Covered with Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg

Covered with Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg

Covered with Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg

Covered with Glory: The 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg

Synopsis

The battle of Gettysburg was the largest engagement of the Civil War, and--with more than 51,000 casualties--also the deadliest. The highest regimental casualty rate at Gettysburg, an estimated 85 percent, was incurred by the 26th North Carolina Infantry. Who were these North Carolinians? Why were they at Gettysburg? How did they come to suffer such a grievous distinction? In Covered with Glory, award-winning historian Rod Gragg reveals the extraordinary story of the 26th North Carolina in fascinating detail.

Praised for its "exhaustive scholarship" and its "highly readable style," Covered with Glory chronicles the 26th's remarkable odyssey from muster near Raleigh to surrender at Appomattox. The central focus of the book, however, is the regiment's critical, tragic role at Gettysburg, where its standoff with the heralded 24th Michigan Infantry on the first day of fighting became one of the battle's most unforgettable stories. Two days later, the 26th's bloodied remnant assaulted the Federal line at Cemetery Ridge and gained additional fame for advancing "farthest to the front" in the Pickett-Pettigrew Charge.

Excerpt

He still looked strong and robust, but he was an old man now. His dark, chest-length beard was flecked with gray and his face bore the wrinkles of almost seven decades. Tomorrow would be his sixty-eighth birthday. Dressed in a suit of gray, he stood ramrod straight on an outdoor stage amid American flags and bunting of red, white and blue. His attire was formal and his manner was dignified, but he had the weathered face of a farmer. His body bore the scars of battle, and on his coat was pinned the Southern Cross of Honor. Below him were the upturned faces of an audience numbering more than a thousand. As the crowd watched expectantly, he turned to greet another bearded old man, who walked sprightly across the stage. He too wore a suit, but it was dark and on it was pinned a different badge. the two grasped hands like friends of old, and the crowd roared its approval. Said the man in the dark suit: “I thank God I did not kill you.”

Moments later the old man in gray addressed the audience. “I was once a soldier,” he told them, “never a speaker. Besides, our good friends the enemy took good care on this field of Gettysburg that I should never become an orator, for a Yankee bullet ruined my throat and took away part of my tongue and deprived me of my teeth.” Despite his humble manner—and his speech impediment—he spoke confidently. From the speaker’s platform this July afternoon in 1903, he could see a panorama of green fields, shady glades and burly ridges. He knew, however, that the serene appearance was deceptive. in his memory, the same pastoral scenery was transformed into the fierce fury of battle—with images of smoke and flame, gunfire and confusion, the screams of the wounded and the shouts of desperate men. in his memory, too, were so many faces—the faces of young men who fought and fell and bloodied the . . .

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