Beyond the town of Gettysburg

Chapter 14
Chapter 14

July 3, 1863, 12:15 p.m.
Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

‚That’s it Stribling, feed it into them, feed it into them!‘

Sitting down to see under the smoke, Major James Dearing braced his elbows on his knees and trained his field glasses on the column of Union infantry coming across the open field.

The first piece of Stribling’s four Napoleons and two Parrotts recoiled with a thunderous boom, smoke jetting from the muzzle and touchhole. A yellow blossom of fire ignited several dozen yards short of the Yankee column. The shell of the second gun slammed into the flank of the column and detonated, toylike figures of men tumbling over.

Captain Robert Mackey Stribling, whose Fauquier Virginia Artillery had been in action for at least the quarter of an hour, came up to the major. ‚Sir, ammunition?‘ he asked, his voice hoarse from breathing dust during the long march in the morning.

‚I am bringing up more‘, Dearing said. ‚Just pour it into them, you have got infantry columns in front, by God. The arrogance of those bluecoats is amazing.‘

He started to turn away.

‚Sir?‘

Dearing looked back.

‚Sir, I am not sure what shall be accomplished here today…‘

‚We hold this ground, this town until the last man, the last gun. And even if you are the last man standing, these guns do not move back another inch.‘

‚Yes, sir.‘

The crews had finished reloading and began to fire the next salvo. Dearing tried to turn his attention back, but the smoke was too thick.

He walked off, barely moved by the fact that a shot plowed through the air over his head. To his front, he watched the Confederate infantry bracing themselves for the coming attack. It was the largest of Pickett's brigades, maybe 2,000 men who looked eager to prove themselves.

An officer with a slouched black hat, sporting the insignia of a brigadier general, came off the line, approached and gave a friendly salute. ‚Major Dearing, I see you are giving the enemy a warm welcome.‘

‚General, sir, my batteries will do what they can, but we are counting on you to cover my guns. If it comes to canister rounds, I need clear fields of fire in front. When the time comes, I kindly ask you to pull back in around my guns and clear the field for my canister.‘

‚Do not worry, James, every man here knows his duty. The cowards and shirkers are long gone, those men will stand with you until Judgement Day‘, Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead replied.

Dearing saluted, turned and continued down the line. Armistead was one of the most reliable men he knew. And he had charism. He would not have to worry about them.

Next to Stribling, to the north, were the four guns of Macon’s Richmond Fayette Virginia Artillery. They were opening up with case shot right at that moment. Guns recoiled, their thunder joined by the other batteries around the town. Dearing heard the sharp whine of shells dropping down into the Federal ranks, detonating with deadly accuracy. He went back towards Stribling, knowing the advance elements of the enemy would hit there first.

'Canister! Switch to canister!' the major roared. The gunners working at the caissons picked up the tins holding several dozen iron balls. Gun sergeants actually raised the elevation slightly to loft the canister rounds across the two hundred yards to the closing enemy lines. The first gun fired, its brethren soon joining in, then lifting up by the massive recoil. The scream of canister tins bursting echoed around Dearing, iron balls shrieking eastward. If one was close enough, a man could hear the sickening sound of hot iron tearing into limbs and bodies.

Still the bluecoats came on. Their lines were spreading out, a brigade or more coming straight at Stribling and Armistead's center regiment. The 53rd Virginia Infantry opened up with a sharp volley, tearing gaping holes into the front ranks of the advancing yankees. Another volley from them and then the men started to pull back, not running, but being directed orderly by Armistead himself and their young colonel William Roane Aylett. The sight of the 53rd pulling back heartened the Federals, who let loose a triumphal triple huzzah and pressed on.

As the Virginians filled in around the guns, hunkering down, rifles poised, the distance lessened to one hundred fifty yards.

'They are actually going to try for it!', Armistead exclaimed. Now one could make out enemy flag bearers at the fore, colors leaning forward, officers waving swords. At a hundred yards, they were breaking into a run.

'Stribling, double canister!'

The battery commander did not need to be told. The charge was coming on fast. Aylett's men were pouring it on, volleys by companies, then the roar of independent fire.

The gunners waited, crouching low, gripping the lanyards tight. As the yankees were realizing what was ahead of them, a full battery loading with double canister, they slowed, until officers, screaming for the charge, pushed them forward.

'Battery, fire!'

Stribling's guns recoiled, each discharging nearly one hundred fifty iron balls, turning the space ahead into a killing zone.

The impact was terrifying. Entire lines went down, men were pitched backward several yards, bodies were decapitated, limbs broken and torn.

'That is it!' Dearing shouted. 'Another one, give it to them!'

Amazingly, out of the dust and smoke, a blue battle line appeared. There were wide holes in the ranks, but they still came on. The sound of the battle crescended into a thundering roar. A gun sergeant in front of Dearing, ready to pull the lanyard, suddenly collapsed in a bloody heap.

Beyond the gun, Dearing could see them poring in. Several of the yankees, the bravest of the brave, dashed already up onto the lunette, bayonets poised, as the men of the 53rd Virginia rose up to meet them. Close combat exploded around the guns.

He looked forward. Soldiers in blue were emerging out of the smoke, a color bearer leading them. Dearing jerked the lanyard of the fallen gunner and the artillery piece lept back with a roar. Those men in front of the bore simply disappeared.

As the major pulled out his handgun, there was nothing left to shoot at, only the smoke of the countless discharges engulfing him and the Virginians around. He caught glimpses of Yankees retreating, running, disappearing into the smoke. The charge was broken.


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Wow, this gave me "Gettysburg" by Gingrich vibes, really well done. And like @GTStinger said, Pickett's Stand is a very clever switch, and it completely subverted my expectations of what he'd do
 
Wow, this gave me "Gettysburg" by Gingrich vibes, really well done. And like @GTStinger said, Pickett's Stand is a very clever switch, and it completely subverted my expectations of what he'd do

Thank you, I was heavily inspired by this exact book, to be more accurate the extended fighting at Cemetery Hill on July 1.
 
Chapter 15
Chapter 15

July 3, 1863, 1:00 p.m.
In front of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

'Humphreys! Why did Brewster go ahead without waiting for backup? My orders were quite specific about that! He came on too soon!' Dan Sickles hisses like a volcano just before it erupted.

'I can only imagine he thought he could trigger a panic, break through their center and claim the glory for himself.'

'I swear to god, I will court martial this man!'

'Well sir, that should be rather difficult. A stretcher recently carried what was left of Brewster past me. The man might be on trial right now, but not in this world.' Humphreys replied reluctantly.

Shortly it became quiet and even Sickles, who had been so angry a moment ago, took off his hat and stared into the void.

'He charged valiantly, and he was butchered valiantly. But you have to give him credit for leaving the stage in style...' The corps commander breathed out audibly and then tightened his shoulders before continuing. 'Are all your units finally in place, gentlemen?'

David Birney and Andrew Humphreys nodded without a word.

'Then let us now clean this mess and drive the rebels off that goddamn town in this lord forsaken state.'


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Deleted member 9338

Thank you for your input. I can promise you, that the fight will be very costly for both sides. And is surely only the prelude for a real clash of both armies
You have created a believable General Sickles, I am sure many will not like,ethics or a Custer that is not all powerful. For me well done.
 
You have created a believable General Sickles, I am sure many will not like,ethics or a Custer that is not all powerful. For me well done.
Thank you, I try hard to ke everything authentic.

Very entertaining! Subscribed, I hope this won't be a Confederate landslide.
Many thanks. This is definitely not going to be a wank. I also want to explore the continuation of promising careers of officers like for example Reynolds and Pender who died at Gettysburg OTL.
 
Chapter 16
Chapter 16

July 3, 1863, 2:00 p.m.
In front of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

A cheer went up from the road as the batteries were racing forward, reaching the crest. They turned at right angles at the full gallop, dirt and dust spraying up. Even before the last gun had appeared, solid shot ranged out from the rebel line, one shell hitting and exploding a recently arrived limber wagon. The guns swung about, dismounted, and in less than a minute opened up as well, returning the favor.

In the fields behind the slope, the wave of infantry was beginning to advance. Five brigades up front with the pityful remains of the proud Excelsior Brigade bringing up the rear. There was no cheering this time, just focused determination.

David Bell Birney could not longer contain himself. Turning about, he raced down the slope and reached the left flank of his advancing division, joining them in their march. 'For the Union, forward!' he shouted. The cry was echoed down the line by brigadiers and regimental commanders alike.

Billows of smoke, light gray to night dark, obscured the Confederate lines. Bursts of flame marked the muzzles of Confederate batteries, but the enemy could be seen only when a quirk of the air made a path through the earthbound clouds.

There was smoke in plenty around Birney's forming ranks, too, but shafts of golden afternoon light pierced it, gilding rifle barrels and bayonets. Noting his presence, some of his men gave Birney a cheer. He nodded, but did not smile. It was serious business now. The alignment of the long lines of men advancing was far from perfect, but they pressed steadily forward, centered on their colors. The regiments in blue rushed handsomely for the line of artillery and infantry opposing them on the higher ground.

Ragged and proud, the men crossed a shimmering field, not caring at all for enemy cannon. They tore down a fence with hardly a moment of pause and brushed aside a Rebel skirmish line. Men began to fall, but at that instant it did not make a difference. The juggernaut was rolling forward.

Smoke rose. And screams. With a cheer, Birney's soldiers swept through a Confederate line, the grey-clad defenders falling back. But they were not running, were not beaten. Regaining cohesion, the Rebels kept up their fire as they slowly withdrew closer to their guns. On the other side of the field, Birney could make out the mass of Humphrey's division advancing at comparable pace, also driving the enemy before them. The Federals no longer displayed parade-ground precision, but they held together well enough and went forward to get in range of Confederate regiments scrambling to change front.

Birney watched as one of his brigades shot it out with two Virginia regiments until the bluecoats swarmed in for the melee, rifle buts raised and bayonets poised. 'Come on boys, come on! They are breaking, force them back!' the division commander cried.

Flags were held up all up and down the line. Two divisions, six brigades, perhaps ten thousand infantry were in this from the beginning, their opponents numbering maybe half as many.

Birney continued to ride with his men, ignoring the protests of his adjutants. The charge ahead was stalled; the men had opened fire on the Rebels in their second position too soon. Regardless of losses they should have pressed in before firing. Through the smoke he could now dimly see that hundreds were falling.

The charge gained momentum again, men exhorting each other on, screaming to keep going forward. The reserves joined them, swarming into the main volley line over the bodies of those who had fallen in the instances before. Enthusiasm spread, sweeping the entire front, an ocean of armed men bent on victory.

A solid grey line appeared in front of them. Less than five thousand men, rifles leveled, waiting for the order. An officer with golden locks shouted one word: 'Fire!'. The line erupted in flashes and smoke.

The Federals shrugged off the volley, surged up over dead, wounded and dying and pushed forward, some now firing so close that the discharges burned the men in front of them. The wall of men had broken across the front of the town into several funnels, swarms of men, all formation lost, pressing ahead. Then they saw them, the muzzles of massed cannon not a hundred feet away, aimed straight at them. When the guns fired their double canister, the scenery turned into hell on earth.

The entire front of the charge collapsed in a bloody heap. Men simply disappeared, leaving only a light red mist behind. Again and again, the cannon roared, spewing death and destruction. As David Bell Birney was swept from his horse with shrapnel to his guts and one of his legs blown off below the knee, as he saw Union men all along the line staggering to a halt, hunkering down, shocked and panicked, as he saw the first of his proud men stepping back, he realized, he had failed.

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Maj. Gen. David B. Birney, USA.
 
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Chapter 17
Chapter 17

July 3, 1863, 4:00 p.m.
Waynesboro, Pennsylvania

George Pickett was dying. The bullet had punctured one of his lungs and the organ was slowly but surely filling with blood. Each breath sounded harder than the previous one.

'Can you hear me, Lo?' Pickett pushed out in a rough voice.

Lewis Armistead kneeling beside him squeezed his hand and nodded, his voice denying him service.

'How was I, Lo?'

'You were great, George. Like an ancient god of war, you stood amidst the chaos and devastation.'

'That sounds like a good story, and you're an excellent narrator. Please, make sure Sally will be proud of me.'

Tears veiled Armistead's eyes as he answered in a choking voice. 'I will, my old friend. You will not be forgotten.'

Pickett's breathing relaxed, calmed down and then stopped for good.

A jolt went through Armistead as he rose and pushed his overwhelming emotions away in order to function as it was expected of him.

'Colonel Aylett, you have my brigade now. Adjutant, what about our losses, what is left of our division?'

'Sir, General Garnett is wounded, but he will live. General Kemper is supervising the prisoner round-up as we speak. We lost nearly 2,000 men, well over a third of the division. General Imboden reports that he has lost 800 men here and before at the pass, only slightly less than half his men.'

Armistead let his eyes wander over the battlefield. Before the Confederate positions, the ground was littered with bodies in blue uniforms.

'By God, what must they have lost then?' he thought to himself.
 
Not David Bell Birney! He was one of the few true abolitionists in the Union Army leadership and one of my favorite lower ranking, less famous Union generals. Maybe he could survive losing all his intestines and a leg? I guess a glorious battlefield death beats dying of typhoid in the middle of the war like IOTL.
 
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