03 Jul 2018

Lee’s Gamble

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For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstance which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.

—William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust, 1948.

2 Feedbacks on "Lee’s Gamble"


I walked from the Angle on the Union side to the tree line on the Confederate side. It was about 1500 paces, taking me about twenty minutes. That’s a long time to be under fire by solid shot, canister, and muskets. A very long time.


As a diversion, you can see General Dan Sickle’s leg on display at the National Museum of Health & Medicine in the very north tip of DC, along with bits and pieces of presidents and the ball that killed Lincoln. Sickles got his leg shot by a cannonball while on horseback at Gettysburg.

Thomas Keneally wrote a very entertaining biography that’s well worth reading, “American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles.”


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