Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
After graduating last (59th out of 59) in his class at West Point (1846), he gained distinction during the Mexican War when he was the first to scale the heights during the Battle of Chapultepec. He was also involved in the Pig War.
He later served on the frontier in Washington Territory, and in 1856 occupied San Juan Island, where he prevented the landing of British troops and received the thanks of Congress for his services. In 1861 he resigned from the Federal army and joined the Confederate forces, becoming major-general in 1862.
During the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg, his men cut down the famous "Irish Brigade". He led the disastrous and foolhardy "Pickett's Charge" against Union lines in the Battle of Gettysburg, in the process, losing almost his entire division (about 15,000 men). To his dying day, he bitterly mourned this great loss. After the war, it is said that he met once with General Lee in a singularly cold meeting. It is said that afterward he said bitterly "That man destroyed my division."
He lost the battle of Five Forks in 1865, which lead to the fall of Petersburg and Richmond and to the ultimate capitulation of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appotamox.
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