My name is Lufbery, I found this letter on the body of a dead Confederate soldier who lay only 50 feet from a stone wall that was being defended by the Union Army. This is what the letter said.
Today is Friday July 3rd, 1863. I am an infantry soldier from Virginia and I am one of the few if not the only one who is alive and not wounded today. Before I enlisted to fight in this war I was a reporter for the Daily Richmond Examiner. I always keep a notebook and pencil with me. I am now thankful I have these items in my possession, they will help me keep my mind from panicking as the hours pass before dark. It is 8:00pm and the sun is only now dipping below the tree tops. Today was the worst day of my life, I saw many men die today and I see many more men who are dead and litter this field where I lay. Many of the bodies lay in contorted ways and some are missing limbs and even their heads. I had to stop looking, the lowering sun creates shadows and movements that are not really there, but some movements are real and the groans and calls for help are very real. I am writing down my story of this fateful day while the events are very fresh in my mind.
In this war I fight for Virginia and General George Pickett. My Father asked George to look after me when I enlisted. Today, I trusted him as did many other Virginians. We have not seen much fighting in this battle, we only arrived here in Gettysburg the night prior. The other Divisions did not fare well the last couple days fighting the Yanks. They arrived first, but did not secure the high ground and therefore we have been at a disadvantage since. George told me this morning that Lee and Longstreet want us to attack the Yanks at the center of their position, on what the Yanks call Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet wanted George to lead the Virginians in this battle, some said Longstreet wasn't happy about Lee's decision to attack the center. While talking, George pointed to a wide and deep field which lead up a hill, he told me that Lee would bombard the hell out of the Yanks there. He explained that this would take some heat off of us so we could cross. He sounded very confident and thought we could win the war if we took this hill. I believed George because he had a lot of experience in war. He and General Longstreet fought the Mexican War together, their stories of great battles inspired us. Now I lay in this field 50 feet from a rock wall, where the Yanks are still shooting at us if we move, listening to the screams from dying men who have been shot and wounded. I am trying to figure out what went wrong this day. It was suppose to be a glorious day, but instead I realize we never had a chance. George was wrong and he is not here to help me now. The following is how I got here.
It all started when Lee signaled for our cannons to begin firing, this was around 1pm. The Yanks returned our fire with their own cannons, but we obviously had more cannons than they did. We kept firing our cannons for over 2 hours - after they finally finished I realized I could not hear anything, but I saw George riding his horse waving his sword and yelling something to us. We figured there couldn't be anyone left across that field after 2 hours of tossing lead balls into the woods edge. I was on my knee at the edge of a small grove of trees and knew that it was time. It was our turn to run across this field and up that hill to finish the job. Our Division was part of the right flank, I could see thousands of us on the left flank also. We started walking on that field following George who was on a horse and leading us now. We had a lot of field to cross and I really hoped that those Yanks had enough of us and would start running when they saw how many of us there were. The first couple hundred feet of walking seemed easy and I thought we were making good ground. About when my hearing came back and then all Hell broke out.
Those Yanks must have known we planned to hit them there because they were ready for us with more cannons. It was when we started getting hit by cannon shot that George signaled for us to charge and we started running slowly - nobody was too anxious to go further into this field. We felt like ducks in a barrel and lead was falling from the sky everywhere. That was the last I saw of George. We didn't have anything to fire our guns at so we kept running to escape the gun and cannon fire. I was afraid I was going to be hit by a cannon shot because I kept hearing screams and thuds and knew my buddies were being hit. I kept looking for George, but I only saw bodies and parts of bodies all over the field. Muskets were firing at us now and the guy next to me got hit in the head and fell forward. I looked behind me and saw nothing but smoke. I looked forward and realized I was only a couple hundred yards from the tree line where small puffs of smoke indicated where the Yanks were firing from. On each side of me were my fellow Virginians still running forward. For a second I thought we might over run the Yanks after all. I wanted to turn around, but nobody else was so I kept moving forward closer to the puffs of smokie rising from the trees. I reached a point when I knew I couldn't make it without being hit by a musket ball and closed my eyes and ran waiting for it to happen. I hit something with my feet and tripped, I fell on my face and my gun flew from my hands. When I looked up I noticed that nobody was ahead of me anymore. I looked to my side and only saw bodies laying on the field. I looked behind me and saw men who turned and were now running back where we came from. One by one they fell as they were shot. I don't think anyone could have made it back. That is when I realized that I needed to stay where I was and hide until dark when I could hopefully sneak back. It is now dark enough, I am going to put away my pencil and paper and make a run for our lines.
Historical Note: July 3rd marked the last battle between the States at Gettysburg. George Pickett survived this battle unscathed and when asked by Lee to gather his Division for another attack, Picket responded that he had no Division. Pickett lead 6,000 of the 15,000 men into this battle and lost more than half of his men, mostly Virginians. The pre-battle bombardment by Lee consisted of 150 cannons, but had little effect. The Union Army guessed Lee's intentions correctly and were well prepared to repeal this attack and either kill, wound or capture 7,000 Confederate Troops while losing only 1500 of their own. General Longstreet felt that this attack was futile based on the defensive position of the Union Army. Lee retreated with his Army on July 4th and General Mead lost a key opportunity to end the war by not counter attacking Lee as his Army fled back across the Potomac River in disarray. Many believe, myself included, that this was the turning point of the war for the South.