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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/357

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North Carolina and Virginia. 349


We were there, and by reason of our position on the field, we saw that battle, as we never saw any other. We saw the charges of Pickett's, Pettigrew's and Pender's Divisions. We saw some of Pickett's men go over the enemy's works, and into their lines. We did not think then, and do not think now, that Pettigrew's and Pender's went so far, and we know this was the consensus of opinion of those around us at the time.

But be this as it may; the world's verdict is, that Pickett's men went as far as men could go, and did all that men could do. Mr. Charles Francis Adams has recently written of them, that the vaunted charge of Napoleon's " Old Guard" at Waterloo did not compare with that of Pickett's men, and was "as boys' play beside it."

General John B. Gordon, of Georgia, perhaps the most distin- guished Confederate officer now living, who was at Gettysburg, has very recently written, that the "point where Pickett's Virginians, under Kemper, Garnett and Armistead, in their immortal charge, swept over the rock wall, has been appropriately designated by the government as the high water mark of the rebellion" And we be- lieve this will be the verdict of history for all time.

Since there has been so much discussion on this point, and some of it, we think, both unfortunate and intemperate, we propose to consider this claim calmly and dispassionately, not from what we saw, or what we and others may have thought at the time of the battle, or may think now, but from the official reports of the commanding officers^ written only a few days after the battle. These reports are the best evidence, and must, and will be accepted, as conclusive of what then occurred. We have read so much of all these reports, Confederate and Federal, as we could find published, and as would throw light on this question, and we propose to make such extracts from the most important as we think should settle this controversy for all time. It is proper to say in this connection, that the state- ments contained in these reports were accepted as true at the time, and remained so for thirty years. History, both at the North and at the South, has been based on them, and it seems to us remark- able, that this controversy should have arisen so long after the hap- pening of the events as thus established. But the controversy has now arisen, and hence the necessity for appealing to the record to settle it. The question is, which troops went "farthest to the front," i. e., penetrated the enemy's works farthest, on the 3rd day of July,