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[94] the Second and Third during that night, and the Fifth about ten Thursday morning. For Thursday's fight the Fifth constituted the only reserve.

Thursday till four O'Clock.

All Thursday forenoon there was lively firing between our skirmishers and those of the enemy, but nothing betokening a general engagement. Standing on Cemetery Hill, which, but for its exposed position, constituted the best point of observation on the field, I could see the long line of our skirmishers stretching around centre and left, well advanced, lying flat on the ground in the meadows or corn-fields and firing at will as they lay. The little streak of curling smoke that rose from their guns faded away in a thin vapor that marked the course of the lines down the left. With a glass the rebel line could be even more distinctly seen, every man of them with his blanket strapped over his shoulder — no foolish “stripping for the fight” with these trained soldiers. Occasionally the gray-coated fellows rose from cover, and with a yell rushed on our men, firing as they came. Once or twice in the half-hour that I watched them, they did this with such impetuosity as to force our skirmishers back, and call out a shell or two from our nearest batteries — probably the very object their officers had in view.

Toward noon I rode over to general headquarters, which had been established in a little, square, one-story, white-washed frame house, to the left and rear of the cemetery, and just under the low hill where our left joined the centre. No part of the line was visible from the spot, and it had been chosen, I suppose, because while within a three minutes gallop of the Cemetery, or the hither portion of the left, it seemed comparatively protected by its situation. The choice was a bad one. Next to the Cemetery, it proved the hottest point on the field.

General Meade had finished his arrangement of the lines. Reports of the skirmishing were coming in; the facts developed by certain reconnoissances were being presented; the trim, well-tailored person of Major-General Pleasanton was constantly passing in and out; the cavalry seemed to be in incessant demand. General Williams, and Major Barstow, the Adjutant-Generals, were hard at work sending out the orders; aids and orderlies were galloping off and back; General Warren, acting Chief of Staff, was with the General Commanding, poring over the maps of the field which the engineers had just finished; most of the staff were stretched beneath an apple tree, resting while they could.

It seemed that a heavy pressure had been brought to bear for an attack on the enemy, by the heads of columns in divisions, pouring the whole army on the enemy's centre, and smashing through it after the old Napoleonic plan; but Meade steadily resisted. The enemy was to fight him where he stood, was to come under the range of this long chain of batteries on the crests. Wisely decided, as the event proved.

The afternoon passed on in calm and cloudless splendor. From headquarters I rode down the left, then back to Slocum's headquarters, on a high hill, half or three quarters of a mile south from the Cemetery, on the Baltimore pike. Everywhere quiet, the men stretched lazily on the ground in line of battle, horses attached to the caissons, batteries unlimbered and gunners resting on their guns.

The thunderbolts were shut up, like Aeolus' winds; it seemed as if the sun might set in peace over all this mighty enginery of destruction, held in calm, magnificent reserve.

The rebel attack on the left.

But unseen hands were letting loose the elements. General Meade had not failed to see the comparatively exposed position of our left; and between three and four the order was sent out for the extreme left — then formed by Sickles's (Third) corps — to advance. If the enemy was preparing to attack us there, our advance would soon unmask his movements.

It did. The corps moved out, spiritedly, of course — when, even in disastrous days, did it go otherwise to battle?--and by four o'clock had found the rebel advance. Longstreet was bringing up his whole corps — nearly a third of the rebel army — to precipitate upon our extreme left. The fight at once opened, with artillery first, presently with crashing roars of musketry, too. Rebel batteries were already in position, and some of them enfiladed Sickles's line. Our own were hastily set to work, and the most dangerous of the rebel guns were partially silenced. Then came a rebel charge, with the wild yell and rush; it is met by a storm of grape and canister from our guns, depressed to rake them in easy range. The line is shattered and sent whirling back on the instant. Long columns almost immediately afterward begin to debouch from the woods to the rear of the rebel batteries — another and a grander charge is preparing. General Warren who, as Chief of Staff, is overlooking the fight for the Commanding General, sends back for more troops. Alas! Sedgwick's corps is not yet available. We have only the Fifth for the reserves. Howard and Hancock are already at work on the centre and left centre. But Hancock advances, and the fire grows intenser still along the whole line of the left.

Meantime, Cemetery Hill is raked at once from front and left, and the shells from rebel batteries on the left carry over even into the positions held by our right. The battle rages on but one side, but death moves visibly over the whole field, from line to line, and front to rear. Trains are hurried away on the Baltimore pike; the unemployed debris of the army takes alarm, a panic in the rear seems impending. Guards thrown hastily across the roads to send the runaways back, do something to repress it.

The rebel lines we have seen debouching behind their batteries on Sickles's front slowly advance. The fight grows desperate, aid after aid is sent for reenforcements; our front wavers, the

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Sickles (3)
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