Pickett's charge. [from the Richmond, Va., times-dispatch, February 7, 1904.]The story of it as told by a member of his staff.
General was during the Charge.—Why the attack failed.
The following statement of what I saw and heard on the third day at Gettysburg was in the main written about thirty years ago, and was rewritten for publication in 1903, but the issue of it was prevented until now by an attack of gout, from which I suffered. I earnestly wish that it had come out before the death of my corps commander, the brave General Longstreet. Early in the morning Pickett's Virginians, forty-seven hundred muskets, with officers added, five thousand strong, moved from the camping ground of the second day, two miles in rear, to the battlefield, and took position behind the hill from which we charged later in the day. Then came the order from headquaaters: ‘Colonel E. P. Alexander will command the entire artillery in action to-day, and Brigadier-General Pendleton will have charge of the reserve artillery ammunition of the army.’ Later, General Pickett was informed from General Longstreet's headquarters that Colonel Alexander would give the order when the charge should begin. Several hours later the batteries on both sides opened. Had this occurred at night, it would have delighted the eye more than any fire works ever seen.
229] looking over the ground in our front, and found General Pickett talking to a strange officer, to whom he introduced me saying: ‘This is Colonel Gordon, once opposed to me in the San Juan affair, but now on our side.’ In explanation of this I will state here that the San Juan affair occurred on the Pacific coast when General Pickett was captain in the United States army, and when he held the island against three English ships of war and 1,000 English regulars, he having one company of United States infantry and part of another company. General Winfield Scott was sent out by this government to settle the trouble. After the introduction, Colonel Gordon, who was an Englishman, continued speaking to General Pickett, and said: ‘Pickett, my men are not going up to-day.’ The General said— ‘But, Gordon, they must go up; you must make them go up.’ Colonel Gordon answered:
‘You know, Pickett, I will go as far with you as any other man, if only for old acquaintance sake, but my men have until lately been down at the seashore, only under the fire of heavy guns from ships, but for the last day or two they have lost heavily under infantry fire and are very sore, and they will not go up to-day.’ This officer was on foot, there was no horse in sight, and he must have come from Pettigrew's Brigade on our left, only some 200 yards distant. I have written and asked about the command to which this officer belonged, but have met with no success. Three times General Pickett sent to Colonel Alexander, asking: ‘Is it time to charge?’ The last messenger brought back this answer: ‘Tell General Pickett I think we have silenced eight of the enemy's guns, and now is the time to charge.’ (Some Federal officers after the war informed me that they had only run these guns back to cool.)