03 July 2012 by Published in: General musings 6 comments

In his 1948 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Intruder in the Dust, William Faulkner left us a brilliant reflection on Pickett’s Charge that still resonates to this day:

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 circumstances 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 and 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….

149 years ago today…..

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  1. Ken Noe
    Tue 03rd Jul 2012 at 11:13 am

    I read it in class every year as an example of the battle’s lingering impact and centrality in American culture. It never fails to get an emotional response.

  2. John Foskett
    Wed 04th Jul 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I’ve got to be honest. I’ve never really liked it, because I’ve never been able to separate it from the apparent underlying sentiment that there weas something “right” about the cause that a kid growing up in the South 70-80 years later could/should identify with.. It’s the same reaction I’ve always had to Foote’s trilogy. That’s on me, perhaps. But even I will agree that it’s a brilliant piece of writing.

  3. Chris Evans
    Wed 04th Jul 2012 at 4:04 pm

    It’s one of my favorite excerpts of fictional writing on the war. It was used brilliantly in Greystone’s three part documentary on the Battle of Gettysburg when they were showing the buildup to the charge.

    Howard Bahr continued Faulkner’s excellence of writings on the war in his wonderful novels, ‘The Black Flower’, ‘Year of Jubilo’ and ‘The Judas Field’. They are full of wonderful passages just like Faulkner’s famous one quoted in the post.


  4. Chris Evans
    Sun 08th Jul 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks for posting the quote. I meant to mention that in my previous post.

    I’d like to quote from Chapter 7 of ‘The Black Flower’ by Bahr reminds me very much of Faulkner:

    “So the women could not forgive. Their passion remained intact, carefully guarded and nurtured by the bitter knowledge of all they had lost, of all that had been stolen from them. For generations they vilified the Yankee race so that the thief would have a face, a name, a mysterious country into which he had withdrawn and from which he might venture again. They banded together into a militant freemasonry of remembering, and from that citadel held out against any suggestion that what they had suffered and lost might have been in vain. They created the Lost Cause, and consecrated that proud fiction with the blood of real men. To the Lost Cause they dedicated their own blood, their own lives, and to it they offered books, monographs, songs, acres and acres of bad poetry….

    “But their greatest, their supreme and most poignant accomplishment, was the Confederate Soldier. Out of the smoke they plucked him, and set him atop a stone pedestal in the courthouse yard where he stood free at last of hunger and fear and raggedness and madness and violence; where he would never desert nor write home for a substitute, never run, never complain of short rations, never question the sacred Cause of which he was protector, and for which he had marched forth to willing sacrifice. But his musket was always at rest, and not for nothing was he always young, his eyes always soft as he looked backward over the long years. For he was really no soldier at all, but an image created by women, and he was born not of war but of sorrow and of fierce desire.”


  5. Mon 23rd Jul 2012 at 12:34 am

    Pickett’s charge was an amazing battle move that will definitely go down in history.

  6. Mon 13th Aug 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I’ve never read that before. Thank you for posting it! It’s very moving! I’m definitely going to pick up a copy of that book.

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