Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Confetti in the Sunlight: General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Final Charge

Witness here a piece of Foote’s fitting account of the end of General Albert Sidney Johnston, a fine general who was esteemed by his comrades.  At the outset of the war, before Lee emerged god-like to him, Jefferson Davis thought him to be the South’s finest General.

The scene depicted is the lead up to his deadly charge amid a peach orchard in full bloom. Here a fine fighting general went to his grave on a cool spring day, guns blazing through blossoms that produced grizzly slaughter and confetti. It is romance and realism.

From Foote’s Civil War V1, p. 339.


At the end of the battle line, on the far flank of the Hornets Nest, there was a ten-acre peach orchard in full bloom. Hurlbut had a heavy line of infantry posted among the trees, supported by guns whose smoke lazed and swirled up through the branches sheathed in pink, and a bright rain of petals fell fluttering like confetti in the sunlight as bullets clipped the blossoms overhead. Arriving just after one of Breckinbridge’s brigades had recoiled from a charge against the orchard, Johnston saw that the officers were having trouble getting the troops in line to go forward again. “Men! They are stubborn; we must use the bayonet,” he told them. To emphasize the meaning he rode among them and touched the points of their bayonets with the tin cup. “These must do the work,” he said. When the line had formed, the soldiers were still hesitant to reenter the smoky uproar. So Johnston did what he had been doing all that morning, all along the line of battle. Riding front center, he stood up in his stirrups, removed his hat, and called back over his shoulder: “I will lead you!” As he touched his spurs to the flanks of his horse, the men surged forward, charging with him into the sheet of flame which blazed to meet them there among the blossoms letting fall their bright pink rain.


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