line of flame and smoke sways to and fro, but slowly settles backward. Sickles is being — not driven — but pushed back. At last the reserve comes in; the advance of the brigades of the Fifth wind down among the rocks and enter the smoke, the lines braces up, advances, halts soon, but comes no more back. The left is not overpowered yet. We have had two hours of exceedingly severe artillery and musketry fighting. The enemy still holds a little of the ground we had, but the chances seem almost even.
One phase — a type of many.I cannot trace the movements further in detail; let me give one phase of the fight, fit type of many more. Some Massachusetts batteries--Captain Bigelow's, Captain Phillips's, two or three more under Captain McGilvry of Maine--were planted on the extreme left, advanced now well down to the Emmetsburgh road, with infantry in their front — the first division, I think, of Sickles's corps. A little after five, a fierce rebel charge drove back the infantry and menaced the batteries. Orders are sent to Bigelow on the extreme left, to hold his position at every hazard short of sheer annihilation, till a couple more batteries can be brought to his support. Reserving his fire a little, then with depressed guns opening with double charges of grape and canister, he smites and shatters, but cannot break the advancing line. His grape and canister are exhausted, and still, closing grandly up over their slain, on they come. He falls back on spherical case, and pours this in at the shortest range. On, still onward comes the artillery-defying line, and still he holds his position. They are within six paces of the guns — he fires again. Once more, and he blows devoted soldiers from his very muzzles. And still mindful of that solemn order, he holds his place. They spring upon his carriages and shoot down his horses! And then, his Yankee artillerists still about him, he seizes the guns by hand, and from the very front of that line drags two of them off. The caissons are further back--five out of the six are saved. That single company, in that half-hour's fight, lost thirty-three of its men, including every sergeant it had. The Captain himself was wounded. Yet it was the first time it was ever under fire I! I give it simply as a type. So they fought along that fiery line! The rebels now poured on Phillips's battery, and it, too, was forced to drag off the pieces by hand when the horses were shot down. From a new position it opened again; and at last the two reinforcing batteries came up on the gallop. An enfilading fire swept the rebel line; Sickles's gallant infantry charged, the rebel line swept back on a refluent tide — we regained the lost ground, and every gun just lost in this spendid fight. Once more I repeat, this is but a type.
Re-Enforcements called in from the right.Slocum, too, came into the fight. The reserves were all used up; the right seemed safe. It was believed from the terrific attack that the whole rebel army, Ewell's corps included, was massed on our centre and left; and so a single brigade was left to hold the rifle-pits constructed through the day along the whole line of the Twelfth, on the right; and the rest of the corps came across the little neck of land to strengthen our weakening line. Needful, perhaps, but perilous in the extreme.
The close.At six the cannonade grew fiercer than ever, and the storm of death swept over the field from then till darkness ended the conflict. In the main our strengthened columns held the line. At points they were forced back a little; a few prisoners were lost. On the whole the rebels were unsuccessful, but we had not quite held our own. Some caissons had been blown up on either side; a barn on the Emmetsburgh road was fired by the rebel shells, and its light gave their sharpshooters a little longer time at that point to work. Both sides lay on their arms exhausted, but insatiate, to wait for the dawning.
Results and doubtful issue.The Third and Second corps were badly shattered. The Eleventh had not been quite so much engaged — its artillery had kept the rebels at a greater distance — but it had behaved well. Sickles was wounded — a leg shot off; Gen. Zook was killed; our own old townsman, Col. Cross, was killed; the farm-houses and barns for miles were filled with the wounded. The rebels had left us Barksdale, dying; what other losses they had met we could only conjecture from the piles of dead the last rays of the sun had shown along their front. And so, with doubtful prospects, darkness came. like a wall between us, and compelled nature's truce. From the right there came sudden, sharp vol. leys of cheers; Ewell had not gone; a hasty rush had carried some of Slocum's rifle-pits, protected only by the long-drawn-out line of a single brigade. It was a gloomy close. That was our strongest point, where Jackson's men had gained this fortified foot-hold. Now, indeed, if ever, may the nation well wrestle with God in prayer. We have fought but three hours and a half; have lost on both flanks; have called every reserve we had on the field into action, and with daybreak must hold these shattered columns to the work again. Well may the land take up the refrain of Boker's touching hymn for the Philadelphia Fourth. . . . . . .
“Help us Lord, our only trust!
We are helpless, we are dust!
All our homes are red with blood!
Long our grief we have withstood;
Every lintel each door-post,
Drips, at tidings from the host,
With the blood of some one lost.
Help us Lord, our only trust!
We are helpless, we are dust!”