Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/131

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Gettysburg Picket? s Charge. 127

perform it with alacrity and cheerfulness, even to annihilation, than were the men of Pickett's division on that day. With undisturbed fortitude and even with ardent impatience did they await the com- mand for the assault. The quiet of the day had been unbroken save on our extreme left, where in the early morning there had been some severe fighting; but this was soon over, and now all on both sides were at rest, waiting in full expectancy of the great assault, which the enemy, as well as we, knew was to be delivered. The hours commenced to go wearily by. The tension on our troops had become great. The midday sun had reached the zenith, and poured its equal and impartial rays between the opposite ridges that bounded the intervening valley running North and South. Yet no sound or stir broke the ominous silence. Both armies were waiting spectators for the great event. Upwards of one hundred thousand unengaged soldiers were waiting as from a grand amphitheatre to witness the most magnificent heroic endeavor in arms that ever im- mortalized man. Still the hours lingered on. Why the delay? There is a serious difference of opinion between the general in chief and his most trusted lieutenant general as to the wisdom of making the assault. Lee felt, from various considerations, the forced ne- cessity of fighting out the battle here, and having the utmost confi- dence in his troops he fully expected victory if the attack be made as he had ordered. Longstreet, foreseeing the great loss of assault- ing the entrenched position of the enemy and making such assault over such a distance under the concentrated fire, urges that the army should be moved beyond the enemy's left flank, with the hope of forcing him thus to abandon his stronghold or to fight us to our advantage. Longstreet pressed this view and delayed giving the necessary orders until Lee more pre-emptorily repeated his own order to make the assault. Even then Longstreet was so reluctant to carry out the orders of Lee that he placed upon Lt-Col. Alex- ander, who was in charge of the artillery on this day, the responsi- bility of virtually giving the order for its execution.

At last, in our immediate front, at i p. M., there suddenly leaped from one of our cannons a single sharp, far-reaching sound, breaking the long-continued silence and echoing along the ex- tended lines of battle and far beyond the far-off heights. All were now at a strained attention. Then quickly followed another gun. Friend and foe at once recognized that these were signal guns.