Chapter 4 focuses on a character who has not previously had his own chapter, General Armistead. Armistead is one of the well-known figures in the battle, primarily due to his tragic friendship with Winfield Hancock of the Union army. Armistead and Hancock have metaphorically squared off in this battle, but Armistead simply misses his old friend. He never makes the trip over to speak to him, though he considers it several times throughout the novel. Their friendship highlights one of the more tragic aspects of the Civil War, since friends and even families were often pitted against each other in battle.
Historically, the Confederate losses during Pickett’s Charge were staggering. The Confederates, well known to be fairly bad at artillery, overshot their targets, and few of the Union batteries were damaged. When the Confederates charged, the Union artillery simply mowed them down, and as the remaining Confederates approached the Union line they were killed by rifle fire. Pickett lost sixty percent of his men, and all thirteen of his colonels were either killed or wounded. Pickett emerged unscathed, but he was emotionally devastated and remained bitter toward Lee for the rest of his life.
The Battle of Gettysburg was as close as the South ever came to winning the war. If the army of the South had broken through the Union army and captured Washington, D.C., the war would have been over. With some better strategies on the Lee’s part, it is -possible that the South could have won the Battle of Gettysburg, which might have allowed it to win the war—but such speculation can be made about many Civil War battles. Nonetheless, Pickett’s Charge was prefaced by the one of the largest artillery exchanges ever in the western hemisphere, and the battle itself was one of the largest ever between two armies. The Confederate army was at the height of its power and strength, but it could not break the Union’s -fortified position. The Confederate forces soon broke into a swift retreat.