Now the storming party was moved up: Pickett's division in advance, supported on the right by Wilcox's brigade and on the left by Heth's division, commanded by Pettigrew. The left of Pickett's division occupied the same ground over which Wright had passed the day before. I stood upon an eminence and watched this advance with great interest; I lad seen brave men pass over that fated valley the day before; I had witnessed their death-struggle with the foe on the opposite heights; I had observed their return with shattered ranks, a bleeding mass, but with unstained banners. Now I saw their valiant comrades prepare for the same bloody trial, and already felt that their efforts would be vain unless their supports should be as true as steel and brave as lions. Now they move forward ; with steady, measured tread, they advance upon the foe. Their banners float defiantly in the breeze, as onward in beautiful order they press across tile plain. I have never seen since the war began (and I have been in all the great fights of this army) troops enter a fight in such splendid order as did this splendid division of Pickett's. Now Pettigrew's command emerge from the woods upon Pickett's left, and sweep down the slope of the hill to the valley beneath, and some two or three hundred yards in rear of Pickett. I saw by the wavering of this line as they entered the conflict that they wanted the firmness of nerve and steadiness of tread which so characterized Pickett's men, and I felt that these men would not, could not stand the tremendous ordeal to which they would soon be subjected. These were mostly raw troops, who had been recently brought from the South, and who had, perhaps, never been under fire — who certainly had never been in any very severe fight — and I trembled for their conduct. Just as Pickett was getting well under the enemy's fire, our batteries ceased firing. This was a fearful moment for Pickett and his brave command. Why do not our guns reopen their fire? is the inquiry that rises upon every lip. Still, our batteries are silent as death! But on press Pickett's brave Virginians; and now the enemy open upon them, from more than fifty guns, a terrible fire of grape, shell, and canister. On, on they move in unbroken line, delivering a deadly fire as they advance. Now they have reached the Emmitsburg road; and here they meet a severe fire from the heavy masses of the enemy's infantry, posted behind tile stone fence; while their artillery, now free from the annoyance of our artillery, turn their whole fire upon this devoted band. Still, they remain firm. Now again they advance; they storm the stone fence; the Yankees fly. The enemy's batteries are, one by one, silenced in quick succession as Pickett's men deliver their fire at the gunners and drive them from their pieces. I see Kemper and Armistead plant their banner in the enemy's works. I hear their glad shout of victory! Let us look after Pettigrew's division. Where are they now? While the victorious shout of the gallant Virginians is still ringing in my ears, I turn my eyes to the left, and there, all over the plain, in utmost confusion, is scattered this strong division. Their line is broken ; they are flying, apparently panic-stricken, to the rear. The gallant Pettigrew is wounded; but he still retains command, and is vainly striving to rally his men. Still, the moving mass rush pell-mell to the rear;1 and Pickett is left alone to contend with the hordes of the enemy now pouring in upon him on every side. Garnett falls, killed by a Minie ball; and Kemper, the brave and chivalrous, reels under a mortal wound, and is taken to the rear. Now the enemy move around strong flanking bodies of infantry, and are rapidly gaining Pickett's rear. The order is given to fall back, and our men commence the movement, doggedly contending for every inch of ground. The enemy press heavily our retreating line, and many noble spirits who had passed safely through the fiery ordeal of the advance and charge now fall on the right and on the left. Armistead is wounded and left in the enemy's hands. At this critical moment, the shattered remnant of Wright's Georgia brigade is moved forward to cover their retreat, and the fight closes here. Our loss in this charge was very severe; and the Yankee prisoners taken acknowledge that theirs was immense.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
1 It is simple justice to brave foes to note that this imputation on Pettigrew's brigade has been proved unjust. They fought as well and held as tenaciously as any of their comrades, having all but one of their field officers killed or wounded; falling back under command of a Major. They mustered 2,800 strong on the morning of the 1st of July: at roll-call on the 4th, they numbered 835.
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.