First Connecticut Cavalry, belonging to Custer
's Division, had a unique and pleasant manner of announcing the arrival of a mail; the regimental trumpeters, constituting a sort of a cornet band, would form in front of the colonel's tent and play “Home, sweet home,” sometimes following that immediately with “The girl I left behind me.”
The letters were all read and their contents discussed, the flute had ceased its complaining, the eight o'clock roll-call was over, taps had sounded, lights were out in the tents, cook-fires flickered low, the mists of the autumn night gathered gray and chill, the sentinels paced back and forth in front of the various headquarters, the camp was still — that many-headed monster, a great army, was asleep.
Midnight came, and with it no sound but the tramp of the relief guard as the sergeant replaced the tired sentinels.
One o'clock, and all was tranquil as a peace convention; two, three o'clock, and yet the soldiers slept.
At four the silence was broken by sharp firing in the direction of our cavalry pickets, toward the western side of the Valley
The firing increased in volume, suggesting an attack in force by cavalry.
(than whom, by the way, the wars of the century probably have not developed an abler leader of a cavalry division) quietly dispatched a regiment to support our outposts and awaited developments, which speedily came.
Fifteen minutes later heavy skirmish firing was heard on the left of the infantry, two miles from where our cavalry division was encamped.
The firing on our extreme right gradually died away and. that in front of the infantry line rapidly increased, showing that the movement on our right had been a feint, while the real attack had now begun against the centre and left.
“Boots and saddles!”
was blown from division, brigade, and regimental headquarters.
The darkness rang with the blare of bugles and the shouts of officers hurrying the troopers from their dreams to their horses.
The rattle of musketry in front of the infantry increased to heavy volleys, the volleys thickened into a continuous roar, and now, as day began to dawn, the deep bass of the artillery came in to complete the grand but terrible chorus of battle.
The cavalry were speedily mounted and in line by regiments, awaiting orders.
That is the time that tries the courage of the bravest.
Once in the heat, and hurry, and inspiration of the battle, the average soldier forgets fear in the excitement of the hour; but to stand at a safe distance, though within easy sight and hearing of the conflict, ready, expectant, every nerve strung, awaiting the word of command to march into the hailstorm of death