"On the Fourth—far from a glorious Fourth to us or to any with love for
his fellow men—I wrote you
just a line of heartbreak. The sacrifice of life on that blood
soaked field on the fatal third was too awful for the heralding
of victory, even for our victorious foe, who I think, believe as
we do, that it decided the fate of our cause. No words can
picture the anguish of that roll-call—the breathless waits between
the responses. The "Here" of those who, by God's mercy,
had miraculously escaped the awful rain of shot and shell was a
sob—a gasp—a knell—for the unanswered name of his comrade.
There was no tone of thankfulness for having been spared to answer
to their names, but rather a toll, and an unvoiced wish
that they, too, had been among the missing. Even now I can hear
them cheering as I gave the order, "Forward!" I
can feel the thrill of their joyous voices as they called out all
along the line, "We'll follow you, Marse George.
We'll follow you—we'll follow you." Oh, how faithfully they kept
their word—following me on—on—to their death, and I,
believing in the promised support, led them on—on—on—Oh, God!"
~Major General George E. Pickett discussing
the aftermath of Pickett's Charge
in letters to his fiancée,
July 6 & 12, 1863