Pegram Was Courageous, But a Mediocre General

Many extraordinarily gifted lieutenants served General Robert E. Lee. Among the most famous were Lieutenant Generals Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, James Longstreet, A. P. Hill and Richard Ewell, and Major Generals J. E. B. Stuart, George Pickett, Fitzhugh Lee and W. F. (Rooney) Lee.1 Most of these men were Virginians who shared a social background similar to Lee; all were, like Lee, West Point graduates and former officers in the U. S. Army.2 Lee had reputation for ridding his army of mediocre commanders as well as men whose demeanor and bearing did not resemble his own. Of those famous "lieutenants" named above, only George Pickett, forever remembered for his division's fateful charge at Gettysburg, was a mediocre commander during the war. True, Hill and Ewell did not distinguish themselves as corps commanders, but they had done extremely well at the brigade and division level. What were the prerequisites for promotion in Lee's army? Did social, as opposed to political, position play a role? Were there Virginia cavaliers whose performance more closely resembled Pickett's than Jackson's or Stuart's? Arguably, there was at least one.

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