The Heart or The Soul

Submitted for Contest #95 in response to: Start your story with someone being presented with a dilemma.... view prompt

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May 28, 2021

Drama Historical Fiction Creative Nonfiction

          The Heart or The Soul

Suzanne Marsh

“Soldiering has one great trap. To be a good soldier you must love the army to be a good officer

you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love.” General Robert E. Lee said to his “old war horse” General James P. Longstreet. Old Pete sat astride his war horse Blackie; Lee’s words ringing in his ear. He knew that General Lee was very much correct in what he stated. There were so many things that had already gone wrong. The first day they had won several small victories. The second day of battle they had lost. No one had any idea where J.E.B. Stuart was. These things weighed heavily upon Longstreet. ‘Jeb Stuart is supposed to be the eyes of this army; we haven’t heard from him. Stuart should be court martialed, if it were up to me I would. General Lee will let him off with a simple warning. ‘I have been arguing with General Lee since we marched into Gettysburg. The ground is not good for offensive fighting. The Yanks have already secured the high ground. Sam Hood was wounded and Pickett still not here. I won’t go into battle without Pickett; why it would be like going in with one boot on.’

Longstreet lowered his head. He could not disobey the orders of the commanding General. He could not get Lee to listen to him. Longstreet was for defensive tactics: Lee was for offensive tactics. The true dilemma was how was Longstreet going to do as his commander wished. Pickett’s Charge was already being formulated in Lee’s mind. Longstreet knew once Lee made up his mind there was no changing it.

Longstreet had been a soldier all of his life. He knew Gettysburg was a last futile attempt to gain a foothold in the north. Lee and Longstreet both knew that in the Confederate ranks the men that were killed; could not be replaced. They simply did not have the man power that the north had.

Longstreet thought about all these things. He sat for quite a while pondering the problems. To few men, not enough food to sustain an army here in Pennsylvania. He thought about the boys who would be lost during this battle; of the boys they had already lost.

The third day of Battle July 3rd, 1863

General Lee rode out on Traveler; he wished to talk to Old Pete about his plan. Under the shade of a large oak tree the two men conferred:

“ah, General I do hope you are well this morning.”

“I am well General.”

“Today, we are going to attack their center. They have been pushed on both sides so therefore

the middle will be weak.”

“General Lee; Pickett is up but my division is not up to strength.”

“Yes, General Longstreet: I am going to give you Pettigrew and Tremble. They are from Hill’s

Corp they will be fresh.”

“I understand that; but since they are of Hill’s Corp would it not be better if Hill led this

charge.”

Longstreet watched Lee’s face turn scarlet:

“General Longstreet, you will take that position. That small clump of trees yonder is

where the battle is to converge.”

“General Lee, they have the wall just like we had the wall at Fredericksburg.”

Longstreet was attempting to conceal his emotions. Like most Generals he could foresee disaster. He hoped at this moment to convince General Lee that this was a huge mistake:

“General, I have been a soldier all my life, I have been with soldiers engaged in fight, by

couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions and armies and should know,

as well as anyone what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that NO fifteen thousand men

can take that position.”

Lee stood there glaring:

“General you will win this battle, you are my old war horse.”

Longstreet, knew at that moment there was no arguing with Lee.. He had made up is mind.

Moments later Longstreet sent for Porter Alexander,to prepare the artillery. In his heart Longstreet knew that this battle was a fiasco. There was no amount of men that could take that hill. Pickett had to be instructed for his part in this charge. Longstreet knew he had a job do to but it did not stop him from thinking about all the lives that would be lost. He resigned himself to the fact and began to garther information on the locations of the Union troops. His heart was breaking but once General Lee made the decision he had to follow orders. Longstreet sighed as he once again mounted Blackie; he sent a messenger to find Porter Alexander a young colonel. He was one of the best artilleriest the Confederate Army had. Longstreet peered once again through his binoculars looking at ther terrain, and Cemetary Hill. He surveyed the small cropse of trees then that damn stone wall. The men would be marching into the line of direct fire. There was no where to hide and fire. Longstreet rode out to talk to Porter Alexander.

“Are your guns in place?”

“Yes sir, all 170 canon are trained on the salient.”

“Very well, commence firing at will.”

“Yes Sir.”

“How old are you son?”

‘Twenty eight sir.”

Longstreet thought: ‘twenty eight, back then I was fighting in Mexico beside George Pickett. Today Pickett will be leading the charge and a twenty eight year old Colonel is firing the artillery. Well, I hope General Lee is right and God will keep our army in tact.’

At approximately two o’clock the Confederate troops were hidden in the trees. The canons began to fire. Loud booming noises then cam the rebel yell. Pickett rode to where he Longstreet would be.

“General Longstreet sir, shall I commence the battle?”

Longstreet could not bring himself to answer Pickett; he simply nodded the affirmative. The further the men went Longstreet continued to look down anywhere but the battle line.

General Lee rode out to where Pickett was. Pickett seemed bewildered:

“General Pickett, you must attend to your division.”

“General Lee I have no division.”

Pickett’s Charge was a dilemma for Longstreet; when left with no choice but to follow orders. Pickett went into the charge with over fifteen thousand men only eight hundred survived. Longstreet took the new badly. Longstreet did follow orders. Pickett’s Charge is now part of history.

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