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[273] Not till then did the battalion find its proper brigade, and resume its specific duties on the outpost between the armies. A picket line in front was at once established, and the long watches of the night were spent in anxious conjecture of the issue of the enemy's fight, and the chances of its renewal on the morrow. No fires nor lights of any kind were allowed; and only the watery and feeble glimpses of the moon, then past her quarter, exposed the grim aspects of the bloody field, defining the outlines of silent and lifeless bodies, marking also the broken debris of battle and the patches of blood-soaked ground. Here the sharpshooters passed the first of many like nights --on the fringe of two mighty hosts, the deep stillness, unbroken except by the stray shots of pickets and the tramp of troops moving in their front. Several prisoners were picked up by the scouts, from whom the information was extracted that the enemy was in front, in strong force, and would advance at daylight. This intelligence was communicated to headquarters, while the sharpshooters, throwing up a temporary work of logs, calmly awaited the appearance of morning, and with it, that of the enemy.

Nor were they disappointed; for at the first gray light there were movements in front which showed very clearly that something serious was on foot. In the direction of Ewell, to the right, the scattering fire of the night previous could be heard rapidly assuming the volume of a regular fusillade, which gathered force as it worked up to the left, increasing the activity of the enemy in the immediate front. Just as day fairly opened the memorable combat of May 5th began. Coming forward in loose order, the line of the enemy moved down upon us without the skirmishers either firing or cheering. The courage and discipline of the sharpshooters were never more severely tried than on this occasion; nor did they omit to respond to the high expectations of their superiors, receiving the enemy's charge with great steadiness, and continuing the unequal combat till both flanks were turned. The command, still unbroken, retired to the main line before the desperate odds it had engaged, having held the enemy in check over ten minutes, which proved a delay of most timely and providential interposition, as the following facts, which has never before transpired in connection with the battle, will attest; for the confident expectation with which the sharpshooters withdrew — of re-forming on the main line and putting a stop there at once to the enemy's forward movement — was doomed to be a terrible disappointment, and a state of things was developed which might easily have led to the utmost disaster. By some unaccountable neglect the divisions of Generals Heth and Wilcox, which

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C. I. Wilcox (1)
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