Reminiscences of Lee and of Gettysburg
By W. Gart Johnson, 1893
Orlando, Fla., July 18, 1893.
It was on the morning of the 3rd of July, 1863, at Gettysburg. On the evening before Hood and McLaw's divisions of Longstreet's corps, on the right wing, had driven the enemy from all his positions on the open plain to the stronghold of Cemetery Ridge. My company (C, 18th Mississippi), with others, was occupying the extreme front picket line in direct range of the sharpshooters. We were in the edge of an apple orchard. Adjutant Harmon, of the 13th Mississippi, and I were hugging a pile of rubbish, anything to hide behind, that we had thrown together, when Gens. Lee and Longstreet—on foot, no aids, orderlies or couriers, fifteen or twenty steps apart, field glasses in hand—came walking past us, stopping now and then to take observations. They were arranging, as we soon found out, for the famous charge of Pickett's division. As Gen. Lee halted in a few feet of us, knowing the imminent danger he was in, one of us said, "Gen. Lee, you are running a very great risk." At that moment the searching minnie was cutting close to him, showing that he was the mark aimed at. He went on with his observations as calm and serene as if he was viewing a landscape. A few minutes afterward we heard him say to I,ongstreet, in substance, " Mass your artillery behind that hill," pointing to a ridge just in our rear " and at the signal bring your guns to the top of the ridge and turn them loose." It put us to thinking of what would become of us—the picket line. We could not leave our posts; we were in plain view of the enemy, without protection except from small arms; we had no utensils with which to throw up earthworks. We knew the shells from our guns would go over us, but those of the enemy! Well, spades or no spades, we went into that ground quicker than you would think. We were like the fellow after the ground hog, it had to be done. Bayonets, pieces of board, any thing to get out of sight. Two or three to a hole, and we went in like gophers.
That was the grandest and at the same time the most terrible artillery duel I ever witnessed. Think of it. There were sixty-five (I was told) of our of our own pieces on that one spot, and more on another portion of our line, all firing as fast as they could, and the cannon of the enemy replying. I don't know how long it lasted. When it stopped on our side Pickett's division charged! They had to march over us. Doing nothing myself, I had time to look. It was one of the grandest sights ever mortal eyes looked upon. It makes me shudder now, as I see the shells plow through the ranks of that gallant band.
This article is from the Confederate Veteran, Vol. I, No. 8, Nashville, Tenn., August, 1893.