Colonel George Taylor had landed at 8:15 am, one hour after the
fighting had begun. Taylor stopped across the sandbar and bullets
began hitting the water around him. He lay down on his stomach and
started crawling toward shore, his staff officers doing the same.
When Taylor finally made it to the seawall, he pointed to the hill
summit above and told the other officers, “If we’re going to die,
let’s die up there.”
At this point, Taylor turned to his troops. Taking a hard look at
the shattered morale, he began barking orders. He rallied the men
with one of the most famous lines of the war,
“There are only
two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are
already dead and those who are going to die.
Now let’s get the hell out
Within seconds, the men came to attention. Taylor
organized groups of men regardless of their unit, put them under the
command of the nearest non-commissioned officer and sent them
climbing up through the weeds and shrubs on the bluffs.
Meanwhile the officers around Taylor stared at him in amazement.
Was he some sort of snake charmer? Those men had looked completely
defeated when they arrived. The officers marveled at Taylor’s
ability to shake the men out of their helplessness and get them
moving again. For his leadership, Colonel Taylor would later
receive the Distinguished Service Cross.
In a fashion similar to Taylor and Cota, Colonel Charles Canham
moved through the dead, the dying and the shocked. He waved groups
of men forward. “They’re murdering us here! Let’s move inland and
get murdered there instead!”
Curious logic, but
apparently it worked.
Private Charles Ferguson was hiding with a group of men behind the
sea wall. He stared at Canham in disbelief. Ferguson thought to
himself, ‘Did he really say that?’
Then Ferguson muttered aloud to the other men, “Who the hell is that
son of a bitch? That is the worst rally cry I have ever heard!”
To his surprise, Ferguson started to laugh at the absurdity.
Somehow the laughter shook him out his self-pity. That’s when he
decided to get up. Surprised, when the men around Ferguson
saw him get
up, they decided to do the same. Ferguson's group began the dangerous climb up the bluffs. The
Americans were preparing to strike back.
But it wouldn't be
easy. Gettysburg, the most important battle of the Civil War,
had been won by the North thanks in large part to its possession of
the higher ground. A spirited charge by determined forces of
the Confederacy had just barely been repulsed by the North defending
a strategic hill known as Little Round Top.
Today the Americans
were going to have to attack defenses far superior to anything the
Rebels ever saw at Gettysburg. And they were to going to
have to do it while climbing a hill into the face of brutal enemy