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General Pickett Talked Secession Before Famous Charge

September 4, 2010

On the eve of July 2nd, 1863, Major General George Pickett sat nervously around the Confederate camp fire contemplating the infantry assault he would lead in a few hours against the Union position on Cemetery Ridge in the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War.

He and his comrades were talking into the night, and he began to speak about why and how the war started, and he drew an interesting analogy about the South and its desire to secede from the Union.

“Say you joined a Gentlemen’s Club,” General Pickett said. “Then later the club changed the rules not to your liking. Well, you would have every right to quit that club. That’s all we’re doing here. They’ve changed the rules and we want to quit the club,” Pickett said.

General Pickett, of course, was talking about why Southern states had the right to secede, and why he, like many others of his day, saw no reason why President Abraham Lincoln shouldn’t allow the southern states to do so, peacefully.

Pickett’s philosophy on secession became a mute point the following afternoon as the Gettysburg assault, known as “Pickett’s Charge”, was brutally repulsed by the North, and the attempted charge became a renowned lesson in futility.

The word “secession” is slowly making its way in political dialogue once again, this time in state capitals around the country. It is fueled by nationally known talk show hosts, and other conservative political observers.

“Texas is ready to secede from the nation because of Obama,” Russ Limbaugh said recently on his radio show. “This (secession) is not the ranting of extreme kookism anymore, some might say the Civil War is already on,” Limbaugh told his 20 million listeners.

Texas Governor Rick Perry also floated the issue of secession in 2009 during the Obama health care debate, as it became apparent that the federally mandated legislation might adversely impact states’ financially.

“Hopefully voters will send people to Washington in 2010 and 2012 that will strictly adhere to the Constitution’s defined role for the federal government,” Governor Perry said.

Governor Perry reminded everyone that Texas entered the United States as the 28th state in 1845 as a Sovereign Republic, and many constitutionalists do believe could Texas can legally reclaim that status, even now.

Recent polling in Texas showed that 31% of Texans said the state has the right to secede, and another 18% they’d vote to secede if given the chance.

Secession was also mentioned in this year’s Tennessee gubernatorial Republican primary this year by former Congressman Zach Wamp. The Congressman (who later lost his bid to be the Republican nominee) suggested that Tennessee and other states have the right to consider seceding if the federal government doesn’t change its ways regarding strict mandates.

The Alaska Independence Party (AIP) has been pushing for a ballot initiative for some time. It wants to allow Alaska voters decide whether the state should secede from the United States, or become a territory, a separate nation, or accept Commonwealth status.

Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck has also weighed in on secession. “Tea parties might eventually be about secession. People might say, I think it’s time to get out of this (the United States)”, he said, adding, “You can’t convince me that the founding fathers wouldn’t allow you to secede.”

The country is polarized over federally mandated issues, and thus talk of state secession will continue, fueled by an interested conservative media, and a restless electorate.

General George Picket likened leaving the Union to quitting a southern Gentlemen’s Club during the days of the Civil War.

Whether that analogy would suffice today is another story.