The monument to Pickett’s Division of the Army of Northern Virginia is southwest of Gettysburg on West Confederate Avenue (Tour map: West Confederate Avenue – Pt. 3). A marker is in front of the Black Horse Tavern on Fairfield Road.
Pickett had the smallest Confederate infantry division at Gettysburg with only three brigades, all Virginians. Two other brigades from the division had been detached to defend the Richmond area before the march north. (It was still larger than any Federal division – see a comparison) It was also the last to reach the battlefield, arriving early on July 3rd.
Relatively fresh and untouched by casualties, Pickett’s Division was the obvious choice to take part in the final attack Lee needed to break through Union lines. But although it has come down through history as “Pickett’s Charge,” Pickett’s was only one of three divisions which participated and Pickett was not the overall commander.
Pickett’s Division crossed the mile of open ground under intense artillery and eventually rifle fire. It reached the Union defensive line at The Angle and for a short time punched through. But it had no support and was quickly overwhelmed.
The division suffered crippling casualties, particularly among the officers and NCOs. All three brigade and twelve of thirteen regimental commanders were killed or wounded. Pickett himself was unscathed, for which he was criticised.
After the battle Lee assigned the shattered division to guard Federal prisoners on the retreat back to Virginia, which Pickett considered an insult. When its fellow divisions in the First Corps were sent to the Western Theater, Pickett’s Division was detached to the Richmond area to refit and recruit.
From the monument
Garnett’s Brigade Brig. Gen. R. B. Garnett Major C. S. Peyton
Armistead’s Brigade Brig. Gen. L. A. Armistead Lieut. Col. William White
Kemper’s Brigade Brig. Gen. J. L. Kemper Col. Joseph Mayo Jr.
Artillery Battalion Four Batteries Major James Dearing
July 1. Guarding trains at Chambersburg.
July 2. On march to Gettysburg.
July 3. Reached the field about 9 A. M. Near 12 M. took position beyond crest of hill on which the artillery was placed. About 1.30 P. M. Division was formed in an open field east of Spangler’s Woods the right near a barn facing the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. At 3 P. M. moved forward to assault across the field about three fourths of a mile under severe fire losing many officers and men only a few reaching the salient. The Division being separated from its support on the right and left and the assault having failed returned to its former position on the ridge.
July 4. The Division took up the line of march during the night.
Casualties Killed 232 Wounded 1157 Missing 1499 Total 2888
From the marker by Black Horse Tavern:
Army of Northern Virginia
McLaws’s and Pickett’s Divisions
July 1 McLaws’s Division arrived late in the day and camped in this vicinity.
July 2 In the morning McLaws’s Division moved on the road towards Gettysburg but turning to the right half mile this side of Willoughby Run and crossing that stream lower down formed line as marked on the Battlefield. Pickett’s Division marched by this place in the afternoon but followed the other road with some deflections to avoid being seen by the Union Signal Corps and crossing Willoughby Run lay that night in the west side of Spangler’s Woods.
About George Pickett
Major General George E. Pickett commanded the division at the Battle of Gettysburg. Pickett was born in Richmond and raised in Virginia. He briefly studied law with his uncle in Illinois before attending the United States Military Academy, where he graduated last in his class (West Point Class of 1846). Pickett joined the 8th United States Infantry Regiment at the start of the Mexican War at the Battle of Chapultepec when his wounded friend, Lieutenant James Longstreet, handed him the colors, which Pickett carried over the wall and placed on the roof of the palace.
After the war he served on the Texas frontier, rising to captain. He married his first wife, Sally Harrison Minge, in 1851. She died in childbirth later that year. In 1853 he challenged Winfield Scott Hancock to a duel; Hancock declined. He would challenge Hancock again ten years later on Cemetery Ridge.
Pickett was transferred to Washington Territory in 1856. He married a Native American woman, Morning Mist, and had a son together, but she died shortly thereafter. Pickett then commanded United States troops in the territorial dispute with Britain known as the Pig War (for its only casualty). His refusal to back down with his tiny command in the face of overwhelming British numbers gained him national attention.
Location of the monument
The monument to Pickett’s Division is southwest of Gettysburg on the west side of West Confederate Avenue. It is about 500 feet south of the State of Virginia monument. West Confederate Avenue is one way southbound here. (39°48’47.0″N 77°15’05.6″W)