Gettysburg and the Civil War.Preoccupied during the 1880s with how posterity would recall their own actions, Reardon writes, northern veterans "rediscovered a serious interest in the tactical details of the Union defense" (p. Confederates, too, were interested in the details of the fighting, battling within their ranks about which regiments had earned glory on the field.In chapters six and seven, Reardon examines the impassioned efforts of North Carolinians to set the historical record straight about their valiant participation in Pickett's Charge.These two regiments were involved in an acrimonious quarrel with the 72nd Pennsylvania infantry (known as the Philadelphia Fire Zouaves), a disagreement over honor that included accusations about whose forces had really held the Angle and which men had broken under fire.Their reputations at stake, proper placement of the regimental monuments became all important, so much so that the issue was ultimately decided (in favor of the 72nd Pennsylvania) by Pennsylvania's highest court.Nor does she take advantage of recent literature on national reconciliation that has focused on issues of gender and race.In addition, Reardon tends to be insufficiently critical of the sources she does use.In her first chapter, Reardon advances the debatable argument that the modern historian can never know what happened at Gettysburg in 1863 because "the disconnected threads representing thousands of individual perceptions of Pickett's Charge" (p.20) are too numerous and confusing to allow a clear picture of the fighting to emerge.


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