On They Came With Flags Flying
Pickett’s Charge, Gettysburg, July 3, 1863
Limited Edition Print
Image size: 13 1/2" x 30"
950 Limited Edition Signed and Numbered
They advanced under unfurled flags, crossing an open field under devastating fire. Their target was the center of the Federal line, which lay beneath a "copse of trees" atop distant Cemetery Ridge. For two days these men in butternut and gray — General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia — had engaged in bloody combat with their blue-uniformed adversaries from the Federal Army of the Potomac. They had won a dramatic victory in the first day's fighting, but had failed to overwhelm either flank of the Federal army on the second day. On the third day, Lee launched the mightiest infantry assault of his career — 13,000 southern troops converging on the center of the Federal line. Surely, Lee believed, the line would break, the battle would go to the men in gray, and southern independence might finally be won.
The assault force appeared irresistible. "On they came with flags flying," a northern officer would later marvel. "In open sight of friend and foe, over the green valley, they marched in battle's stern array." Stout hearts, however, would not be enough for sons of the south this day. Their counterparts in blue were fighting on their home ground, and they held firm with a stubborn, valiant defense. Lee’s troops were flailed with a searing fire of shot, shell and canister, followed by scathing infantry fire. The formidable-looking formation was shattered, and among those left to carry the assault was a brigade of Virginians led by Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead. Across the shot-torn field of fire they advanced, clambering over post-and-rail fences under a deadly hail, and charging up the slope of Cemetery Ridge. Armistead had come most of the way with hat boldly hoisted on his sword, marking the way for his men through the shroud of smoke and confusion of battle. The general and his troops would pierce the Federal line and capture a battery of artillery, only to be turned back by ranks of hard-fighting northern troops. Armistead would fall mortally wounded, and Gettysburg would prove to be the south’s “high-water mark.” For generations to come, Americans would remember the men of Pickett’s Charge, Armistead among them, as supreme examples of American valor.