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THE THIRD DAY.
The third day's battle was again to be commenced by the Confederates. At midnight a council of war had been held by the enemy, at which it was determined that the Confederates would probably renew the attack at daylight on the following morning, and that for that day the Yankees had better act purely on the defensive.
The enemy's position on the mountain was well-nigh impregnable, for there was no conceivable advance or approach that could not be raked and crossed with the artillery. All the heights and every advantageous position along the entire line where artillery could be massed or a battery planted, frowned down on the Confederates through brows of brass and iron. On the slopes of the mountain was to occur one of the most terrific combats of modern times, in which more than two hundred cannon were belching forth their thunders at one time, and nearly two hundred thousand muskets were being discharged as rapidly as men hurried with excitement and passion could load them.
Early in the morning preparations were made for a general attack along the enemy's whole line, while a large force was to be concentrated against his centre, with the view of retaking the heights captured and abandoned the day before. Longstreet massed a large number of long-range guns (fifty-five in number) upon the crest of a slight eminence just in front of Perry's and Wilcox's brigades, and a little to the left of the heights, upon which they were to open. Hill massed some sixty guns along the hill in front of Posey's and Mahone's brigades, and almost immediately in front of the heights. At twelve o'clock, while the signal-flags were waving swift intelligence along our lines, the shrill sound of a Whitworth gun broke the silence, and the cannonading commenced.
The enemy replied with terrific spirit, from their batteries posted along the heights. Never had been heard such tremendous artillery firing in the war. The warm and sultry air was hideous with discord. Dense columns of smoke hung over the beautiful valley. The lurid flame leaps madly from the cannon's mouth, each moment the roar grows more intense; now
chime in volleys of small arms. For one hour and a half this most terrific fire was continued, during which time the shrieking of shells, the crashing of falling timber, the fragments of rock flying through the air, shattered from the cliffs by solid shot, the heavy mutterings from the valley between the opposing armies, the splash of bursting shrapnel, and the fierce neighing of wounded artillery-horses made a picture terribly grand and sublime.
But there was now to occur a scene of moral sublimity and heroism unequalled in the war. The storming party was moved up-Pickett's division in advance, supported on the right by Wilcox's brigade, and on the left by Heth's division, commanded by Pettigrew. With steady measured tread the division of Pickett advanced upon the foe. Never did troops enter a fight in such splendid order. Their banners floated defiantly in the breeze as they pressed across the plain. The flags which had waved amid the wild tempest of battle at Gaines' Mill, Frazer's Farm, and Manassas, never rose more proudly. Kemper, with his gallant men, leads the right; Garnett brings up the left; and the veteran Armistead, with his brave troops, moves forward in support. The distance is more than half a mile. As they advance the enemy fire with great rapidity-shell and solid shot give place to grape and canister the very earth quivers beneath the heavy roar-wide gaps are made in this regiment and that brigade. The line. moves onward, cannons roaring, grape and canister plunging and ploughing through the ranks, bullets whizzing as thick as hail-stones in winter, and men falling as leaves fall in the blasts of autumn.
As Pickett got well under the enemy's fire, our batteries ceased firing, for want, it is said, of ammunition. It was a fearful moment-one in which was to be tested the pride and mettle of glorious Virginia. Into the sheets of artillery fire advanced the unbroken lines of Picketts' brave Virginians. They have reached the Emmettsburg road, and here they meet a severe fire from heavy masses of the enemy's infantry, posted behind the stone fence, while their artillery, now free from the annoyance of our artillery, turn their whole fire upon this devoted band. Still they remain firm. Now again they advance. They reach the works-the contest rages with intense
fury-men fight almost hand to hand-the red cross and the "stars and stripes" wave defiantly in close proximity. A Federal officer dashes forward in front of his shrinking columns, and with flashing sword, urges them to stand. General Pickett, seeing the splendid valor of his troops, moves among them as if courting death. The noble Garnett is dead, Armistead wounded, and the brave Kemper, with hat in hand, still cheering on his men falls from his horse. But Kemper and Armistead have already planted their banners in the enemy's works. The glad shout of victory is already heard.*
But where is Pettigrew's division--where are the supports? The raw troops had faltered and the gallant Pettigrew himself had been wounded in vain attempts to rally them. Alas, the victory was to be relinquished again. Pickett is left alone to contend with the masses of the enemy now pouring in upon him on every side. Now the enemy move around strong flanking bodies of infantry, and are rapidly gaining Pickett's The order is given to fall back, and our men commence the movement, doggedly contesting for every inch of ground. The enemy press heavily our retreating line, and many noble spirits who had passed safely through the fiery ordeal of the advance and charge, now fall on the right and on the left.
This division of Virginia troops, small at first, with ranks now torn and shattered, most of the officers killed or wounded, no valor able to rescue victory from such a grasp, annihilation or capture inevitable, slowly, reluctantly, fell back. It was
* A correspondent of a Yankee paper thus alludes to the traces of the struggle at the Cemetry:
"Monuments and headstones lie here and there overturned. Graves, once carefully tended by some loving hand, have been trampled by horses' feet until the vestiges of verdure have disappeared. The neat and well-trained shrubbery has vanished, or is but a broken and withered mass of tangled brushwood. On one grave lies a dead artillery horse fast decomposing under a July sun. On another lie the torn garments of some wounded soldier, stained and saturated with his blood. Across a small headstone, bearing the words "To the memory of our beloved child, Mary," lie the fragments of a musket, shattered by a cannon shot. In the centre of the space enclosed by an iron fence and containing a half-dozen graves, a few rails are still standing where they were erected by our soldiers and served to support the shelter tents of a bivouacking squad. A family shaft has been broken to fragments by a shell, and only the base remains, with a portion of the inscription thereon. Stone after stone felt the effect of the feu d'enfer that was poured upon the crest of the hill. Cannon thundered, and foot and horse soldiers trampled over the sleeping-places of the dead. Other dead were added to those who are resting there, and many a wounded soldier still lives to remember the contest above those silent graves."
not given to these few remaining brave men to accomplish human impossibilities. The enemy dared not follow them beyond their works. But the day was already lost.
The field was covered with Confederates slowly and sulkily retiring in small broken parties under a heavy fire of artillery. There was no panic. Never did a commanding general behave better in such trying circumstances than did Lee. He was truly great in disaster. An English colonel who witnessed the fight, says: "I joined General Lee, who had, in the meanwhile, come to the front on becoming aware of the disaster. 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-the whole of his staff being engaged in a similar manner further to the rear. His face, which is always placid and cheerful, did not show signs of the slightest disappointment, care, or annoyance, and he was addressing to every soldier he met a few words of encouragement, such as, 'All this will come right in the end; we'll talk it over afterwards; but, in the meantime, all good men must rally. We want all good and true men just now,' &c. He spoke to all the wounded men that passed him, and the slightly wounded he exhorted to bind up their hurts and take up a musket' in this emergency. Very few failed to answer his appeal, and I saw many badly wounded men take off their hats and cheer him."
"It is difficult," says the same intelligent spectator, "to exaggerate the critical state of affairs as they appeared about this time. If the enemy or their general had shown any enterprise there is no saying what might have happened. General Lee and his officers were evidently fully impressed with a sense of the situation; yet there was much less noise, fuss, or confusion of orders, than at any ordinary field day; the men, as they were rallied in the wood, were brought up in detachments and lay down quiet and coolly in the positions assigned to them."
At night the Confederate army held the same position from which it had driven the enemy two days previous. The starry sky hung over a field of hideous carnage. In the series of engagements a few pieces of artillery were captured by the Confederates and nearly seven thousand prisoners taken, two thousand of whom were paroled on the field. Our loss in killed,
wounded, and prisoners, was quite ten thousand. The enemy's loss probably exceeded our own, as the Yankees were closely crowded on the hills, and devoured by our artillery fire. The information of the enemy's loss is perhaps most accurately obtained from the bulletin furnished by his Surgeon-general, which stated that he had something over twelve thousand Yankee wounded under his control. Counting one killed for four wounded, and making some allowance for a large class of wounded men who had not come under the control of the officers referred to, we are justified in stating the enemy's loss in casualties at Gettysburg as somewhere between fifteen and eighteen thousand. Our loss, slighter by many thousands in comparison, was yet frightful enough. On our side Pickett's division had been engaged in the hottest work of the day, and the havoc in its ranks was appaling. Its losses on this day are famous, and should be commemorated in detail. Every brigadier in the division was killed or wounded. Out of twentyfour regimental officers, only two escaped unhurt. The Ninth Virginia went in two hundred and fifty strong and came out with only thirty-eight men.
Conspicuous in our list of casualties was the death of Majorgeneral Pender. He had borne a distinguished part in every engagement of this army, and was wounded on several occasions while leading his command with admirable gallantry and ability. Brigadier-generals Barksdale and Garnett were killed, and Brigadier-general Semmes mortally wounded, while leading their troops with the courage that had always distinguished them. The brave and generous spirit of Barksdale had expired, where he preferred to die, on the ensanguined field of battle. Of this "haughty rebel," who had fallen within their lines, the Yankees told with devilish satisfaction the story that his end was that of extreme agony, and his last words were to crave, as a dying boon, a cup of water, and a stretcher from an ambulance boy. The letter of a Yankee officer testifies that the brave and suffering hero declared with his last breath that he was proud of the cause he died fighting for; proud of the manner in which he received his death; and confident that his countrymen were invincible.
The fearful trial of a retreat from a position far in the enemy's country was now reserved for General Lee. Happily