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[293]

Greatly did officers and men marvel as morning, noon, and afternoon passed in inaction — on our part, not on the enemy's, for, as we well knew, he was plying axe and pick and shovel in fortifying a position which was already sufficiently formidable. Meanwhile one of our staff conducted religious services, first in the Tenth Virginia, then in the Second Maryland regiment, the men gladly joining in the solemn exercises, which they knew would be for many of their number the last they should ever engage in on earth. At length, after the conclusion of that tremendous artillery duel which for two hours shook the earth, the infantry began to move. It was past 6 P. M. before our brigade was ordered forward-nearly twenty-four hours after we had gotten into position. We were to storm the eastern face of Culp's Hill, a rough and rugged eminence on the southeast of the town, which formed the key to the enemy's right-centre. Passing first through a small skirt of woods, we advanced rapidly in line of battle across a cornfield which lay between us and the base of the hill, the enemy opening upon us briskly as soon as we were unmasked. Rock creek, waist-deep in some places, was waded, and now the whole line, except the First North Carolina, held in reserve on our left flank, pressed up the steep acclivity through the darkness, and was soon hotly engaged with the enemy. After the conflict had been going on for some time, I ventured to urge the brigadier-general commanding to send forward the First North Carolina to reinforce their struggling comrades.1 Receiving orders to that effect, I led the regiment up the hill, guided only by the flashes of the muskets, until I reached a position abreast of our line of fire on the right. In front a hundred yards or so I saw another line of fire, but owing to the thick foliage could not determine whether the musket flashes were up or down the hill. Finding that bullets were whistling over our heads, I concluded the force in our front must be the enemy, and seeing, as I thought, an admirable chance of turning their flank, I urged Colonel Brown to move rapidly forward and fire. When we reached what I supposed the proper position, I shouted, “Fire on them, boys; fire on them I” At that moment Major Parsley, the gallant officer in command of the Third North Carolina, rushed up and shouted, “They are our own men.” Owing to the din of battle the command to fire had not been heard except by those nearest to me, and I believe no injury resulted from my mistake. I mention it only in order to assume the responsibility for the order. Soon after this the works 2 were gallantly

1 It was dark, and General Steuart detained one regiment in the field mentioned to prevent our flank being turned. The firing in the woods now became very rapid, and volley after volley echoed and re-echoed among the hills. I felt very anxious about our boys in front, and several times urged General Steuart to send the reserve regiment to the support of the remainder of the brigade.-Extract from a letter written after the battle.

2 Let me tell you the character of their works. They were built of heavy logs, with earth piled against them to the thickness of five feet, and abattis in front.-Extract from a letter.

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Rock Creek, Menard County, Illinois (Illinois, United States) (1)
Culp's Hill (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)

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George H. Steuart (2)
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