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‘ [149] within forty yards of the stone wall,’ says Lieutenant Whitehead, ‘came all along the line the order of charge, and charge we did. From behind the fence the Yankee infantry rose and poured into our ranks a murderous fire. Garnett's brigade and Kemper's had almost entirely disappeared; their brave commanders, their gallant officers, with hundreds of the rank and file, were stretched on the field, and it remained for Armistead's men to finish the work. After a desperate fight the Yankees began to give way; and as they fell back our men rushed forward to the stone wall with unfaltering steps, Armistead still leading the charge.’

The advance line halted here, but only for an instant. The veteran Armistead took in with the eye of a trained soldier the whole situation, and saw in a flash that to halt there meant ruin and defeat. Just ahead, bristling with cannon, was Cemetery Ridge. Just beyond it Hancock, ‘a foeman worthy of his steel,’ was hurrying up his heavy reserves. On the right and on the left the enemy's lines were still intact. On both flanks fierce assaults would soon be made on Pickett's men. ‘Colonel,’ said Armistead to the commanding officer of the Fifty-third, ‘we cannot stay here.’

A word to Martin was enough. ‘Forward with the colors,’ he cried, and over the wall they went, Armistead and Martin; and with them went a gallant band resolved that day to conquer or die. The flag of the Fifty-third regiment, borne by Lieutenant Carter, flashed like a meteor in the van. The indomitable Armistead, his hat on the point of his sword, towered before them like a pillar of fire. ‘Follow me, boys; give them the cold steel.’ A hundred and fifty undaunted men followed their chief.

They left behind them the stone wall. They passed the earth works. They seized the cannon that, double shotted at ten yards distance, had torn our ranks with canister. Victory seemed within their grasp. But alas! the support they looked for never came. In the nick of time Hancock's reserves were hurried to the front. They came on, he says, ‘four lines deep,’ and firing at close range, poured into the little band that followed Armistead a destructive volley. In that ‘hell of fire,’ as Bilharz says, ‘nothing could live.’ The intrepid Martin fell maimed for life. Forty-two of his brave Virginians lay dead around him. And there,

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Lewis A. Armistead (5)
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