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[280] observed; for, with great circumspection, even in details, he ordered the men to leave them one by one, dropping to the rear as if for any other purpose than that of going out to fight. The places of the absentees were gradually filled by an extension of the lines. In order to follow up the movement, the division of General Wilcox was dispatched to the right of Mahone, and was expected to render him support by moving to the front and connecting with his (Mahone's) right, and by afterward conforming with the latter's movements. The plan was a good one, and its results might have been very momentous. Mahone, moving cautiously to the front, holding his troops well in hand, furiously assaulted the left of Birney in flank and rear, carrying the line and capturing whole regiments and batteries. Penetrating further in the gap with one of his brigades, he struck the right of the Sixth Corps, and here rested, after vainly waiting for the expected support, which never came. After securing his guns and prisoners, Mahone returned to his works.

We will now follow the division of General Wilcox. These troops, moving well to the right, took position at some distance from the Weldon road. When the sharpshooters were sent forward they soon developed a strong skirmish line of the enemy, which was speedily broken; and an advance still further disclosed an open field with no enemy in front except a skirmish line and the ordinary reserve. Evidently the left of the Sixth Corps was near at hand. Two brigades of the division were moved into position, and the inevitable intrenchments soon began to appear; but beyond a sharp picket fire in front there was no fighting. All the evening we heard the firing to our left, and as it increased in volume an officer of the division staff was sent out to the picket line and informed the officer in charge that the division Would withdraw at once from its position; that it must do its best to hold the line with both its flanks unprotected, and, if forced back, was to make a run for it. The sharpshooters kept up a steady fight, and were glad to perceive that there was no dispositions on the part of the enemy to advance; on the contrary, they seemed rather nervous lest we should do so. At nightfall, however, unwonted signs of activity among them were to be observed. Fresh troops were moved into line; the rattle of accoutrements and canteens could be heard, and the officers' words of command all indicated preparations for an early advance. The word was passed down our line to give them one volley and then retire. When it was well dark, on the Federals came at a charge. Greatly to our relief we could hear the officers shouting out, “Hold your fire for the line of battle!” This was just the thing we wanted. We gave them one volley and broke for the rear like quarter-horses.

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Weldon, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)

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William Mahone (4)
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