This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 had so overcome me that I would not speak for fear of betraying my want of confidence to him. I bowed affirmation and turned to mount my horse. Pickett immediately said: “I shall lead my division forward, sir.” I spurred my horse to the wood where Alexander was stationed with artillery. When I reached him he told me of the disappearance of the seven guns which were to have led the charge with Pickett, and that his ammunition was so low that he could not properly support the charge. I at once ordered him to stop Pickett until the ammunition had been replenished. He informed me that he had no ammunition with which to replenish. I then saw that there was no help for it, and that Pickett must advance under his orders. He swept past our artillery in spendid style, and the men marched steadily and compactly down the slope. As they started up the ridge over one hundred cannon from the breastworks of the Federals hurled a rain of cannister, grape and shell down upon them; still they pressed on until half way up the slope, when the crest of the hill was lit with a solid sheet of flame as the masses of infantry rose and fired. When the smoke cleared away Pickett's division was gone. Nearly two-thirds of his men lay dead on the field, and the survivors were sullenly retreating down the hill. Mortal man could not have stood that fire. In half an hour the contested field was cleared and the battle of Gettysburg was over. When this charge had failed I expected that of course the enemy would throw himself against our shattered ranks and try to crush us. I sent my staff officers to the rear to assist in rallying the troops, and hurried to our line of batteries as the only support that I could give them, knowing that my presence would impress upon every one of them the necessity of holding the ground to the last extremity. I knew if the army was to be saved those batteries must check the enemy. As I rode along the line of artillery I observed my old friend Captain Miller, Washington Artillery, of Sharpsburg record, walking between his guns and smoking his pipe as quietly and contentedly as he could at his campfire. The enemy's skirmishers were then advancing and threatening assault. For unaccountable reasons the enemy did not pursue his advantage. Our army was soon in compact shape, and its face turned once more toward Virginia. I may mention here that it has been absurdly said that General Lee ordered me to put Hood's and McLaws' divisions in support of Pickett's assault. General Lee never ordered any such thing.1 After our troops were all arranged for assault General Lee rode
1 Colonel Taylor says that General Lee, in his presence, gave me orders to put Hood's and McLaws' divisions in this column of attack. This I deny, and do not suppose he will claim that any one else heard the order. If the reader will examine any of the maps of Gettysburg he will see that the withdrwal of these two divisions from their line of battle would have left half of General Lee's line of battle open and by the shortest route to his line of supplies and retreat. Fully one-half of his army would have been in the column of assault and half of Meade's army would have been free to sally out on the flank of our column and we should have been destroyed on that field of battle beyond a doubt, Of course, if we assume that Meade would place his army in line of battle and allow us to select our point of attack, we could have massed against it and rushed through. But this assumption would be absurd. The only way for those divisions to have been moved was to have attacked the heights in front. But this attack had been tried and failed the day before. If Pickett had shown signs of getting a lodgment, I should, of course, have pushed the other divisions forward to support the attack. But I saw that he was going to pieces at once. When Colonel Freemantle (Her Majesty's service) approached me (see his account) and congratulated me on Pickett's apparent success, I told him that his line would break in a moment — that he was not strong enough to make a serious impression. My assertion was correct. To have rushed forward my two divisions, then carrying bloody noses from their terrible conflict the day before, would have been madness.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.