James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
last line was gained, wrote Major Peyton; the Confederate battle flag waved over his defences and the fighting over the wall became hand to hand and of the most desperate character; but more than half having already fallen, our line was found too weak to rout the enemy.1 The advancing mass was so deep and wide as to raise doubt whether the Union line could stand against its weight and momentum, but a brief contact with bayonets crossed and muskets clubbed solved this doubt. The Confederates threw down their arms as if they simultaneously realized that the battle was lost. Many surrendered while others who escaped the pursuing shots fled across the field to Seminary Ridge.2
I have never seen a more formidable attack, wrote Hancock to Meade on the day of the battle, with worse troops I should certainly have lost the day.3 Haskells detailed account confirms this judgment, as does the study of Colonel Thomas L. Livermore, who was in the battle. Meade, his face very white, the lines marked and earnest and full of care, rode up to Haskell and asked in a sharp eager voice, How is it going here? I believe, General, the enemys attack is repulsed, was the reply. What! Is the assault already repulsed? It is, sir. Thank God! exclaimed Meade.4
Lee, entirely alone, rode forward to encourage and rally his broken troops. His earlier excitement had passed and he betrayed no bitterness in his disappointment; his composure was really extraordinary and the spirit in which he
Note 1. The citations are from the only printed reports (so far as I know) of officers in Picketts divisions, O. R., XXVII, Pt. II, 385, 999. They are dated respectively July 9, 12. Major Peyton was in Garnetts, Col. Aylett in Armisteads, brigade. Pickett made a report but, at the suggestion of General Lee, destroyed it, O. R., XXVII, Pt. III, 1075; Picketts Letters, 100, 213. [back]
Note 2. T. L. Livermore, Milt. Hist. Soc., XIII, 537. [back]