The Charge

On July 3, 1863, my grandfather Clement Jordan and other members of the 18th Virginia infantry regiment assembled under the cover of trees on Seminary Ridge.   They looked across the fields toward Cemetery Ridge and realized that it would be long way to advance under fire.  Nevertheless, when the order came down, they moved forward to face the enemy.

I never knew Grandfather Clement.  He died in 1909, forty-six years after Gettysburg and twenty years before my birth.  He enlisted in the Danville Grays, a company of the 18th Virginia, in April 1861.  Four older brothers signed up to serve in the 3rd Virginia Calvary.  Late in the war, a younger brother joined the 18th Virginia.  Clément’s father, my great-grandfather Elijah Jordan, served in the home guard.

The 18th Virginia was incorporated into Garnett’s Brigade of Pickett’s Division.  Clement saw his first action during the Battle of Bull Run.  Later he fought in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign.  Shortly thereafter, he was hospitalized with typhoid fever in a Richmond hospital, but upon recovery he rejoined his regiment for more campaigning. 

In June 1863, the 18th regiment advanced into Pennsylvania with the main body of the Army of Northern Virginia.  The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, and by the third day of fighting Pickett’s division was the only large Confederate unit that had not been heavily engaged.  Lee decided to use that division, supported be other elements, in an attempt to break the Federal center.  The attack was a failure.  Many men died in the assault.  Many more men, including my grandfather, suffered wounds.  Clement had a severe wound to an arm, but he was one of the fortunate ones.  He managed to return to the Confederate lines, and somehow he avoided an amputation.

Two days later Lee began his retreat from Pennsylvania.  Sometime thereafter, after recovery, my grandfather rejoined his regiment.  He had lost full use of one arm, but he continued to serve until March 31, 1865.  At that time he suffered another major wound in the fighting around Richmond.  Clement was evacuated with other wounded soldiers by train on April 1 or 2, thus missing the retreat from Richmond, the disaster suffered by the 18th Virginia at Sayler’s Creek on April 6, and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9.

Clement was a much tougher man than I am.  

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