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[427] o'clock the roar of cannon, the rush of missiles, and the bursting of bombs filled all the air. The clangor alone of this awful combat might well have confused and awed a less cool and watchful commander than General Meade. It did not confuse him. With the calculation of a tactician, and the eye of an experienced judge, he watched from his headquarters, on the hill, whatever movement under the murky cloud which enveloped the rebel lines might first disclose the intention which it was evident this artillery firing covered. About six o'clock P. M. silence, deep, awfully impressive, but momentary, was permitted, as if by magic, to dwell upon the field. Only the groans-unheard before — of the wounded and dying, only a murmur, a warning memory of the breeze through the foliage; only the low rattle of preparation of what was to come embroidered this blank stillness. Then, as the smoke beyond the village was lightly borne to the eastward, the woods on the left were seen filled with dark masses of infantry, three columns deep, who advanced at a quick step. Magnificent! Such a charge by such a force-full forty-five thousand men, under Hill and Longstreet-even though it threatened to pierce and annihilate the Third Corps, against which it was directed, drew forth cries of admiration from all who beheld it. General Sickles and his splendid command withstood the shock with a determination that checked but could not fully restrain it. Back, inch by inch, fighting, falling, dying, cheering, the men retired. The rebels came on more furiously, halting at intervals, pouring volleys that struck our troops down in scores. General Sickles, fighting desperately, was struck in the leg and fell. The Second Corps came to the aid of his decimated column. The battle then grew fearful. Standing firmly up against the storm, our troops, though still outnumbered, gave back shot for shot, volley for volley, almost death for death. Still the enemy was not restrained. Down he came upon our left with a momentum that nothing could check. The rifled guns that lay before our infantry on a knoll were in danger of capture. General Hancock was wounded in the thigh, General Gibbon in the shoulder The Fifth Corps, as the First and Second wavered anew, went into the breach with such shouts and such volleys as made the rebel column tremble at last. Up from the valley behind, another battery came rolling to the heights, and flung its contents in an instant down in the midst of the enemy's ranks. Crash! crash! with discharges deafening, terrible, the musketry firing went on. The enemy, re-forming after each discharge with wondrous celerity and firmness, still pressed up the declivity. What hideous courage filled the minutes between the appearance of the Fifth Corps and the advance to the support of the rebel columns of still another column from the right, I cannot bear to tell. Men fell, as the leaves fall in autumn, before those horrible discharges. Faltering for an instant, the rebel columns seemed about to recede before the tempest. But their officers, who could be seen through the smoke of the conflict galloping, and swinging their swords along the lines, rallied them anew, and the next instant the whole line sprang forward, as if to break through our own by mere weight of numbers. A division from the Twelfth Corps, on the extreme right, reached the scene at this instant, and at the same time Sedgwick came up with the Sixth Corps, having finished a march of nearly thirty-six consecutive hours. To what rescue they came their officers saw and told them. Weary as they were, barefooted, hungry, fit to drop for slumber, as they were, the wish for victory was so blended with the thought of exhaustion that they cast themselves, in turn, en masse into line of battle, and went down on the enemy with death in their weapons and cheers on their lips. The rebel's camel's back was broken by this “feather.” His line staggered, reeled, and drifted slowly back, while the shouts of our soldiers, lifted up amid the roar of musketry over the bodies of the dead and wounded, proclaimed the completeness of their victory.

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Daniel E. Sickles (2)
Sedgwick (1)
George G. Meade (1)
A. P. Hill (1)
Hancock (1)
James Gibbon (1)
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