In the blockbuster movie Gettysburg, which hit the big screens in 1993, there is a moment in the film of an exchange between Confederate Generals James Longstreet and J. Johnston Pettigrew on July 3rd. For those reading this that are aficionados of the film (and the book it derived from, The Killer Angels, by the late Michael Shaara) you are very familiar with the scene I am referring to.
For those that are not, the scene has Longstreet in conversation with the three division commanders, Pettigrew, Isaac Trimble, and George Pickett about the plan of operation for the attack on the Federal lines that became known to history as the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge.
Longstreet and Pettigrew exchange pleasantries and the former makes mention of a book the latter wrote. The North Carolinian Pettigrew instructs a staff officer to retrieve a copy and with his compliments present it to Longstreet. The South Carolinian Longstreet responds with a quip about a lack of time to read it that day.
Re-watching the movie for the umpteenth time, the thought finally struck me, what book did Pettigrew write?
The answer is, Notes on Spain and the Spaniards in the Summer of 1859, With a Glance at Sardinia. Published in 1861 by the Presses of Evans and Cogswell of Charleston, South Carolina upon his return from a second venture to Europe.
Pettigrew’s first trip included being a student in Berlin and he used the two plus years afforded him on the Continent in the early 1850’s to travel across much of Western Europe. He was particular in his travels, locating places that typically were not part of the normal tourism agenda. He became proficient in at least four languages in addition to learning Hebrew and Arabic as he had begun planning a publication on the Spanish Moors.” The war interrupted the study.
The accomplished musician, mathematician, author, and politician initially went to war as a private in the Hampton Legion but soon accepted the rank of colonel of the 22nd North Carolina. His brigade joined the Army of Northern Virginia in May 1863 and Pettigrew became acting division commander when Henry Heth was wounded on July 1, 1863. During the advance on July 3rd, Pettigrew was wounded in the hand. Eleven days later in a rearguard action along the Potomac River at Falling Waters he was shot in the stomach, mortally wounded, he would expire three days later.
Wonder if Longstreet ever received the book or if he did, read it. Regardless, even eighteen years later one can still go down a rabbit hole of history while watching Gettysburg.
A digital copy of Pettigrew’s book can be found here.