[T]he field in front was swarming with Confederates, who came sweeping on in magnificent order, with perfect alignment, guns at right shoulder and colors to the front. [We] waited quietly for the enemy to come within range, word being passed along to aim low, and at the command a sheet of flame and smoke burst from the wall with the simultaneous crash of the rifles, flaring full in the faces of the advancing troops, the ground being quickly covered with their killed and wounded as the balls hissed and cut through the exposed line.The Confederate line was stopped in its tracks at 50 yards and the survivors hugged the ground. Then the Federal line charged forward. The North Carolinians were dismayed and did not put up a good resistance. Hundreds surrendered or were captured and two stands of colors were captured. Inverson was blamed for this disaster. He was already unpopular with his brigade, and he was arranging support for his men rather than leading them from the front. When the campaign was over he was removed from command and sent back to Georgia to organize the militia there.
|The North Carolinians advance|
|The Railroad Cut|
|Attacks on the I and XI Corps|
Moving forward under heavy fire over rail and plank fences, and crossing a creek whose banks were so abrupt as to prevent a passage excepting at certain points, this brigade rushed upon the enemy with a resolution and spirit, in my opinion, rarely excelled. The enemy made a most obstinate resistance until the colors on portions of the two lines were separated by a space of less than 50 paces, when his line was broken and driven back, leaving the flank which this line had protected exposed to the fire from my brigade. An effort was here made by the enemy to change his front and check our advance, but the effort failed, and this line, too, was driven back in the greatest confusion, and with immense loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Among the latter was a division commander (General [F. C] Barlow), who was severely wounded.Early's men wrecked havoc on the XI Corps. Schurz tried to form a line on the outskirts of the town, but it was put in a bad position and soon broke. The rout of the XI Corps occurred at the same time as the retreat of the 1st. Heth had attacked again. Again the Federals made a firm resistance. When the 26th North Carolina's attack stalled, their officers grabbed the flag to lead the men forward. Officer after officer fell carrying the flag, but it was picked up again and the advance continued forward. Finally Lt. Colonel Lane, the commander, grabbed the flag and drove back the Federals. In this attack 13 flag bearers fell. Every one of the 3 officers and 88 men of company F were either killed or wounded.
The Federals could not stand up to these attacks and eventually fell back. Heth made little pursuit. His division had suffered badly and was completely worn out. Heth himself was temporarily disabled, when he had been struck with a mine ball in the head. He only survived because the bullet was mostly blocked by a paper stuffed in his new hat.
Without information as to its proximity, the strong position which the enemy had assumed could not be attacked without danger of exposing the four divisions present, already weakened and exhausted by a long and bloody struggle, to overwhelming numbers of fresh troops. General Ewell was, therefore, instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy, if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army, which were to hasten forward.Ultimately, Ewell did not make the attempt. Ewell did plan to occupy Culp's Hill, to the east of Cemetery Hill. A staff officer had found it unoccupied in the noon, but it was near dark before Johnson's division was sent to occupy it, and by that time the Federals had troops on that hill. There were many who, then and later, believed that if Jackson were there, he would have captured Cemetery Hill, and Ewell's indecision cost the Confederates the battle. However, the ultimate authority rested with Lee and if he believed it necessary to attack the hill, he could have ordered Ewell to do it. An attack probably should have been made, but it would not necessarily have been successful, as the defeated Federals might have been able to hold back the tired Southerners.