3 July, 1863
"Federal artillery on the cemetery hill worked their guns under a steady pounding. The roar of their pieces served as counterpoint to the more distant reports of the Confederate cannon. As Devereux watched, a howitzer emplaced in the cemetery itself was struck. The barrel, wheels and axles of the piece flew wildly apart, uprooting headstones and throwing them wildly across the ground.
Devereux looked at his watch. The bombardment had lasted more than an hour. He looked at the ridge, and watched his brother and the men around him pick themselves up cautiously, slowly standing erect and turning toward the crest. They appeared to be listening to something. The Union infantry troops occupying the long hilltop must have heard the same sound. All heads more or less pointed westward. As he watched, Patrick got his crutches into action. He started uphill, toward the group of trees.
A mile away, across the grassy valley from the cemetery ridge, Pickett's Division lay waiting in the woods. They had come up to this position in the early morning hours. The officers occupied themselves with the usual business of placing the long lines of men in the order in which they would attack.
After that, the men lay down, pretended to sleep, or devoted themselves to the routine of preparation for a major action. They cleaned weapons, wrote letters, talked to their messmates and made final judgments on the comrades with whom they would go forward against the guns.
Jepson Thacker lay on his back looking up through the leaves and branches of a patriarchal and seasoned oak. He had the thick trunk of the tree between him and the Yankee guns. The smell of leaf mold and wood smoke hung in the air. He tried to keep his mind on the beauty of the forest scene through the long wait under fire. The 7th Virginia Infantry Regiment was all around him, stretching out to either side of his company. The company had stood the artillery fire well. Cannon balls had caromed through the trees for the last hour. From time to time one killed or maimed, but for the most part the soldiers simply stepped out of their path. The shrapnel from air bursts in the tree tops was a more serious matter. They had lost several men to shell fragments.
In the midst of it all, “Pete” Longstreet rode into view, going down the line, slowly passing them by on a tall black horse, looking at them with an odd, pale expression on his usually ruddy features. The black horse shied from the sounds of falling leaves and branches ripped off trees by passing solid shot. A sergeant in Thacker's regiment stood up to yell at Longstreet. "You damn fool! Do you think we need you to do this to make us fight? Get the hell out of here before you get killed!" Longstreet bowed his head to the man, and rode on.