Like the others moving forward they began at common step, with their muskets carried at will, the men passing through quiet pieces of artillery that would speak soon enough. It wasn’t long before they were in the open, skirmishers had been had been sent ahead, the lines becoming wavy as they advanced. Stepping over or going around the dead from before, a grim reminder of what was in store for some of them before the day was out.
Hollister kept moving as if in a trance, seeing only the grey and butterscotch backs of the men from Garnett’s brigade in front of him. His own grey uniform jacket was dark with sweat and grime, his chin covered with three days stubble. He was thirsty. They were halfway across the field when the Union field pieces on Cemetery Hill, Little Round Top and the center began to fire concentrated destruction at the oncoming men. Iron ripping through the Confederate ranks, strewing the dead and wounded about. Hollister had little faith that he would see the end of the day. They continued to move forward.
As the ground slopped toward Emmitsburg Road, a shell exploded and Hollister was thrown to the ground clutching the left side of his face, blood pouring from his damaged left eye which had been exposed to a large number of flying stone chips. He felt strong white savage pain and with effort, and breathing heavily he stood up and looked about trying to get some bearing on his position, trying to focus his good eye. After hearing distant musket fire he fell again, a mini ball entering his right forearm, breaking the bone, his body spun and his ankle was twisted. Captain Jack Hollister, infantry, Confederate army was effectively out of action. Hollister on his left side, through his right eye he could see his men advancing, his head tilted, his view at an angle. His men were moving forward without him.
The Union soldiers of the Second Corps retreated with the others at the sound of buglers blowing “Recall”, to a stone wall. Behind them, their fellows fired shots of cover.
Sweat stung his good eye, making it difficult for him to see. Hollister felt someone near him, he couldn’t see who it was because of the position of his body, he listened, a voice that he knew and it reassured him. It was Corporal Barry, the young soldier he’d spoken to before they began crossing the field.
“Captain Hollister, sir. You just stay still sir I’ll come back for ya.”
Hollister nodded weakly, it was pointless to say he couldn’t go anywhere in the first place. He never saw the young Virginia farm boy again.
He could hear the battle from where he lay. The arms fire, the screams, the curses, the cannons and the explosions. Hollister felt useless, he began to cry. His men were dying, they were dying and he wasn’t with them.
They found him that night, a party of men sent out to look for survivors. He was delirious from the heat of the day, lack of water and his wounds. He was carried to an aid station and an overworked surgeon, who thought he might be able to set the arm but the eye, well it was a lost cause. That was three years ago, but he remembered it like it was yesterday.
“Shine suh?” said a voice on his left. Hollister turned his head to see a young Negro boy about fourteen years old with a shoe shine box.
“What?” asked Hollister, brought out of his memory.
“Shine suh, would ya like a shine on them fine shoes, you’se wearing suh?”
Hollister looked at his feet resting on the rail. Wouldn’t hurt, he thought. He had a meeting in the afternoon and no specific plans for the evening, who knows who he might meet.