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‘  Prescott, whose regiment was then under the hottest fire. Understanding it to be a peremptory order to retire then, he replied, “I don't want to retire; I am not ready to retire; I can hold this place,” and he made good his assertion. Being informed that he misunderstood the order, which was only to tell him how to retire when it became necessary, he was satisfied, and he and his command held their ground manfully.’1 As a result, Colonel Prescott was severely wounded. At 4 A. M. the 2d Mass. Infantry (Lieut.-Col. C. R. Mudge) was ordered to advance from behind its breastworks and charge, in company with the 27th Indiana, a Confederate force which had taken possession of their unoccupied breastworks and which artillery had failed to disperse. In this charge Lieutenant-Colonel Mudge fell dead and four successive standard bearers were struck down, though the charge was but of four hundred yards and took but twenty minutes time. There fell also in this charge, or were mortally wounded, Capts. Thomas R. Robeson and Thomas B. Fox and Lieut. H. V. D. Stone.2 The works were not actually recaptured until several hours later, when the 2d Mass. occupied them again. The tree under which this fight took place is now in possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society. General Stoneman said once, ‘No regiment that ever served with me can show a better record than the 2d Mass.’3 In the finest single incident of the battle, and perhaps of the war, the charge of Pickett's men upon the centre of the Union army and its repulse, the 2d Corps, containing many Massachusetts regiments, bore the first brunt of the attack. After two hours of what was, up to that time, the most formidable cannonading of the war,—more than one hundred pieces of artillery concentrated on one spot,—when Pickett's division rushed, ‘with magnificent courage,’ up the long slope, in a charge which still excites the admiration of every visitor to the green hills of Gettysburg, there was a moment when the very fate of the Union was actually at stake. ‘In the very centre of the Union position crowning Cemetery Ridge wave the flags ’
1 Official War Records, 43, p. 611.
2 See memoirs in Harvard Memorial Biographies, II, 122, 151, 261, 328.
3 For Lieut.-Col. C. F. Morse's graphic report of this action, see Official War Records, 43, p. 816. In the report of Col. S Colgrove, commanding brigade, he says, ‘I wish to state here that great credit is due the officers and men of Co. F, 2d Mass., as skirmishers. They advanced into the woods, where it was impossible to tell friend from foe, and before they scarcely knew it were in the midst of a brigade of the enemy, from whom they captured twenty-three prisoners, and brought them in, with a loss of only two captured on their side’ (p. 813).
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