James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
wrote in his report, the heaviest artillery fire I have ever known. But it did little damage. The Union soldiers lay under the protection of stone walls, swells of the ground and earthworks and the projectiles of the enemy passed over their heads, sweeping the open ground in their rear. Hancock with his staff, his corps flag flying, rode deliberately along the front of his line and, by his coolness and his magnificent presence, inspired his men with courage and determination. One of his brigadiers, an old neighbor, said to him, General the corps commander ought not to risk his life in that way. Hancock replied, There are times when a corps commanders life does not count.1 For an hour and a half this raging cannonade was kept up, when Meade, knowing that it was preliminary to an assault and desiring to lure the Confederates on, gave the order to cease firing, in which action he had been anticipated by Hunt, chief of the Union artillery, because his ammunition was running low.2
Meades ruse was successful. Longstreet was inclined to think that the Confederate fire had been effective,3 and Alexander, who commanded the Confederate artillery, felt sure that the enemy was feeling the punishment.4 Pickett, who was to lead the attack, rode up to Longstreet for orders. I found him, Pickett wrote, like a great lion at bay. I have never seen him so grave and troubled. For several minutes after I had saluted him he looked at me without speaking. Then in an agonized voice he said: Pickett, I am being crucified at the thought of the sacrifice of life which this attack will make. I have instructed Alexander
Note 1. Letter of T. L. Livermore, March 30, 1914. I acknowledge great indebtedness to Col. Livermore for his many papers and for intelligence conveyed in his letters and conversation. [back]