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American Heros

Gouverneur Morris
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. PARIS. AUGUST 10, 1792. Justum et ...

The General Armstrong Privateer
We have fought such a fight for a day and a night As m...

Hampton Roads
Then far away to the south uprose A little feathe...

Francis Parkman
(1822-1893) He told the red man's story; far and wide...

Lieutenant Cushing And The Ram Albemarle
God give us peace! Not such as lulls to sleep, But...

The brilliant historian of the English people [*] has written...

The Battle Of New Orleans
The heavy fog of morning Still hid the plain from...

The Death Of Stonewall Jackson
Like a servant of the Lord, with his bible and his sword...

We are but warriors for the working-day; Our gayne...

General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign
What flag is this you carry Along the sea and sho...

The Battle Of Trenton
And such they are--and such they will be found: No...

Robert Gould Shaw
Brave, good, and true, I see him stand before me n...

The Storming Of Stony Point
In their ragged regimentals Stood the old Contin...

King's Mountain
Our fortress is the good greenwood, Our tent the ...

The Flag-bearer
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;...

The Burning Of The Philadelphia
And say besides, that in Aleppo once, Where a mali...

Sheridan At Cedar Creek
Inspired repulsed battalions to engage, And taught...

O captain. My captain. Our fearful trip is done; T...

Daniel Boone And The Founding Of Kentucky
... Boone lived hunting up to ninety; And, what's s...

Remember The Alamo
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier'...

The Charge At Gettysburg

For the Lord
On the whirlwind is abroad;
In the earthquake he has spoken;
He has smitten with his thunder
The iron walls asunder,
And the gates of brass are broken!

With bray of the trumpet,
And roll of the drum,
And keen ring of bugle
The cavalry come:
Sharp clank the steel scabbards,
The bridle-chains ring,
And foam from red nostrils
The wild chargers fling!

Tramp, tramp o'er the greensward
That quivers below,
Scarce held by the curb bit
The fierce horses go!
And the grim-visaged colonel,
With ear-rending shout,
Peals forth to the squadrons
The order, "Trot Out"!
--Francis A. Durivage.

The battle of Chancellorsville marked the zenith of Confederate good
fortune. Immediately afterward, in June, 1863, Lee led the victorious
army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania. The South was now the
invader, not the invaded, and its heart beat proudly with hopes of
success; but these hopes went down in bloody wreck on July 4, when word
was sent to the world that the high valor of Virginia had failed at last
on the field of Gettysburg, and that in the far West Vicksburg had been
taken by the army of the "silent soldier."

At Gettysburg Lee had under him some seventy thousand men, and his
opponent, Meade, about ninety thousand. Both armies were composed mainly
of seasoned veterans, trained to the highest point by campaign after
campaign and battle after battle; and there was nothing to choose
between them as to the fighting power of the rank and file. The Union
army was the larger, yet most of the time it stood on the defensive;
for the difference between the generals, Lee and Meade, was greater
than could be bridged by twenty thousand men. For three days the battle
raged. No other battle of recent time has been so obstinate and so
bloody. The victorious Union army lost a greater percentage in killed
and wounded than the allied armies of England, Germany, and the
Netherlands lost at Waterloo. Four of its seven corps suffered each a
greater relative loss than befell the world-renowned British infantry
on the day that saw the doom of the French emperor. The defeated
Confederates at Gettysburg lost, relatively, as many men as the defeated
French at Waterloo; but whereas the French army became a mere rabble,
Lee withdrew his formidable soldiery with their courage unbroken, and
their fighting power only diminished by their actual losses in the

The decisive moment of the battle, and perhaps of the whole war, was
in the afternoon of the third day, when Lee sent forward his choicest
troops in a last effort to break the middle of the Union line. The
center of the attacking force was Pickett's division, the flower of the
Virginia infantry; but many other brigades took part in the assault, and
the column, all told, numbered over fifteen thousand men. At the same
time, the Confederates attacked the Union left to create a diversion.
The attack was preceded by a terrific cannonade, Lee gathering one

hundred and fifteen guns, and opening a fire on the center of the Union
line. In response, Hunt, the Union chief of artillery, and Tyler, of
the artillery reserves, gathered eighty guns on the crest of the gently
sloping hill, where attack was threatened. For two hours, from one till
three, the cannonade lasted, and the batteries on both sides suffered
severely. In both the Union and Confederate lines caissons were blown up
by the fire, riderless horses dashed hither and thither, the dead lay in
heaps, and throngs of wounded streamed to the rear. Every man lay down
and sought what cover he could. It was evident that the Confederate
cannonade was but a prelude to a great infantry attack, and at three
o'clock Hunt ordered the fire to stop, that the guns might cool, to be
ready for the coming assault. The Confederates thought that they had
silenced the hostile artillery, and for a few minutes their firing
continued; then, suddenly, it ceased, and there was a lull.

The men on the Union side who were not at the point directly menaced
peered anxiously across the space between the lines to watch the next
move, while the men in the divisions which it was certain were about
to be assaulted, lay hugging the ground and gripping their muskets,
excited, but confident and resolute. They saw the smoke clouds rise
slowly from the opposite crest, where the Confederate army lay, and the
sunlight glinted again on the long line of brass and iron guns which had
been hidden from view during the cannonade. In another moment, out of
the lifting smoke there appeared, beautiful and terrible, the picked
thousands of the Southern army coming on to the assault. They advanced
in three lines, each over a mile long, and in perfect order. Pickett's
Virginians held the center, with on their left the North Carolinians
of Pender and Pettigrew, and on their right the Alabama regiments of
Wilcox; and there were also Georgian and Tennessee regiments in the
attacking force. Pickett's division, however, was the only one able to
press its charge home. After leaving the woods where they started, the
Confederates had nearly a mile and a half to go in their charge. As the
Virginians moved, they bent slightly to the left, so as to leave a gap
between them and the Alabamians on the right.

The Confederate lines came on magnificently. As they crossed the
Emmetsburg Pike the eighty guns on the Union crest, now cool and in good
shape, opened upon them, first with shot and then with shell. Great gaps
were made every second in the ranks, but the gray-clad soldiers closed
up to the center, and the color-bearers leaped to the front, shaking
and waving the flags. The Union infantry reserved their fire until the
Confederates were within easy range, when the musketry crashed out with
a roar, and the big guns began to fire grape and canister. On came the
Confederates, the men falling by hundreds, the colors fluttering in
front like a little forest; for as fast as a color-bearer was shot
some one else seized the flag from his hand before it fell. The North
Carolinians were more exposed to the fire than any other portion of
the attacking force, and they were broken before they reached the line.
There was a gap between the Virginians and the Alabama troops, and this
was taken advantage of by Stannard's Vermont brigade and a demi-brigade
under Gates, of the 20th New York, who were thrust forward into it.
Stannard changed front with his regiments and fell on Pickett's forces
in flank, and Gates continued the attack. When thus struck in the flank,
the Virginians could not defend themselves, and they crowded off toward
the center to avoid the pressure. Many of them were killed or captured;
many were driven back; but two of the brigades, headed by General
Armistead, forced their way forward to the stone wall on the crest,
where the Pennsylvania regiments were posted under Gibbon and Webb.

The Union guns fired to the last moment, until of the two batteries
immediately in front of the charging Virginians every officer but one
had been struck. One of the mortally wounded officers was young Cushing,
a brother of the hero of the Albemarle fight. He was almost cut in two,
but holding his body together with one hand, with the other he fired his
last gun, and fell dead, just as Armistead, pressing forward at the head
of his men, leaped the wall, waving his hat on his sword. Immediately
afterward the battle-flags of the foremost Confederate regiments crowned
the crest; but their strength was spent. The Union troops moved forward
with the bayonet, and the remnant of Pickett's division, attacked on all
sides, either surrendered or retreated down the hill again. Armistead
fell, dying, by the body of the dead Cushing. Both Gibbon and Webb
were wounded. Of Pickett's command two thirds were killed, wounded or
captured, and every brigade commander and every field officer, save one,
fell. The Virginians tried to rally, but were broken and driven again
by Gates, while Stannard repeated, at the expense of the Alabamians, the
movement he had made against the Virginians, and, reversing his front,
attacked them in flank. Their lines were torn by the batteries in front,
and they fell back before the Vermonter's attack, and Stannard reaped a
rich harvest of prisoners and of battle-flags.

The charge was over. It was the greatest charge in any battle of
modern times, and it had failed. It would be impossible to surpass
the gallantry of those that made it, or the gallantry of those that
withstood it. Had there been in command of the Union army a general
like Grant, it would have been followed by a counter-charge, and in all
probability the war would have been shortened by nearly two years; but
no countercharge was made.

As the afternoon waned, a fierce cavalry fight took place on the Union
right. Stuart, the famous Confederate cavalry commander, had moved
forward to turn the Union right, but he was met by Gregg's cavalry, and
there followed a contest, at close quarters, with "the white arm." It
closed with a desperate melee, in which the Confederates, charged under
Generals Wade Hampton and Fitz Lee, were met in mid career by the Union
generals Custer and McIntosh. All four fought, saber in hand, at the
head of their troopers, and every man on each side was put into the
struggle. Custer, his yellow hair flowing, his face aflame with the
eager joy of battle, was in the thick of the fight, rising in his
stirrups as he called to his famous Michigan swordsmen: "Come on, you
Wolverines, come on!" All that the Union infantry, watching eagerly
from their lines, could see, was a vast dust-cloud where flakes of
light shimmered as the sun shone upon the swinging sabers. At last the
Confederate horsemen were beaten back, and they did not come forward
again or seek to renew the combat; for Pickett's charge had failed, and
there was no longer hope of Confederate victory.

When night fell, the Union flags waved in triumph on the field of
Gettysburg; but over thirty thousand men lay dead or wounded, strewn
through wood and meadow, on field and hill, where the three days' fight
had surged.

Next: General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign

Previous: The Death Of Stonewall Jackson

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