Pickett, George Edward
b. 1825-01-25
d. 1875-07-30
George Edward Pickett was a soldier in the U.S. Army sent by William Selby Harney to San Juan Island in command of Company D, 9th U.S. Infantry to protect American settlers on the island from the British and incursions of the northern Indians of British Columbia in 1859.1 Harney ordered Pickett to establish his company on Bellevue,San Juan Island, somewhere near the harbour at the southeastern extremity. The steamer Massachusetts transported Pickett and his command, as well as their supplies, to the island. Pickett very quickly requested that the Massachusetts be sent back to San Juan as he felt uncomfortable with the level of the hostilities, as well as the presence of two British war steamers. In numerous correspondences, Pickett asserted that he did not recognize the authority of the Hudson’s Bay Company as he had been sent by the United States government and followed their commands only. Although he knew that he could not prevent British forces from landing on the island, Pickett declined any notions of joint occupation of San Juan Island (one of the reasons he was later accused of being a Confederate conspirator), but still did believe in trying to preserve the harmony between the two governments.2
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Pickett was spoiled by his parents as a child. At the age of twelve they subsequently sent him to Richmond Academy, a quasi-military preparatory school. Although he finished at the bottom of his class, Pickett still moved on to have a successful military career.3
In 1846, the military assigned Pickett to the Eighth Infantry and he joined General Winfield Scott’s invasion of Veracruz, Mexico. His participation in the fighting in Mexico earned him the title of captain and the respect of his fellow officers. In the years before the Civil War, Pickett also served in Texas, Virginia, and in the territory of Washington, this being the time in which he commanded the troops on San Juan Island under orders from Harney. During this period, Pickett married twice, and both times his wife died as a result of childbirth.4
Pickett was made brigadier general in 1862, and after many successful battles was promoted to division commander on 11 October 1862. Pickett’s division fought in the last battle of the Battle of Gettysburg. In what became known as Pickett’s Charge, his unit and his reputation were destroyed. In 1863, Pickett married again, had two children, and worked in several unsuccessful business enterprises. He died in Norfolk, Virginia, on 30 July 1875.5
  • 1. The Pig War, National Historical Park Washington; The Northwest Boudary. Discussion of the Water Boundary Question: Geographical Memoir of the Islands in Dispute and History of the Military Occupation of San Juan Island: Accompanied by Maps and Cross-Sections of Channels (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1868), 146.
  • 2. The Northwest Boudary. Discussion of the Water Boundary Question: Geographical Memoir of the Islands in Dispute and History of the Military Occupation of San Juan Island: Accompanied by Maps and Cross-Sections of Channels (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1868), 146; Adam Arenson and Andrew R. Graybill, ed., Civil War Wests; Testing the Limits of the United States (Oakland: U of California P, 2015), 18.
  • 3. John T. Hubbell, Pickett, George Edward, American National Biography.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
Mentions of this person in the documents
People in this document

Harney, William Selby

Scott, Winfield

Vessels in this document

USS Massachusetts, 1849-1867

Places in this document

San Juan Island

Washington Territory

The Colonial Despatches Team. Pickett, George Edward. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. The Colonial Despatches Team. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/pickett.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)