Pickett’s Charge, the disastrous infantry assault that ended the days-long Battle of Gettysburg, took place on this date in 1863 in southern Pennsylvania.
Having failed to take out the Union forces on either flank, General Robert E. Lee decided to attack the center. General Meade, the leader of the Union forces, correctly predicted this, so he and his troops waited out an artillery barrage that was intended to take out the North’s cannons. The barrage was indeed launched, but it did not damage the Union’s emplacement.
The Confederate forces assembled a mile-wide line of over 12,000 soldiers and began to march towards the Union forces across an open field, who took dead aim as the line advanced. Within an hour, the field was littered with some 7000 Confederate dead or dying, and the Union accepted a truce to allow the survivors to collect the dead and wounded.
General Pickett, one of Lee’s commanders, led his troops closer to the Union side than any other Confederate division, which is why the assault bears his name and not Lee’s. When Lee ordered him at the end of the day to marshal the men of his division and defend what the Confederate side still held, Pickett angrily replied, “General Lee, I have no division.”
It was the turning point for the Union in the Civil War. It was the turning point for the Confederacy.
Pickett went to his grave furious at Lee for sending his men into the slaughter, but whenever he was asked why Pickett’s Charge had failed, he would reply, “I believe the Yankees had something to do with it.”
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Brian Jones died on this date in 1969 at age 27. Jim Morrison died on this date in 1971, also age 27.
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George M. Cohan was born on this date in 1878. Franz Kafka was born on this date in 1883. It is believed that Mississippi John Hurt was born on this date in 1893. François Reichenbach (F for Fake) was born in 1921 on this date. Ken Russell was born on this date in 1927. Laura Branigan was born on this date in 1957. (Some sources say 1955; others, like the New York Post and an individual who added two comments in the comments section below, 1952. Officially, Ms. Branigan herself claimed 1957 up till her too-early death in 2004. I thank the reader for his or her attentiveness.)
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Pete Fountain is 86. Harrison Schmitt is 81. Sir Tom Stoppard is 79 today. Jay Tarses is 77. Senator Lamar Alexander is 76. Gloria Allred is 75. Dave Barry is 69. Betty Buckley is 69. Barry Crimmins is 63 today. (“It’s like he was a combination of Noam Chomsky and Bluto.”) The trailer to Call Me Lucky, Bobcat Goldthwait’s splendid documentary about Barry Crimmins:
Montel Williams is 60. Tom Cruise is 54. Yeardley Smith is 52. Julian Assange is 45.
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