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[418] Meade's center was completely broken, and if Lee's artillery had been at hand, as ordered, Pickett would doubtless have held the captured works and forced the Federals from Cemetery ridge. A fresh line of Federal infantry soon advanced along the crest and fired, but the Confederates drove these back. Then Armistead, with his hat on the point of his uplifted saber as a guide, leaped over the stone wall, shouting, ‘Boys, we must use the cold steel. Who will follow?’ Every man obeyed the call, and the charge reached to the crest of the ridge, to seize the Federal guns; but there the leader fell, and his men retired behind the stone wall, anxiously awaiting reinforcements. Lieutenant Finley (now, 1898, Rev. George W. Finley, D. D.), looking back over the track of Pickett's bold advance, was surprised to see it marked by so few dead or wounded men. At this critical juncture an unknown voice, from the ranks, called out, ‘Retreat!’ and many turned to flee; most of them to fall under the Federal fire that followed after them. The reassured Federals swarmed in from every side and captured the 4,000 Confederates that, unsupported, were still holding the stone fences.

Pickett's columns had been moving, for at least a half hour, before Longstreet ordered Wilcox, supported by Perry, to move forward to the support of Pickett's right. These were only in time to meet the retreating fragments of Pickett's right and the fierce Federal fire that followed them. Anderson's division, of Hill's corps, stood ready to advance on Pettigrew's left, thus extending Pickett's line in that direction; McLaws was also ready to move on Wilcox's right, but Longstreet gave no orders. Had these steady veterans become the right and the left arms of Pickett's famous charge, Lee would, in all human probability, have not only held what Pickett won, but would have routed Meade's right and left from his widely broken center.

Lee, with the calmness of a trained soldier, sat his horse, on Seminary ridge, amid Alexander's batteries, and watched the charge and repulse of his heroic veterans. Colonel Fremantle, of the British army, writing from the standpoint of an eye-witness, says: ‘General Lee was perfectly sublime. He was engaged in rallying and encouraging the broken troops and was riding about a little in front of the wood, quite alone, . . . his face, ’

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