and drive out the masses of troops upon the heights, was a very problematical one.
My orders from General Lee
were “to envelop the enemy's left, and begin the attack there, following up, as near as possible, the direction of the Emmetsburg
My corps occupied our right, with Hood
on the extreme right, and McLaws
's Corps was next to mine, in front of the Federal
centre, and Ewell
was on our extreme left.
My corps, with Pickett
's Division absent, numbered hardly thirteen thousand men. I realized that the fight was to be a fearful one; but being assured that my flank would be protected by the brigades of Wilcox
, and Mahone
, moving en echelon
, and that Ewell
was to co-operate by a direct attack on the enemy's right, and Hill
to threaten his centre, and attack if opportunity offered, and thus prevent reinforcements from being launched either against myself or Ewell
, it seemed possible that we might possibly dislodge the great army in front of us. At half-past 3 o'clock the order was given General Hood
to advance upon the enemy, and, hurrying to the head of McLaws
' Division, I moved with his line.
Then was fairly commenced what I do not hesitate to pronounce the best three hours fighting ever done by any troops on any battle-field.
Directly in front of us, occupying the peach orchard, on a piece of elevated ground that General Lee
desired me to take and hold for his artillery, was the Third Corps of the Federals
, commanded by General Sickles
My men charged with great spirit and dislodged the Federals
from the peach orchard with but little delay, though they fought stubbornly.
We were then on the crest of Seminary Ridge
The artillery was brought forward and put into position at the peach orchard.
The infantry swept down the slope and soon reached the marshy ground that lay between Seminary
and Cemetery Ridges
, fighting their way over every foot of ground and against overwhelming odds.
At every step we found that reinforcements were pouring into the Federals
from every side.
Nothing could stop my men, however, and they commenced their heroic charge up the side of Cemetery Ridge
Our attack was to progress in the general direction of the Emmetsburg
road, but the Federal
troops, as they were forced from point to point, availing themselves of the stone fences and boulders near the mountain as rallying points, so annoyed our right flank that General Hood
's Division was obliged to make a partial change of front so as to relieve itself of this galling flank fire.
This drew General McLaws
a little further to the right than General Lee
had anticipated, so that the defensive advantages of the ground enabled the Federals
to delay our purposes until they could