Copyright, 1895, by Harper & Brothers. All Rights Reserved.
||NEW YORK, TUESDAY, MAY 28, 1895.
||FIVE CENTS A COPY.
|VOL. XVI.—NO. 813.
||TWO DOLLARS A YEAR.
HEROES OF AMERICA.
THE CHARGE AT GETTYSBURG.
BY THE HONORABLE THEODORE ROOSEVELT.
he battle of Chancellorsville marked the zenith of Confederate good fortune. Immediately afterwards, in June, 1863, Lee led the victorious Army of Northern Virginia north 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 4th, 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 years 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 mighty 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 field.
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 kernel of the attacking force was Pickett's division, the flower of the Virginian infantry, but many other brigades took part in the assault, and the attacking column, all told, numbered over fifteen thousand men. At the same time Longstreet's Confederate forces 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 terrible fire on the centre of the Union line. In response, the Union chief of artillery gathered eighty guns along on the crest of the gently sloping hill where attack was threatened. For two hours, from one to three, there was a terrific cannonade, 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, the Union chief of artillery, 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 Union 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 above the opposite crest, where the Confederate army lay, and the sunlight glinted again on the long line of brass and iron guns which had