|Copyright 2013, Victoria Heilshorn
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|Of all battles in the American Civil War, no conflict is more famous (or infamous) than the
battle of Gettysburg, and during the battle of Gettysburg, no moment more defining than
what has come to be known as Pickett's charge. This particular engagement has always
completely fascinated me. I have been to Gettysburg many times and stood at the place on
Seminary Ridge from where the Confederates made their fateful charge that July day in
1863. To behold the scope and distance of the land over which they had to march and
reflecting on the courage it must have taken to make the attempt is awe-inspiring to say the
least. This too being couple with the fact that Pickett's charge has come to be known also as
the high tide of the Confederacy, it gives this moment in Civil War history an almost
unparalleled importance, and is a subject worthy of reflection and immortalization.
I wanted to capture a sense of this moment as an artistic subject, and instead of re-doing a
scene of the battle itself (which to me, in some ways, has been done to death), I found
inspiration from a segment of the classic documentary "The Civil War" by Ken Burns. It is
always my desire to seize upon those things which most humanize the conflict, and this
particular segment offered a touching example. Renown author and Civil War historian
Shelby Foote is speaking of the disastrous implications of Pickett's charge; that this failure
cost the Confederacy the war. He finishes with an extraordinary example of its effect on
future generations of southerners yet unborn:
"William Falkner in 'Intruder in the Dust' says that for every southern boy, it's always in his
breech to imagine it being 1 o'clock on an early July day in 1863; the guns are laid, the
troops are lined up, the flags are already out of their cases and ready to be unfurled, but it
hadn't happened yet. He can go back to the time before the war was going to be lost, and
he can always have that moment for himself."
This work is about that moment. Generals Pickett and Pettigrew stand on Seminary ridge as
General Longsteet gives instructions for the assault. For me, this image is filled with all the
desperation, yet all the hope, that drove men to impossible heroism. Though Pickett's
charge was a disastrous failure, no one can remove the courage and valor from the brave
men who believed that faith and determination evened out the longest of odds. This piece is
a tribute to every southern boy, from that time to this, who will always have that moment for
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|Victoria Heilshorn Studio
Gallery of Historic Photos