General Robert E Lee wanted cannon placed on the brow or reverse slope of Marye’s Heights so they might duel with the Federal artillery on Stafford Heights. Porter had a different plan. He felt the attack would fall on their far left flank. Since he played a dominant role in placing the gun pits, Porter positioned them in order to fire directly into the advancing Federal infantry and sweep the field. He disputed General Lee’s logic that the inferior Confederate ordnance could not duel effectively with the enemy’s guns at that distance. After the pits were made, Capt. Johnston rode to Porter and said, “You made me put them there, now you come along and help me take the cussin’.” After some exchange of ideas, General Lee had the last word and pressed Porter into obedient silence, but he left the gun pits unchanged.
Porter strongly felt the beauty of the artillery position not only in its thorough sweep of the ground, but also in it’s very functional simplicity. Upon General Longstreet’s inspection of the artillery, Porter reported proudly, “General, we cover that ground now so well that we will comb it as with a fine-tooth comb. A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.”
A few days after the battle, Porter happened to be with the same Capt. Johnston at General Lee’s headquarters. Just outside his tent, when General Lee came within earshot, he brayed loudly to Capt. Johnston, “Sam, it was a mighty good thing those guns about Marye’s Heights were located on the brows of the hills when the Yankees charged them.” Gen. Lee gave no sign of hearing his remarks. However, Alexander henceforth was frequently called upon by General Lee to select battle lines and gun pits.