Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 38.djvu/332
318 Southern Historical Society Papers.
our move was a retreat. It was a hard, very hard march. The roads were muddy, wagon ruts deep, the night awful. We had, besides our own people, about 7,000 prisoners to take care of. After a hard march of a day and night we approached falling water on the Potomac, where the pontoons had been laid to cross into Virginia. The rain had swollen the Potomac, and all had to cross on the pontoons. I had been out doing courier work all day and night, and arrived at the pontoon a little before daylight, .where General Longstreet was on the ground directing the men, wagons, artillery, etc., across. I pushed off to one side, out of the way and out of sight, squatted at the root of a tree, tied my bridle reins to my arm, and did not wake until after daylight, when to my horror, I found my- self within a few feet of the river, and my horse so close that one step more would have put him over the bank. I made my way to the bridge. General Longstreet told me to go on across. I went over and up the bluff into the main road. Looking to my left I saw General Lee on his horse, accompanied by some of his staff, watching the pontoon and the men coming across. While there a man whom I did not know rode up and said : General, there is a rumor throughout the army that General Longstreet failed in his duty is the cause of our disaster at Gettysburg." General Lee, with firmness and fire, replied: "It is unjust. Longstreet did his duty. Our failure is to be charged to me. My shoulders are broad and can bear it."
Thus ends what I know of the battle of Gettysburg. Who knows what might have happened if General Hood had been permitted to make the flank movement he advised? Who knows what might have happened if General Barksdale had not lost his position in the line of battle, when we had the Union army going to the rear?
No State ever furnished braver nor better soldiers than that grand old State of Mississippi. No troops were ever com- manded by a braver man than General Barksdale. Wofford's, Kershaw's and Law's Brigades were beyond reproach, as game and true as ever carried a sword or gun. This was Hood's Division. "That could, with Hood to lead, cut their way through any line that could be formed against them" — boasted General Hood.