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from Hill's -- Wilcox's, Perry's, and Pettigrew's. The whole formed a mass of about ten thousand men. If they broke the Federal line in two, then every supportirg Confederate was to follow, while the rest turned the flanks. If they failed, then the battle must be lost.
Hour after hour passed by. But it was not till well past one that Longstreet opened fire with a hundred and forty guns. Hunt had seventy-seven ready to reply. But after firing for half an hour he ceased, wishing to reserve his ammunition for use against the charging infantry. This encouraged the Confederate gunners, who thought they had silenced him. They then continued for some time, preparing the way for the charge, but firing too high and doing little execution against the Federal infantry, who were lying down, mostly under cover. Hunt's guns were more exposed and formed better targets; so some of them suffered severely: none more than those of Battery A, Fourth U. S. Artillery. This gallant battery had three of its limbers blown up and replaced. Wheels were also smashed to pieces and guns put out of action, till only a single gun, with men enough to handle it, was left with only a single officer. This heroic young lieutenant, Alonzo H. Cushing (brother to the naval Cushing who destroyed the Albemarle), then ran his gun up to the fence and fired his last round through it into Pickett's men as he himself fell dead.
Pickett advanced at three o'clock, to the breathless admiration of both friend and foe. He had a mile of open ground to cover. But his three lines marched forward as steadily and blithely as if the occasion was a gala one and they were on parade. The Confederate bombardment ceased. The Federal guns and rifles held their fire. Fate hung in silence on those gallant lines of gray. Then the Federal skirmishers down in the valley began fitfully firing; and the waiting masses on the Federal slopes began to watch more intently still. “Here they come! Here comes the infantry!” The blue ranks stirred a little as the men felt their cartridge boxes and the sockets of their bayonets. The calm warnings of the officers could be heard all down the line of Gibbon's magnificent division, which stood straight in Pickett's path. “Steady, men, steady! Don't fire yet!”
For a very few, tense minutes Pickett's division disappeared in an undulation of the ground. Then, at less than point-blank range, it seemed to spring out of the very earth, no longer in three lines but one solid mass of rushing gray, cresting, like a tidal
wave, to break in fury on the shore. Instantly, as if in answer to a single word, Hunt's guns and Gibbon's rifles crashed out together, and shot, shell, canister, and bullet cut gaping wounds deep into the dense gray ranks. Still, the wave broke; and, from its storm-blown top, one furious tongue surged over the breastwork and through the hedge of bayonets. It came from Armistead's brigade of stark Virginians. He led it on; and, with a few score men, reached the highwater mark of that last spring tide.
When he fell the tide of battle turned; turned everywhere upon that stricken field; turned throughout the whole campaign; turned even in the war itself.
As Pickett's men fell back they were swept by scythe-like fire from every gun and rifle that could mow them down. Not a single mounted officer remained; and of all the brave array that Pickett led three-fourths fell killed or wounded. The other fourth returned undaunted still, but only as the wreckage of a storm.
Lee's loss exceeded forty per cent of his command. Meade's loss fell short of thirty. But Meade was quite unable to pursue at once when Lee retired on the evening of the fourth. The opposing