Around 5:00 p.m. the Confederate attack began when Colonel John B. Gordon's Alabama brigade emerged from the woods behind you. Over the next three hours 15 Confederate brigades marched into a maelstrom of iron and lead. Union artillery blasted the attackers with canister—tin cans filled with dozens of cast iron balls. The effect, at close range, seemed to make men disappear.
"As we came fully in sight of the Federal batteries, not 400 yards distant in our front, the open space behind them became black with troops, thousands of whom issued from the woods in their rear. It was madness to go on, but our men moved steadily forward till within 250 yards, when the order was given to fire, and they immediately, without orders, dropped to the ground and began loading and firing as fast as possible."
James J. Hutchinson, 5th Alabama Infantry