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[97] Sharp-shooters from the houses in the town were picking off officers who exposed themselves along the crest. They knew that we did not want to shell the place, and presumed upon the forbearance of our artillery. The annoyance had at last become too serious, and one of our guns had been directed to dislodge a nest of the most audacious and the surest aimed by battering down the house from which they were firing. It was the only house in Gettysburgh we harmed throughout the battles.

To the front skirmishers were still at work, but in a desultory way. All eyes were turned to the right; where now that our artillery had taken its share in the contest, its intensity seemed but redoubled by Ewell's men. Distinctly, even amid all this roar, there came up the sound of another of those ominous cheers; and the hurricane of crashing sound that followed seemed tearing the forest trees and solid hillside asunder. It was another rebel charge. Standing by the gate-keeper's lodge, with a glass I could distinctly see our shattered line swinging irregularly and convulsively back from those death-bearing woods. The rebel yells redoubled, but so did our artillery fire, now that the gunners saw exactly where to throw. The retreat lasted for but a moment, the line straightened, rallied, plunged into the woods again.

A tried General.

All this while — the fire gradually getting a little hotter on the hill, and an occasional shell from the rebel guns, now beginning to open, coming over--General Howard was calmly reclining against a hillock by a grave-stone, with his staff about him. One or two he kept constantly watching the right, and occasionally sweeping the whole rebel line with their glasses; the rest were around him, ready for instant service. I have seen many men in action, but never one so imperturbably cool as this General of the Eleventh corps. I watched him closely as a Minie whizzed overhead. I dodged, of course; I never expect to get over that habit; but I am confident he did not move a muscle by the fraction of a hair's breadth.

Progress on the right.

About a quarter after nine the conflict in the woods to the right seemed to be culminating. Clouds of smoke obscured the view, but beyond that smoke we knew that our noble line — the Twelfth and a part of the First, with some reserves, were now engaged — was holding its ground; the direction of the sound even seemed to indicate that it Was gaining, but of course that was a very uncertain test. “Ride over to. General Meade,” said Howard to one of his aids, “and tell him the fighting on the right seems more terrific than ever, and appears swinging somewhat toward the centre, but that we know little or nothing of how the battle goes, and ask him if he has any orders.” In a few minutes the aid galloped back. “The troops are to stand to arms, sir, and watch the front.”

Meantime there was a little diversion away down toward the extreme right. A brigade had been thrown east of Rock Creek to watch the possible attempt at repeating the effort to get down the valley into our rear. Finding a good opportunity, it began to pour in its volleys upon Ewell's flank. The audacity of a single brigade attempting such a thing was beyond rebel suspicion; they naturally thought a heavy force was turning their flank, and were less inclined to push on Slocum's sorely pressed men in front.

Nothing seemed to come of Howard's “watching the front;” the fire of skirmishers revived occasionally, and then died away again; and finally, .about a quarter before ten, I started over to general headquarters. In descending the Cemetery Hill, and crossing the intervening fields, I noticed that some bullets were beginning to come over from our left, but supposed them of course to be merely stray shots from the rebel skirmishers.

The Commander-in-chief at headquarters.

Headquarters presented a busy scene. Meade was receiving reports in the little house, coming occasionally to the door to address a hasty inquiry to some one in the group of staff-officers under the tree. Quick and nervous in his movements, but calm, and as it seemed to me, lit up with the glow of the occasion, he looked more the General, less the student. Polished, fashionable-looking Pleasanton, riding-whip resting in the leg of one of his jack-boots, and neatly-fitting kids drawn over his hands, occasionally put in some earnest remark. Warren, calm, absorbed, earnest as ever, was constantly in consultation with the Commander.

In all matters of detail, Williams or Major Barstow was referred to as to an encyclopedia. Orderlies and aids were momentarily dashing up with reports and off with orders; the signal-officers were bringing in the reports telegraphed by the signal-flags from the different crests that overlooked the fight. The rest of the staff stood ready for any duty, and outside the little gardenfence a great group of horses stood hitched.

Headquarters under fire.

W., my original companion from Baltimore, was up at last, and very sad. His son, a gallant young lieutenant of regular artillery, had had his leg shot off in Wednesday's disastrous fight, and whether living now or dead he could not tell; he was a prisoner (or a corpse) in Gettysburgh.

We walked around to the east of the little house and lay down on the grass. Others were there; there was much comparison of views, talk of probabilities, gossip of the arrival of militia from Harrisburgh. The fight still raged furiously on the right. Headquarters were under a slight fire. The balls from the left seemed to increase a little in number; a few came over from the front; we saw no damage that any of them did.

Close by our heads went one, evidently from some kind of small arm that had an unfamiliar sound. “That,” said W., aesthetic always, or nothing, “that is a muffled howl; that's the exact ”

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Melvin F. Howard (3)
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