to the works and closing with the enemy in the quickest possible time—every man feeling that to halt or falter for a moment on the way was fatal.
The charge was probably as splendid as any of which history has made record.
Just as we were well over the brow of the hill, I cast my eyes to the right, and I will ever carry a vivid impression of the rapid, but steady and beautiful, movement of the advancing line of some 800 men—the greater part of whom, being to my right, were within the range of my vision—as our five Virginia
regiments, their five battle flags, borne by as many gallant color-bearers, floating in the bright sunlight of that July morning, and the battalion of sharpshooters double-quicked across the field they were unconsciously making famous.
A Federal soldier thus describes the charge:
‘The second brigade had hardly raised their heads when the cry broke out from our men, “The rebels are charging.
Here they come.”
Looking to the front I saw a splendid line of gray coming up the ravine on the run. Their left was nearly up to the bomb-proofs, and their line extended off into the smoke as far as we could see. They were coming, and coming with a rush.
We all saw that they were going straight for the Second brigade.’1
Getting within ten paces of the ends of the little ditches or traverses, which led out perpendicularly from the main trench of our breastworks some ten or fifteen paces, to my surprise I saw a negro soldier getting up from a recumbent position on the ground near my feet.
He was the first colored soldier I ever saw, and this was my first knowledge of the fact that negro troops were before us. I had not then fired my rifle, and I might easily have killed this man, but regarding him as a prisoner, I had no disposition to hurt him. Looking then directly ahead of me, within thirty feet of where I stood, I saw in the trench of the breastworks crowds of men, white
, with arms in their hands, as closely jammed and packed together as we sometimes see pedestrians on the crowded sidewalk of a city, and seemingly in great confusion and alarm.