Witness to Pickett's Charge
Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill was not at Gettysburg, but many of the men who served under him did fight in that battle. One of Hill's comrades and artillerymen, Thomas H. Carter, was one. In a letter he wrote to Hill in 1885, he described his memories of the famous July 3 attack remembered today (incorrectly) as Pickett's Charge. Carter had a ringside seat for the charge, so it was still etched indelibly in Carter's mind despite the passage of over twenty years:
"I consider the charge & capture of the works at Seven Pines by your command," Carter wrote, "under all the circumstances, the most difficult & dangerous that I saw during the war, except the charge of Pickett's Division at Gettysburg. I had the honor to witness this charge, at Gettysburg, almost in full, having but a few long range guns at work, and I can say in all sincerity, that I believe there is nothing in all the annals of war to equal it. The distance was nearly, or quite, a mile over an entirely open and ascending ground to a crest actually ablaze with the fire of infantry & artillery! And yet the line went up-up-up, & disappeared in the cloud of smoke left by the now silenced & captured cannon, having carried their whole front! I declare to you, that even now, after the lapse of nearly a quarter of a century, I cannot recall the scene of this unparalleled feat of arms without the choking sensation in my throat and the tears in my eyes. My heart will be as cold as death can make it when it fails to kindle at the recollction of the scene & the thrill of joy & pride when I heard through the cloud the unimitable & immortal Confederate cheer on the heights of Gettysburg! But alas! They were not supported. Flesh & blood could do no more & soon a scattered few came back thro' the same cloud of smoke they had entered so gallantly a short time before, and all was lost save honor!" (Source: Thomas H. Carter to DHH, July 1, 1885, D.H. Hill Papers, #32032, Library of Virginia, Richmond.)
And like Thomas Carter, we still remember Gettysburg, and many other battles like it, over 150 years later - because that terrible Civil War still has meaning today.
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