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[481]

In close columns of squadrons, advancing as if in review, with sabres drawn and glistening like silver in the bright sunlight, the spectacle called forth a murmur of admiration. It was, indeed, a memorable one. Chester, being nearest, opened at once with his section, at the distance of three-fourths of a mile. Pennington and Kinney soon did the same. Canister and percussion shell were put into the steadily approaching columns as fast as the guns could fire. The dismounted men fell back to the right and left, and such as could got to their horses. The mounted skirmishers rallied and fell into line. Then Gregg rode over to the First Michigan, which, as it had come upon the field some time before, had formed close column of squadrons between and supporting the batteries, and ordered it to charge. As Town ordered sabres to be drawn and the column to advance, Custer dashed up with similar orders, and placed himself at its head. The two columns drew nearer and nearer, the Confederates outnumbering their opponents as three or four to one. The gait increased-first the trot, then the gallop. Hampton's battle-flag floated in the van of the brigade. The orders of the Confederate officers could be heard by those in the woods on their left: “Keep to your sabres, men, keep to your sabres!” for the lessons they had learned at Brandy Station and at Aldie had been severe. There the cry had been: “Put up your sabres! Draw your pistols and fight like gentlemen!” But the sabre was never a favorite weapon with the Confederate cavalry, and now, in spite of the lessons of the past, the warnings of the present were not heeded by all.

As the charge was ordered the speed increased, every horse on the jump, every man yelling like a demon. The columns of the Confederates blended, but the perfect alignment was maintained. Chester put charge after charge of canister into their midst, his men bringing it up to the guns by the armful. The execution was fearful, but the long rents closed up at once. As the opposing columns drew nearer and nearer, each with perfect alignment, every man gathered his horse well under him, and gripped his weapon the tighter. Though ordered to retire his guns, towards which the head of the assaulting column was directed, Chester kept on until the enemy were within fifty yards, and the head of the First Michigan had come into the line of his fire. Staggered by the fearful execution from the two batteries, the men in the front line of the Confederate column drew in their horses and wavered. Some turned, and the column fanned out to the right and left, but those behind came pressing on. Custer, seeing the front men hesitate, waved his sabre

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