A Battle at Pickett’s Mill


“Is there anything here worth seeing?” a tracksuited woman asked us in the Pickett’s Mill Battlefield Park lot as she was getting back into her car. She told us that the man in the visitor’s center wouldn’t let her in because it was too late—just about closing time. The sun was about to set, and she was mad.

“Not really—just a bunch of trees,” I said to calm her down, but I wasn’t stretching the truth all that much. For a preserved Civil War battlefield, Pickett’s Mill is surprisingly plain. It doesn’t have the grand monuments of Chickamauga or the mountain views of Kennesaw. There aren’t many markers along the wooded pathways, so if you want to get a good idea of what happened where you’ll have to pay close attention to the trail map from the visitor’s center.

There’s something to be said for the park’s lack of descriptive markers. Pickett’s Mill is one of the most rustic battlefield parks I’ve been to; if you ignore the cleared trails and the few waymarkers painted onto the trees, it’s easy to imagine what the area was like during the Civil War. The fields are there, as is the creek and some of the entrenchments dug by soldiers. If you follow the map, you’ll see the ravine where the Federals ended up losing the battle. They were ordered to charge uphill, only to be repulsed by Confederate troops above. Author Ambrose Bierce, fighting that day under Union General Hazen, would write about the battle in his essay The Crime at Pickett’s Mill, still shaken some 24 years after the fact:

Suddenly there came a ringing rattle of musketry, the familiar hissing of bullets, and before us the interspaces of the forest were all blue with smoke. Hoarse, fierce yells broke out of a thousand throats . . . The uproar was deafening; the air was sibilant with streams and sheets of missiles. In the steady, unvarying roar of small-arms the frequent shock of the cannon was rather felt than heard, but the gusts of grape which they blew into that populous wood were audible enough, screaming among the trees and cracking their stems and branches.

Of course I hadn’t read that at the time. As it was, the moment was heavy enough. Standing on the ridge, we could hear gunshots fired by distant hunters as we looked down into the ravine.





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20 Comments

  1. Posted February 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Rhiannon, honestly, I think you get better and better at writing every day. This was so well written, and all of your Southerly posts have been so amazingly evocative. Keep em coming!

    • admin
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      Meaghan, thanks for thinking that! I’m bad at updating, but this makes me want to write more. Need to get back into it. : )

    • Posted July 22, 2014 at 1:20 am | Permalink

      Since there is so many fields of sptaicleies that I have a choice of, I still really can’t choose one. So I am going base on my personal experiences. My original goal back in high school and maybe even before that, was to work in a Neonatal ICU! I had a brother that passed before he had his first birthday from heart complications, and that year I spent a lot of time at hospitals with my parents. My goal the first couple of years was to work with babies just like him. That was until I had my own children, I would of still loved to have worked in that career field but the heart ache I would most likely endure when one of those babies did not make it home. I could not have handled!On to more positive experiences, I have worked with the elderly and Geriatrics interests me very much. Being surrounded with people that have lived a fulfilled life is so much more rewarding. Even though at times it is the ending stages of their lives, and it is sad when someone does pass. It’s less of a heartache to know that most of the time they are ready to move on. They are still very dependent on you and when you are able to help them with their needs that’s the most rewarding of all, plus you form a special relationship with the patients and their families.

    • Posted July 24, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      Wow, I think you will be a great OB. It seems like you have a real love for children, faeilims, and people in general. Sad to say that those qualities are rare traits in todays world. I believe not just anyone should be in just any job because you could be in a job that you hate and end up making everyone who comes in contact with you at work miserable. You have the joy and care to be great at your job and effect those you will be working around not only by your knowledge , but by your love for what you do.

  2. Posted February 7, 2013 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    This is absolutely beautiful. I’ve never been here, but it sounds a lot like Shiloh. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this to you before, but you guys should definitely go if you haven’t. It’s one of the biggest and most well preserved Civil War battle fields. I still have such vivid and haunting memories of going there.

    I’m going to add this to my growing list of places to visit!

    • admin
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      I really want to go to Shiloh! My parents have been there twice already and I always bug them with questions about it. That and Gettysburg. Went there as a kid, but I need to see it as an adult.

  3. Posted February 8, 2013 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the inspiration! The photos are stunning.

    • admin
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:47 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Elena! I liked these photos a bunch too—Drew’s good!

  4. E
    Posted February 10, 2013 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    This is an amazing piece, and the photographs are beautiful. I’d love to have a book full of things like this.

    • admin
      Posted February 13, 2013 at 2:46 am | Permalink

      Thanks, E, I’m glad you like it. : )

      • Posted July 21, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        as he pushes past me and steps isndie. He’s soaking wet, water dripping off him and landing on the floor that I just mopped not more than fifteen minutes ago. Take off your shoes before you I don’t even finish my sentence before he walks on the carpet, splotches of mud following his movements. I put my head in my hands and sigh loud enough for him to turn around and look at the ground. Oops, he says as he shrugs his shoulders. He pulls off his shoes and then carries on with his business. You got any food? Believe it or not, there’s actually some food in the kitchen, I tell him as I get on my knees and start cleaning up his mess with a rag. Leave it to Kevin to destroy something as soon as he enters my house. I’m just glad it was easier to tidy up than when Sammy gets into the pasta, which happens more often than someone might think.Kevin is stuffing his face with a sandwich when I return, a bit of mustard on his chin. I don’t know how his girlfriend puts up with him always being hungry. I twist my face in disgust as his chewing grows louder and less of it makes it into his mouth. Were you seriously that hungry? I ask after he finishes. I haven’t eaten at all today. Michael’s been up my *** trying to figure out what we’re going to do tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, I need a favor. A favor? He sighs and runs his hands through his hair. I have a serious problem on my hands here. And you thought that venting in person would help? I’m flattered, Kev, really but I have things to do. Okay, so maybe I don’t have anything to do, but I’m just trying to get out of helping him again. I don’t have a drum major for the competition tomorrow. Drum majors are like the gods of marching band. They keep the band on task and tempo, making sure they do their job. He, well most of the time it’s a he, flaps his arms around like an idiot and wears a different uniform just to help the band out with their overall performance. Well what happened to the other one? His grandpa died last night and he can’t make it. Oh There’s no one else who can do it? Nope. It’s a marching band; I’m sure there’s someone else who could give it a shot. There’s not. The only person that I would even consider for this job is Natalie,but she has a trumpet solo in the first movement. Now I understand why he’s really here. You see, I used to be one of those arm-flapping idiots with a bedazzled uniform, but that was ten years ago. I did it to impress the girls in band, but that just drove them away, which is odd because they usually loveauthority figures. What do you want me to do about it? He rolls his eyes like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. I want you to be our drum major. I shake my head. No chance in hell. Why? As soon as he asks that, I hear the wailing sound of my son crying from upstairs. Kevin trails behind me as I run up to his room, continuing on with his whining. Sammy has tears strolling down his face and he screams louder as I get closer. I pick him up and gently begin to rub his back, the alarmed feeling from this morning returning as I feelhow warm it is. It’s okay, Sammy. It’s okay. I whisper as he hiccups. He tightens his grip around my neck when I reach for the thermometer. I motion for Kevin to come over and he does as I stick it in my son’s ear, waiting as patiently as I can. What does it say? I ask when it starts beeping.He squints and moves closer. One o’ one. Great, I mumble. I give him some medicine and Kevin goes back downstairs when I sit down in a chair next to his bed. After a few minutes of rocking him, Sammy is out like a light, so I lay him down and cover him up to let him get some rest.Kevin is sprawled out on the couch and flipping through the television channels when I see him next. He okay? ~Good, bad, boring? Please let me know.

      • Posted July 23, 2014 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

        I couldn’t agree more about gectiirars. I miss sitting with some of the elderly individuals I used to help and they would tell me stories for hours about the things that they witness when they were younger, and the lives that they lived up to the point that they needed care. I have always felt that the elderly know how to live their lives better than anyone, and they for sure never take it for granted! Sometimes the people taking care of them are not good people though, and it always breaks my heart to see someone talking badly to an elderly man or woman.I like how you made a switch from little tiny babies that have no real experience with life, to elderly men and women who have lived life to its fullest and still have more life to share with others. Such opposites!

  5. Posted February 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    i hail from maryland, the old line state; up in the northeast, where i now live, everyone calls it the south. my best friend from university, a carolina girl, laughs at this. anyway, the only civil war parks i’ve been to are antietam, in maryland, and gettysburg. they could not be more different. gettysburg is scattered, in organized chaos, with large and impressive stone monuments. there is a large visitor center, and certainly a large gift shop. antietam is quiet; the land has not changed since the battle was fought. both are beautiful, and reverent, in their different ways.

    just found your blog, beautiful. feeding an already intense desire to move.

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