The image of Confederate General Robert E. Lee astride his white charger could bring his men to tears. Filled with pride and the knowledge that he was there helped the men to fight harder and longer than should have been possible. The men loved Lee as a father and they would follow him to the end of the world.
His monument at Gettysburg, officially the monument of Virginia, shows Lee in all his glory staring stoically out across the open field, surveying the Union lines on the third day of battle. The third day, the day that would not only seal the loss of the battle for Lee, but would be the death kneel of the Confederacy.
This was the day that lee sent General Pickett and his troops across the field, over a mile in the open to try to smash their way through the center of the Union line. A line that had been beaten and bashed for two days. Against the advice of his right hand General Longstreet, Lee knew in his heart he had made the right decision.
The attack got off slow. The bombardment that was to soften the defenses fell short, lack of ammunition kept the fire rate lower than expected. When the time came though Picket and his men advanced. The story of Pickett’s charge is one for another time. Regardless of whose side you sympathize with the bravery and sheer will power that the Confederate soldiers showed as they reached the Union line is beyond measure.
Yet they failed. Crushed by Union artillery. Raked by a withering flanking fire that decimated them as they closed in. Fences, fences that the men had to stop and climb over as rifle and cannon fire tore gaping holes in their lines. They failed and those that could crawled, ran, walked, shuffled back to the stating point of their attack. And there when they arrived was Lee. Tears in his eyes as he realized he had made a mistake and hundreds of men paid the price.
His monument sits at the very spot where he solemnly greeted those that survived the attack. A stone face stares out at the fields of what had to have been worst day of the war for him. The high point of the rebellion had come and gone, and Lee will forever bear witness to that failed attack.