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[416] ridges; the thunder of the cannon was deafening to the ears of all within miles of the conflict, and soon a dense volume of smoke settled down between the opposing armies, concealing each from the other. Gen. Francis A. Walker, Hancock's chief of staff, describes the effect of the Confederate artillery in these words:
The whole space behind Cemetery ridge was in a moment rendered uninhabitable. General headquarters were broken up; the supply and reserve ammunition trains were driven out; motley hordes of camp followers poured down the Baltimore pike or spread over the fields to the rear. Upon every side caissons exploded; horses were struck down by the hundreds; the air was filled with flying missiles; shells tore up the ground and then bounded for another and perhaps more deadly flight, or burst above the crouching troops and sent their ragged fragments down in deadly showers. Never had a storm so dreadful burst upon mortal man.

After enduring for a half hour the withering fire of the Confederate batteries, Meade retired eighteen of his guns from the Cemetery, when Alexander sent a note to Pickett, saying, ‘If you are coming at all, you must come at once.’ Seeking his corps commander, Pickett said, ‘General, shall I advance?’ Longstreet made no reply. Pickett saluted, and in firm voice said, ‘Sir, I shall lead my division forward;’ and he promptly ordered the charge of his own three brigades of Virginians and Heth's four of North Carolinians, Tennesseeans, Mississippians and Alabamians, under Pettigrew. These columns moved slowly from the woods that had concealed them, toward the Emmitsburg road. Trimble, with two brigades of North Carolinians, marched in the rear of Pettigrew's right. Wilcox had been ordered to guard Pickett's right with his Alabama brigade. Now 12,000 veteran infantrymen were marching, with steady step, across the 1,400 yards of open country between the contending armies. Once clear of the Confederate batteries, Pickett diverged his division to the left and moved toward the salient in Hancock's line. For a time the two opposing armies were silent spectators of this sublimely heroic advance, and not until half the ground to be gone over had been covered, did the batteries from Cemetery ridge and Round Top open on the Confederate assault, which then changed its steady pace, first to a double-quick, then to a rushing charge, closing up its ranks as they were broken by shot or shell, crossing the strong post and rail fences on the Emmitsburg road,

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