Sunday, July 3, 2011

George Pickett's Peaceful Time in Washington Before Pickett's Charge

July 3rd is the anniversary of a former Bellingham, Washington resident's claim to fame, He lived in this home in what is the oldest part of Bellingham on the bluff overlooking the early settlement on the shore of Bellingham Bay. 

Pickett's House, 910 Bancroft Street

George Pickett was assigned by the U.S. Army to Bellingham to maintain the peace between First Nations peoples that had been living in the area for several millennium and the new American arrivals. In the mid 1850s some fighting took place at various locations in the State, but in the Bellingham area all was peaceful and Pickett never had any fights with the local tribes.  But a neighbor dispute over a pig eating potatoes nearly got Pickett into a battle with British forces in 1859. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 had set the border between U.S. and British territory as the 49th parallel. However, control over the San Juan Islands was not settled and the said pig dispute between a British citizen and an American citizen led to Pickett leading a force of American soldiers to San Juan Island to counter a similar move by the British. Fortunately discipline and common sense prevailed and Pickett avoided battle.

Pickett got more fight than he ever wanted four years later at Gettysburg where on July 3, 1863 he commanded a full division of Confederate troops that was ordered to charge the Union lines. Pickett's charge has been described as the high water mark of the South during the Civil War. The charge reached the Union lines but was turned back with huge loss of life. The charge was one of General Lee's greatest mistakes. It was reported that when Lee asked Pickett to rally his division in case of a counter attack by Union forces, Pickett said, "General Lee, I have no division". 

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