In an interview that appeared in the Summer 1999 issue of The Paris Review, Shelby Foote offered a few thoughts about the battle of Gettysburg, which he’d famously written about in “The Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign” (part of his mammoth three-volume Civil War narrative).
“The single greatest mistake of the war by any general on either side was made by Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg,” Foote said, “when he sent Pickett’s and Pettigrew’s divisions across that open field, nearly a mile wide, against guns placed on a high ridge and troops down below them, with skirmishers out front. There was no chance it would succeed.”
Foote likened Lee’s decision to “another instance of life imitating art”:
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