Before the Charge, Forever

In remembrance of Pickett’s Charge:

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….

— William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

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3 Responses to Before the Charge, Forever

  1. Zac Cowsert says:

    I’ve always been drawn to this passage. It’s a tremendously powerful one. I think it speaks to the sense of glory and loss still felt deep down in Southern roots. Countless times I reenacted Gettysburg in my backyard! How many of us in the field today were drawn in by the terrible grandeur of the Civil War? By visiting a battlefield or watching a reenactment? By wondering “what if?” There’s a reason the Civil War retains its potency and its audience. It’s America’s epic, our own grand saga. This passage always reflects the Southern version of those interests and emotions to me. Thanks for putting this up!

  2. You’re welcome, Zac. Your comment was eloquent and stirs up all wistfulness we’ve all felt.

  3. Meg Thompson says:

    Let’s read this again, today, in remembrance.

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