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[281]

There was a line of cavalry pickets in our rear; but these were alarmed at the shouting of the enemy and at once decamped, nor did they draw rein until they reached their camp. The fact that the sharpshooters got away without losing a man in the race, proved that they, on occasion, could show a clean pair of heels. Late that night it was learned that Wilcox arrived on the ground in rear of Mahone too late to be of any service. The ground had been reached by a retrograde movement. This ended this brilliant affair, which, successful as it was{ was greatly marred in execution by the manner in which General Mahone was supported. If the division of Wilcox had been moved to the front, the Confederates would have completely turned and enveloped the left flank of the Sixth Corps; and these troops caught between two fires must have suffered great losses. It is a significant fact, with regard to the various movements conducted by General Mahone, which reflected such lustre on himself and on the Confederate arms, that at no time was he placed under the command of any division commander. So great was the confidence reposed by General Lee in his skill and energy, that in all cases he reported to the corps commander or directly to the general-in-chief.

Almost immediately following the movement on Reams' Station, in which the sharpshooters bore their full part, and bore it well, was the battle of the Crater, an action fought entirely by Mahone, from which he gained enduring fame. Here, also, the sharpshooters covered themselves with glory, being always in the van and doing full service there. Their commandant, Captain Broadbent, a man of gigantic strength and stature, especially distinguished himself by his reckless daring. Like the brave Major Ridge, who led the stormers at Ciudad Rodrigo, Broadbent was the first in the works and fell at the foot of the Crater wall, pierced, it was said, with no less than eleven bayonet wounds. After Mahone drove the enemy from the captured mine and retook the pieces, when the line was re-established, a Napoleon gun belonging to Pegram's Battery (which being just over the mine was blown up by its explosion), was found to be outside of the line, at some distance in front of them. It was then almost death to show a head along the line, and the great question was how to get that gun in. Finally some adventurous spirits, being inspired by the promise of a furlough, crept at night to the front, fixed a strong rope around the muzzle, and so dragged it in in triumph. In this action the artillery was specially well served, officers encouraging the men, both by their presence and example. One battery to the south of the mine was handled with a degree of gallantry which challenged all honor. It was here that Lieutenant

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