TAKING BATTERY A
General Lewis A. Armistead
Lithographic Artist's Proof
Print Edition Only.
It was to be a great glorious assault into the center of Cemetery Ridge to shatter the heart of General George Meade's Federal Army. General Robert E. Lee assembled a force of three divisions, Pickett's, Pettigrew's and Trimble's to smash through the federal line. He gave the assignment to one of his new army division commanders, daring, dashing and perfumed General George E. Pickett.
As the southern brigades formed with fifteen thousand barrels and bayonets, General Lewis A. Armistead exclaimed, "Look at my line; it never looked better on dress parade!" General Armistead commanded one of Pickett's brigades stationed on the left flank of the division. His brigade consisting of the 9th, 14th, 38th, 53d and 57th Virginia, would advance almost a mile across open ground, passing through devastating short and long range fire.
General Pickett gave the order to advance his huge force of flashing steel, "Up, men and to your posts! Don't forget today that you are from Old Virginia." General Armistead placed himself in front of his men and while advancing cried to a sergeant in the 53d, "are you going to put those colors on the enemy's works today?" The sergeant yelled back, "I will try, sir, and if mortal man can do it, it shall be done!"
When the Federal army opened their fire, a huge moan could be heard coming up from the advancing Confederate force. One Federal brigade waited until the Southern line was within a couple of hundred yards and fired in volley. Seventeen hundred muskets went off at once. Whole regiments disappeared. A Federal artillerist later stated "We could not help hitting them at every shot." A single bursting artillery round would kill or wound 10 to 15 men. But despite this devastation the lines moved forward.
The Federal position located behind a stone fence was breeched in only one place, a nook in the fence later called the "angle". As General Armistead and the remnant of his command crossed over the stone fence they took the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle of Lt. Alonzo Cushing's Battery A, 4th U.S. artillery. Immediately a volley from Federal infantry tore into the left flank of the General and his men. Armistead was hit twice, once below the right knee and in the upper left arm. Neither wound broke any bone and should not have been fatal, but poor medical care and loss of blood would cause Armistead death on July the 5th. The words from the sergeant of the 53d to Armistead "If mortal man can do it, it shall be done" were prophetic, but their actions would also be immortalized.
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