The high tide at GettysburgPickett's charge, the subject of these lines, was made on the afternoon of the third day's battle, July 3, 1863, and ended the stubborn conflict. The author became a Confederate soldier at fifteen, in the Fourth Georgia, and fought until disabled in 1865.
A cloud possessed the hollow field,
The gathering battle's smoky shield:
Athwart the gloom the lightning flashed,
And through the cloud some horsemen dashed,
And from the heights the thunder pealed.
Then, at the brief command of Lee,
Moved out that matchless infantry,
With Pickett leading grandly down,
To rush against the roaring crown
Of those dread heights of destiny.
Far heard above the angry guns
A cry across the tumult runs,—
The voice that rang through Shiloh's woods
And Chickamauga's solitudes,
The fierce South cheering on her sons!
Ah, how the withering tempest blew
Against the front of Pettigrew!
A Khamsin wind that scorched and singed
Like that infernal flame that fringed
The British squares at Waterloo!
A thousand fell where Kemper led;
A thousand died where Garnett bled:
In blinding flame and strangling smoke
The remnant through the batteries broke
And crossed the works with Armistead.
‘Once more in Glory's van with me!’
Virginia cried to Tennessee;
‘We two together, come what may,
Shall stand upon these works to-day!’
(The reddest day in history.)