“I am sure that it was the grandest charge that was ever seen by mortal man.”
Those are the words of Union Colonel Worthen, whose men at Gettysburg tried to stand against the Mississippi brigade commanded by General Barksdale. Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, and there are many tales of the brave men that fought there.
This is a tale of the “grandest charge.”Longstreet needed to create an opening in the Union lines, but attacks by four of his brigades had failed in the face of a Union artillery battery.
Brigadier General Barksdale approached Longstreet with a request:
“I wish you would let me go in, General; I would take that battery in five minutes!”
The order was given, and true to his word, Barksdale’s men swiftly overwhelmed the artillery. But the Mississippi Brigade was not done. They raced onward to where the 68th Pennsylvania awaited them. The 68th collapsed in 30 minutes.
Onward went the charge of the Mississippi Brigade, shattering the 57th Pennsylvania next. But this was the “grandest charge,” and not quite over. Racing into the 141st Pennsylvania, the clash was ferocious, with 70 percent of the Federals lost before they retreated.
The Mississippi boys had driven a hole a mile deep into the Union lines. One of the Confederate soldiers reported that a Federal soldier from Pennsylvania insisted on shaking hands
“with one of the men who made the most splendid charge of the war.”