How the North Cascades Almost Changed the Outcome of the Civil War, Paul Willis

How the North Cascades Almost Changed the Outcome of the Civil War

The Picket Range in the North Cascades
is named for its resemblance to a picket fence,
not in remembrance of the soldier
George E. Pickett, who in fact was posted
to Fort Bellingham in 1856. But at my age,
to try to climb most any of the Picket summits,
much less have a go at the entire Picket Traverse,
would be as good an enterprise
as Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg in 1863.

Had General Pickett looked up across
those fields to the Union lines
behind that long, stone-angled fence
and thought of the Pickets he might once
or twice have seen from a forested hilltop
somewhere above Puget Sound or from
the deck of a ship in the Strait of Juan de Fuca,
and had he known the future names
of those strange peaks—Terror, Fury,
Challenger—and of the peaks so near at hand—
Despair, Damnation, Desolation,
Formidable, Forbidden, Torment—

might he have paused, might he
at least have hesitated, before
he sent wave after wave of grim, gray men
against those hopeless alder thickets,
those tangled swamps of devil’s club,
those jagged glaciers thundering
into the deep dark cirques below,
that granite line of bayonets
bristling upward into an ever-smoking sky?

Paul Willis

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