A Whole Lot of Blame to Go Around: The Confederate Collapse at Five Forks

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Department 1


Department 2

Civil War Institute


While Confederate major general George E. Pickett was finishing his plate of fried fish at a shad bake, Union major general Philip H. Sheridan was devouring Pickett's command at Five Forks. The sounds of the Federal assault were supposedly silenced by abnormal atmospheric conditions called an acoustic shadow. Pickett and his luncheon companions -- Maj. Gen. Thomas Rosser and Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee -- heard nothing over the sounds of conviviality, but the sudden appearance of the courier alerted the dining party to an alarming reality. This solider claimed that he was nearly shot out of his saddle by Federal soldiers who were sweeping the Confederate infantry. Plates and cups must have dropped to the ground when he pointed to the enemy skirmishers advancing just a few hundred yards away. It was abundantly clear to every person at the shad bake, whether the man had imbibed or not, that the enemy was on the verge of enveloping Pickett's entire command. [excerpt]



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