The Experience of a Confederate Private on
the 2d of July.


After the failures of Burnside at Fredericksburg in December, 1862, and of Hooker at Chancellorsville in May, 1863, we broke camp near Fredericksburg in June, and took up the line of march in the direction of Culpepper Court House. Our march was through the towns of Culpepper, Winchester, Martinsburg and Chambersburg. We encamped for two or three days in the vicinity of the latter place and took a much needed rest. On the morning of the 1st of July we started in the direction of Gettysburg, arrived near the battlefield about dawn on the 2d, and halted in a clover field, where most of our men, being greatly exhausted, soon found rest in sleep, the last natural sleep many of the brave boys ever enjoyed. After halting a short time we were ordered to fall in, and with quick step and beating hearts moved in the direction of the enemy, thinking that we would soon be engaged in mortal combat. >From some unexplained cause Kershaw's Brigade (of which I was a private soldier) was maneuvering near the Federal lines until late in the afternoon.

Just before sunset we were ordered to form in line of battle, which we hurriedly did, taking position on a slight eminence, in full view of Round Top and of the hills or ridge in the direction of Cemetery Hill, occupied by Federal infantry. From our position a level plain of half a mile or more was in our front, and near a peach orchard, some eight hundred yards distant from our lines, a field battery was planted, which commanded every foot of our advance. General Longstreet, surrounded by his aids, was in our front with a glass to his eye, scanning the strong and almost impregnable position of General Meade. The battery opened upon him and threw shot and shell uncomfortably near, but the "old war horse" never flinched or changed his position until he got through with his observation, when shutting up his glass and walking to the rear of our lines he ordered Hood's Brigade, which was on our immediate right, to advance. With a yell, such as Confederates alone could give, the Texans rushed forward, sweeping everything before them until they seemed to have reached the summit of Little Round Top, when, for the want of support, they were compelled by superior numbers to retire. It has been nearly nineteen years since I heard that yell, yet it seems to be ringing in my ears now.


Kershaw's Brigade moved over the level field in front of the battery near the orchard in perfect order and with the precision of a brigade drill, while upon my right and left comrades were stricken down by grape and canister which went crashing through our ranks. It did seem to me that none could escape. My face was fanned time and again by the deadly missiles. We had arrived within one hundred yards of the battery and had not fired a shot. The artillerists were limbering up their pieces to retire, for in a few moments they would have been in our possession. At this particular minute we heard in a clear, ringing tone, above the din of conflict, the command, "By the right-flank!" True to our sense of duty we immediately obeyed the command, but why it was given, or by whom, the private soldiers and company officers could never ascertain. The artillerists, seeing our change of position, returned to their guns and poured death and destruction into our fast-thinning ranks.


An incident took place about this time which brought a smile to my face, and even now, while penning these lines after so many years, I can hardly contain my visibilities when I think of the ludicrousness of the scene. The adjutant of my regiment was by my side when he was struck on the foot with a grape or canister shot, and painfully, but not dangerously wounded. Wishing to render what aid I could I asked what I could do for him. He said: "Please cut off my boot." I immediately complied with his request, cutting it from top to toe. He took one swift, eager look at the battery, turned his back to the foe and made the best time on record until he reached a place of safety. I can, in my mind's yee, see him running now, with one foot naked, bleeding and mangled, and the other encased in a long cavalry boot. The gallant fellow survived the war and has been honored by his countrymen with public office. I have met him once since the unpleasantness, and when I jestingly reminded him of the great speed he made through the oat field he did not seem to relish being reminded of the race with grape and canister. The battery of which I have been writing was captured by Barksdale's Mississippi Brigade, which brigade was on Kershaw's immediate left. Our troops were severely punished, particularly my company and regiment. Night put an end to the conflict, and when my regiment was reformed but a handful of men answered to their names at roll-call. We bivouacked on the battle-field and expected an early attack from the enemy, but no advance was made by either side, until Pickett's tremendous assault and awful loss on the afternoon of the 3d.

I was always sanguine of our ultimate success and believed we would eventually achieve our independence, but after the ill-starred campaign in Pennsylvania and our shattered and despondent troops had returned to Virginia I lost all hope and knew it was only a question of time before the Confederacy would collapse.