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General George E. Pickett.

[from the Richmond Dispatch. May 3; 1896.] his appointment to West Point—a letter from his widow.

A Richmond friend of Mrs. General Pickett recently wrote to her, making an inquiry as to how her husband received his cadetship appointment. She answered that General Pickett was appointed by Congressman John G. Stuart, of the Third Illinois District, and she explained that Mr. Lincoln induced Stuart to make the appointment. Mr. Lincoln was then associated in the practice of the law with young Pickett's uncle, Mr. Andrew Johnston, who was later of the firm of Johnston, Boulware and Williams, of Richmond. Mr. Johnston, [152] who has been dead for a number of years, was a great and good man, and was highly esteemed by the President, who, it is said, desired him to become Governor of this State, to guide it in its return to the Union. After giving her friend the information sought, Mrs. Pickett goes on to say:

I have before me a letter from Mr. Lincoln, dated ‘February 22d, Springfield, Ill.,’ which, though a private letter, bespeaks his superlative greatness, his accurate perception, and the bent, even at that early period, of his wonderfully penetrating mind. ‘I have just told the folks here in Springfield,’ he said, ‘on this, the 110th anniversary of the birth of him whose name, mightiest in the cause of civil liberty—still mightiest in the cause of moral reformation—we mention in solemn awe, in naked, deathless splendor, that the only victory we can ever call complete will be that one which proclaims that there is not one slave or one drunkard on the face of God's green earth. Recruit for this victory.’ At the close of the letter he said: ‘Now, boy, on your march, don't you go and forget the old maxim, that “one drop of honey catches more flies than a thousand gallons of gall.” Load your musket with the maxim and smoke it in your pipe.’

Pickett remembered, for there was not a drop of gall in his whole life. He was the sweetest and the tenderest of natures, and no man was more beloved of men, women and children of every degree and station than the high-toned, chivalrous man, the peerless soldier, General George E. Pickett. The soldiers of both armies alike hold his name in reverence; and so modest was he withal, that in his as yet unpublished report of the battle of Gettysburg, the grandest charge ever made in the annals of any history, he, in his unselfishness and devotion to his soldiers, and freedom from personal ambition, gives all the credit, all the glory, all the honor of the charge to ‘my men, my brave Virginians,’ as he called the soldiers of his dear old division. In the grand unity of truth he gave to them all their dues, and in silence tempered with mercy the errors of others.

Pickett had the keenest sense of justice, the most sensitive consciousness of right, and the moral courage to do it. When General Grant, whose capacity for friendship has rarely been equalled, offered Pickett the marshalship of the State of Virginia, Pickett took counsel of his conscience and judgment, and, in thanking General Grant, said: ‘As high even as you are held in the hearts of your people, you cannot afford to do this thing for me, and as poor and as much in need as I am of it, I cannot afford to take it from you.’ And [153] grandly and unmurmuringly and alone Pickett fought his way through poverty, though there were no honors, no emoluments within the gift of a loving people that could not have been his.

I said Pickett was beloved by all, and so he was; but there are a wee, smaa few of those of his own comrades of the Lost Cause more fortunate of life than my large-hearted soldier, who are envious and jealous of the glory of his short, unfinished life, and one of these of the wee-smaa few, in his lecture on ‘The Closing Days of the Confederacy,’ when he spoke of the deciding battle of the war (Gettysburg), scarcely mentioned the name of the dead soldier, who so zealously obeyed ‘Old Peter's nod,’ and led the immortal charge over those sacred heights, on through the passage of the Valley of Death; passed the lines of battle, up the ridge to the crest, from the crest down the descent over half a mile of open, exposed ground, within canister and schrapnel range; through rushing shot and shrieking shell; on, on through flame and smoke, till the heights were taken; the battle won, and then, alas! Pickett's men, hemmed in on all sides and for want of support, had to fight their way back through equal danger over the blood-conquered ground, over the mangled, mutilated bodies of their dead and wounded comrades, while the army, as all the world knows, though ordered to come to Pickett's support, calmly looked on at the terrible massacre. If Pickett had had the other two brigades of his division (Corse and Jenkins), but of this more anon. Lincoln afterwards, in his dedication address on this sacred field, said: ‘Here this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ The glory of Pickett's charge at Gettysburg (where, out of 4,500 brave Virginians, 3,393 were killed and wounded), will shine, in spite of Gordon's jealousy, with ever-increasing lustre as time rolls on, and the purity of patriotism is more and more refined and the truth more and more clearly revealed. Pickett's men loved and honored him, their great, tender-hearted commander, who did not offend them by superiority, but inspired them with confidence; and to-day a whole nation of true soldiers everywhere give veneration to his memory, admiration for his dauntless courage, his grand and enduring qualities of head and heart, and love for love.

In Richmond, Va., on Gettysburg Hill, beneath the glistening ivy leaves, and midst the bloom of flowers, in reach of the scent of the distant clover as it sways and swings with the golden buttercups, anon touching and making a tangle of purple and green and gold, [154] George Pickett, who never planted a thorn in any one's life, or took from it one blossom, sleeps alongside of his soldiers.

I have written in haste, and so have said more than I had thought to, the recording of one memory reviving another. And now with cordial greeting and my best love to you and to my people, and to Pickett's men everywhere,

I am yours faithfully, always,

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