General Lewis Armistead was a colorful character and a professional soldier, who told Winfield Scott Hancock when he left the Union army to fight for the Confederacy: “you can never know what this has cost me”.
He fought as a Brigade Commander at Seven Pines, then under Lee in the Seven Days Battles, (where he was chosen to spearhead the assault on Malvern Hill), and at Second Bull Run. He also fought at Antietam and Fredericksburg.
In the Battle of Gettysburg, Armistead’s brigade arrived the evening of July 2, 1863. The next day, he led his men toward the center of the Union line during Pickett’s Charge. Wikipedia says: “He led from the front, waving his hat from the tip of his saber”. He reached the stone wall at the top of the hill, which served as the charge’s objective.
His Brigade got further in the charge than any other, to what is called the “High Water Mark” but it was quickly overwhelmed by the Union counterattack. Armistead was shot three times, but none of these wounds were believed to be fatal. He found out his friend Hancock had also been wounded. This scene is shown in Shaara’s novel, The Killer Angels.
Sadly, Armistead died two days later, at the Union field hospital. His death was deemed “not from his wounds directly, but from secondary fever and prostration”.