General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend by Lesley Jill Gordon
(Civil War America)

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Synopsis

The man who gave his name to the greatest failed frontal attack in American military history, George E. Pickett is among the most famous Confederate generals of the Civil War. But even today he remains imperfectly understood, a figure shrouded in Lost Cause mythology. In this carefully researched biography, Lesley Gordon moves beyond earlier studies of Pickett. By investigating the central role played by his wife LaSalle in controlling his historical image, Gordon illuminates Pickett's legend as well as his life.
After exploring Pickett's prewar life as a professional army officer trained at West Point, battle-tested in Mexico, and seasoned on the western frontier, Gordon traces his return to the South in 1861 to fight for the Confederacy. She examines his experiences during the Civil War, including the famed, but failed, charge at the battle of Gettysburg, and charts the decline in his career that followed.
Gordon also looks at Pickett's marriage in 1863 to LaSalle Corbell, like him a child of the Virginia planter elite. Though their life together lasted only twelve years, LaSalle spent her five decades of widowhood writing and speaking about her husband and his military career. Appointing herself Pickett's official biographer, she became a self-proclaimed authority on the war and the Old South. In fact, says Gordon, LaSalle carefully and deliberately created a favorable image of her husband that was at odds with the man she had married.

<!--copy for pb reprint:<BR><BR>"Lesley Gordon's study of George E. Pickett explores the reality of the general's life as well as its romanticized version that survived through the generations. . . . Excellent military history informed by recent scholarship in social history, General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend provides a sophisticated analysis of one of the Civil War's most memorable figures."--<i>Journal of Southern History</i><BR><BR>"Insightful and judicious, sometimes unconventional, and combining a clear narrative thread with a persuasive analysis of available evidence, [this] 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."--<i>Civil War History</i><BR><BR>"The novelty of this elegantly written book resides in the degree to which Gordon, rather than relying heavily on LaSalle, complaining about her, or both, as previous researchers have done, carefully sifts through her various accounts and separates fact from fiction--and suggests the truths that reside in fiction."--<i>Journal of American History</i><BR><BR>The man who gave his name to the greatest failed frontal attack in American military history, George E. Pickett is among the most famous Confederate generals of the Civil War. But even today he remains imperfectly understood, a figure shrouded in Lost Cause mythology. In this carefully researched biography, Lesley Gordon moves beyond earlier studies of Pickett. By investigating how Pickett's wife LaSalle, who outlived her husband by five decades, helped control his historical image, Gordon illuminates Pickett's legend as well as his life. <BR>-->
 

About Lesley Jill Gordon

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Published December 7, 1998 by The University of North Carolina Press. 288 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend

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A unique look at one of the most famous Confederate generals, and at how his wife built and controlled his memory after his death.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of General George E. Pickett in ...

HistoryNet

Pickett has received much attention from Civil War historians, but Lesley Gordon has written a fascinating and original study of Pickett's "life and legend" by fashioning a dual biography of George and LaSalle Pickett.

Aug 12 2001 | Read Full Review of General George E. Pickett in ...

HistoryNet

Other historians and biographers have noted the influence Pickett's wife, LaSalle, had on creating the legend of the general, but Gordon provides perhaps the fullest picture, at least to date, of the machinations involved in crafting the image of Pickett as a great warrior.

| Read Full Review of General George E. Pickett in ...

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