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Elijah Gates Camp - Archives

Captain Thomas C. Holland with General Armistead at Gettysburg

The article in the Veteran for September, 1920, by J.A. Stevens, of Burnet, Tex., and the response to it in the November issue by Mrs. H. F. Lewis, of Bristol, Tenn., all in regard to the death and last expressions of Gen. Lewis Armistead after that famous charge of Pickett's men at Gettysburg on the 3d of July, 1863, bring out this statement from me.

This first histories written after the war stated that General Armistead was killed on the field, which I had to correct through the public journals. He died, as well as I remember, about 9 a.m. on July 5 after intense suffering. I never shall forget his request after we were moved to a temporary hospital beneath the shade of some trees. "Please don't step so close to me," said he to the surgeons and nnurses as he lay on the cot on the ground.

We started on the charge, as history tells, with approximately five thousand men. My company (G, 28th Virginia) had eighty-eight men, and only seven answered at roll call that night–some killed, some wounded, and some missing. General Garnett was on the right, General Kemper bringing up the left, and Armistead in the center. As we "marched through the valley of death" and after we crossed the Emmettsbur road our men began to fall fast. The colonel of the 28th Virginia, R. C. Allen, was killed after we had gotten within some two hundred yards of the stone fence. The next officer I saw fall was General Garnett. We then crossed the stone fence almost at the mouth of Cushing's Philadelphia Battery, and here is where General Armistead fell. I was a little to his left and had passed only a few paces when I fell, unconscious as to what was going on. during the afternoon General Armistead, myself, and quite a number of officers were removed to the temporary hospital over beyond Cemetery Heights.

While on our way to the trees where we were taken no one stopped our carriers but once, and he seemed to be an ambulance officer or surgeon, who only directed the ambulance party. I am confident that no one spoke to General Armistead en route to those trees, as we were quite close to each other. What may have taken place at the hospital I am not prepared to say.

While at the peace meeting at Gettysburg in 1913, standing where General Armistead fell, a man and his wife approached the spot where I fell just fifty years before, this being to the left of where Armistead fell and some ten steps in advance, where I stuck a stick in the ground to indicate the place. The man proved to be a member of Cushing's Battery of Philadelphia, if I am not mistaken. He said to his wife: "Here is where I killed the only Rebel I know of during the war. I may have killed others, but this is the only one I know I killed, and if that was away from my mind I would feel free in saying that I never killed any one that I know of." She said: "It is too bad that you killed him" He replied that the mman must have been crazy; that he was an officer and was waving his hat above his head and halloaing" "Come on, boys."

At this I knew I was the one referred to, and I thought I would relieve his mind. So I said to him: "I am the man you killed, but I am a pretty lively corpse." He stepped back, and I saw he was shocked, so I said: "Here is where the ball entered my left cheek, and here is where it came out at the back of my head." He then grasped my hand and inquired my name and gave me his. He introduced me to his wife, and they very insistenlyy invited me to go over to the hotel where they were stopping and take dinner with them. But, owing to pressing business at the time, I could not go. I had been made adjutant general of Pickett's Division for the bogus charge and was pressed for time. However, this man and I began a correspondence and kept it up until I moved from Kansas City to Steedmman, in Callaway County, Mo., some six years ago.

I want to make an appeal to the contributors of the Veteran. Please do not fail to send reminiscences of 1861 to 1863, as our Army of Northern Virginia never lost a battle within that time. I like to read the war stories of 1863-65, but after the Gettysburg fight the news was not so interesting or pleasing to us.

Feb. 1921

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