Always, when any one spoke, it was of a slain comrade of his virtues, or of the manner of his death; or of one missing, with many conjectures respecting him. Some of them, it was said, had premonitions, and went into the battle not expecting to survive the day. Thus they lay or sat. The conversation was with bowed head, and in a low murmur, ending in a sigh.
The thoughts of all were in the homes of the killed, seeing there the scenes and sorrow which a day or two afterward occurred.
Then they reverted to the comrade of the morning, the tent-sharer, lying stark and dead up on Marye's Hill, or at its base.
A brave lieutenant lay on the plank road, just where the brigade crossed for the purpose of forming for the charge.
A sharpshooter of the enemy had made that spot his last bed. It was December, and cold.
There was no camp-fire, and there was neither blanket nor overcoat.
They had been stored in a warehouse preparatory to moving out to the attack.
But no one mentioned the cold; it was not noticed.
Steadily the wounded were carried by to the hospitals near the river.
Some one, now and then, brought word of the condition of a friend.
The hospitals were a harrowing sight; full, crowded, nevertheless patients were brought in constantly.
Down stairs, up stairs, every room full.
Surgeons, with their coats off and sleeves rolled up above the elbows, sawed off limbs, administered anaesthetics.
They took off a leg or an arm in a twinkling, after a brief consultation.
It seemed to be, in case of doubt-off with his limb.
A colonel lay in the middle of the main room on the first floor, white, unconscious.
When the surgeon was asked what hope, he turned his hand down, then up, as much as to say it may chance to fall either way. But the sights in a field hospital, after a battle, are not to be minutely described.
Nine thousand was the tale of the wounded-nine thousand, and not all told.
After midnight-perhaps it was two o'clock in the morning — the brigade was again marched out of the town, and, filing in from the road, took up a position a short distance below the brick house.
It was on the ground over which the successive charges had been made.
The fog, however, obscured everything; not a star twinkled above them; nothing could be discerned a few feet away.
The brick house could not be seen, though they were close to it. Looking back toward the town, lying on the river bank, over the narrow plain which lay below, one could not persuade one's self it was not a sheet of water unruffled in the dim landscape.
Few lights, doubtless, were burning at that hour in the town.
None could be seen.
You would not have supposed that there was a town there.
A profound stillness