Friday, October 07, 2005

The Heart of a Soldier

While researching information for my last blog entry "Manhood", I stumbled upon this segment from "The Heart of a Soldier, As revealed in the Intimate Letters of Genl. George E. Pickett C.S.A." Assembled by the wife he treasured, LaSalle Corbell Pickett, this incredibly moving collection of letters offers a window into the heart of one of the war's tragic figures. Of the many gems found in the writings, the portion below surprised more than the rest. The person speaking is LaSalle "Sally" Pickett.


"I was in Richmond when my Soldier fought the awful battle of Five Forks, Richmond surrendered, and the surging sea of fire swept the city. News of the fate of Five Forks had reached us, and the city was full of rumors that General Pickett was killed. I did not believe them. I knew he would come back, he had told me so. But they were very anxious hours. The day after the fire, there was a sharp rap at the door. The servants had all run away. The city was full of northern troops, and my environment had not taught me to love them. The fate of other cities had awakened my fears for Richmond. With my baby on my arm, I answered the knock, opened the door and looked up at a tall, gaunt, sad-faced man in ill-fitting clothes. who, with the accent of the North, asked:

"Is this George Pickett's place?"

"Yes, sir," I answered, "but he is not here."

"I know that, ma'am," he replied, "but I just wanted to see the place. I am Abraham Lincoln."

"The President!" I gasped.

The stranger shook his head and said:

"No, ma'am; no, ma'am; just Abraham Lincoln; George's old friend."

"I am George Pickett's wife and this is his baby," was all I could say. I had never seen Mr. Lincoln but remembered the intense love and reverence with which my Soldier always spoke of him.

My baby pushed away from me and reached out his hands to Mr. Lincoln, who took him in his arms. As he did so an expression of rapt, almost divine, tenderness and love lighted up the sad face. It was a look that I have never seen on any other face. My baby opened his mouth wide and insisted upon giving his father's friend a dewy infantile kiss. As Mr. Lincoln gave the little one back to me, shaking his finger at him playfully, he said:

"Tell your father, the rascal, that I forgive him for the sake of that kiss and those bright eyes."

He turned and went down the steps, talking to himself, and passed out of my sight forever, but in my memory those intensely human eyes, that strong, sad face, have a perpetual abiding place—that face which puzzled all artists but revealed itself to the intuitions of a little child, causing it to hold out its hands to be taken and its lips to be kissed."


Before becoming President, before hostilities tore the nation apart, Abraham Lincoln helped a young George Pickett obtain an appointment to West Point.

You can find the entire publication at the Project Gutenberg Website.



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Harry said...


Be very careful when using Sallie Pickett's letters (Sallie is not a shortened version of LaSalle - it was her real name, LaSalle an affectation she picked up later). Check Carol Readon's "Pickett's Charge in History and Memory" and Leslie Gordon's "General George Pickett in Life and Legend" for good expose's on this collection of "letters" and accounts.

JWhitewater said...

Sallie's account about the Lincoln visit is almost certainly apocryphal.

Harry said...


As is much of what she wrote.


magnuscarnage said...

Its a great story and if it isn't real it should be.

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