James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

July 3

High Tide at Gettysburg

By Will Henry Thompson

  • A bloody and decisive battle of the Civil War, and one which marked the high tide of the Confederacy. It began July 3, 1863, and lasted three days, resulting in great bloodshed on both sides and the defeat of the Confederate forces.

  • A CLOUD possessed the hollow field,

    The gathering battle’s smoky shield:

    Athwart the gloom the lightning flashed,

    And through the cloud some horsemen dashed,

    And from the heights the thunder pealed.

    Then, at the brief command of Lee,

    Moved out that matchless infantry,

    With Pickett leading grandly down,

    To rush against the roaring crown

    Of those dread heights of destiny.

    Far heard above the angry guns,

    A cry of tumult runs:

    The voice that rang through Shiloh’s woods,

    And Chickamauga’s solitudes:

    The fierce South cheering on her sons.

    Ah, how the withering tempest blew

    Against the front of Pettigru!

    A khams in wind that scorched and singed,

    Like that infernal flame that fringed

    The British squares at Waterloo!

    A thousand fall where Kemper led;

    A thousand died where Garnett bled;

    In blinding flame and strangling smoke,

    The remnant through the batteries broke,

    And crossed the works with Armistead.

    “Once more in Glory’s van with me!”

    Virginia cries to Tennessee:

    “We two together, come what may,

    Shall stand upon those works to-day!”

    The reddest day in history.

    Brave Tennessee! Reckless the way,

    Virginia heard her comrade say:

    “Close round this rent and riddled rag!”

    What time she set her battle flag

    Amid the guns of Doubleday.

    But who shall break the guards that wait

    Before the awful face of fate?

    The tattered standards of the South

    Were shrivelled at the cannon’s mouth,

    And all her hopes were desolate.

    In vain the Tennesseean set

    His breast against the bayonet;

    In vain Virginia charged and raged,

    A tigress in her wrath uncaged,

    Till all the hill was red and wet!

    Above the bayonets mixed and crossed,

    Men saw a gray gigantic ghost

    Receding through the battle cloud,

    And heard across the tempest loud

    The death-cry of a nation lost!

    The brave went down! Without disgrace

    They leaped to ruin’s red embrace;

    They only heard fame’s thunder wake,

    And saw the dazzling sunburst break

    In smiles on glory’s bloody face!

    They fell who lifted up a hand,

    And bade the sun in heaven to stand;

    They smote and fell who set the bars

    Against the progress of the stars,

    And stayed the march of Motherland.

    They stood who saw the future come

    On through the flight’s delirium;

    They smote and stood who held the hope

    Of nations on that slippery slope,

    Amid the cheers of Christendom!

    God lives! He forged the iron will,

    That clutched and held that trembling hill!

    God lives and reigns! He built and lent

    The heights for Freedom’s battlement,

    Where floats her flag in triumph still!

    Fold up the banners! Smelt the guns!

    Love rules. Her gentler purpose runs,

    A mighty mother turns in tears,

    The pages of her battle years,

    Lamenting all her fallen sons!