Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pickett's Charge: a thing of beauty???

Below, a member of the 107th New York Volunteers (Lieutenant Colonel William F. Fox) describes what he saw as General Pickett's division emerged from the tree line and began their infamous charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. In his description, he uses the word "beautiful" to describe the charge -- how ironic that something that resulted in so much loss of life could at the same time be "beautiful".

[Excerpted from Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg]

"It was a beautiful sight to see these long lines of men with bayonets fixed and glistening. From right to left a wave-like motion ran along the moving columns as they tramped down the sloping hillside into the valley. But let us turn to the sterner aspects of this scene. More... All our batteries now open on the advancing Confederates; their ranks are ploughed with shot and shell; great breaches are made in their columns, but they close up touching toward the centre. We are getting even with them for the reception they gave us at Fredericksburg.

The path of this charge is strewn with the fallen, the centre of contact is piled with Rebel dead, and now what remains of the 14,000 men who started out, either yields or runs back towards the ridge whence they came. The struggle has been terrible; the victory is complete.

The position of the Fifty-seventh was so far to the left that the charging column did not come up to it, except those who dropped their guns and came in as prisoners of war. Our view of the whole charge and repulse was superb. We felt sure that such an attack could not succeed, though it was not as light a matter as our confidence made it. All manner of fun and laughter and ridiculous speeches went the rounds. " Come on, Johnnie, we long to embrace you," " They must be hungry for lead," " As they drop on our bayonets we will help them to the rear," " See them skedaddle," — indeed anything that could be thought of to heighten the occasion was contributed.

Our losses in this battle were: 4 men killed, 2 officers and 26 men wounded, and 2 men missing, making a total of 34, Captain Mott and Lieutenant Hall were among the wounded."

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