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[203] parallelogram or nearly an oblong shape, they deposited in it a ton of powder, and then sealed up the cavity as tightly as possible. A train of powder and slow match were only required to explode this immense mass and set free the enormous gaseous force, so soon as the disposition was made for the climacteric. The efficient superintendence of this operation is due to Captain Hickenlooper, of McPherson's staff.

After the explosion, which, by the way, was either noiseless, or at least not noticeable in the rear of heavy guns, our soldiers rushed for the breach, intending to occupy the whole of the work. The blast had opened up a rift right across the fort, extending from wall to wall. The rebels, as if they had knowledge of the design, or else by a marvellous coincidence, rushed simultaneously from the other end. The powder had left a couple of huge projecting lips, and between them a crater-like fissure, making the distance from furrow to furrow from ten to twenty feet. Thus, ranged behind these new-formed walls, our men found themselves face to face with their foes, and a dire and dreadful slaughter commenced from perhaps three hundred men on each side, within this arena of two hundred feet in length.

The contest was severe, and the fresh packs of rifles kept opening on all sides. The gunners loaded and fired away vigorously. The rebels crowded up with great spirit. Our men went in, a regiment at a time, with full cartridge-boxes, and in thirty minutes were relieved by others. The firing for about an hour was more terrific than any battle-field ever the gory field of war has witnessed. Had every shot touched its man there would have been half a million slain; as it was, by far the greater portion of them found lodgment in the solid clay.

The first regiment which rushed in was the scarred remnant of the Forty-fifth Illinois, whose members lie on a dozen illustrious fields, led by Colonel Maltby. Its loss was necessarily severe. It was seconded by the “Bloody Seventh” Missouri, who were soon recalled.

Next went in the Twentieth Illinois, who kept up a gallant resistance for a half-hour, when the Thirty-first Illinois, under Lieutenant-Colonel Reese, went in. Subsequently, during the evening and night, the Twenty-third Indiana, the Forty-sixth Illinois, and the Fifty-sixth Illinois, the latter under its beloved Colonel, Melancthon Smith. The list then commenced again, relieving in this same order.

The melee at first was terrible, although the losses were not proportionate at all to the noise. The men on both sides were engaged in throwing up temporary works with a view to getting a light field-piece in position. They had gotten a notched piece of timber rolled up to the top of the rough bank, when smash came a blast from a ten-pounder right in their faces, sending the stick of timber right amongst them, singeing their hair and blackening them with the discharge, killing two or three outright.

This blow struck Colonel Maltby with stunning force. The rattle of musketry kept up until nightfall. Our batteries on Lightburn's and Giles Smith's front, as well as from Burbridge, kept firing on the rebels; but from the nearness of the combatants, the missiles either did not reach the thick of the rebel opposition, or came so close as to injure our own men. In a few hours, however, they had felt so much reconciled to their position as to commence a most dangerous and dreadful piece of warfare-casting lighted shells over into one end of the fort. Some grenades, it is said, were first thrown, and afterward twenty-twos and twenty-fours. Our forces seeing the dismay and destruction, still felt secure enough to commence the same game, heaving however, some very heavy shells to the rebel end of the work.

I may say here that our possession of this end of the fort is regarded as complete as that of the enemy to the rest. It is believed, also, by General McPherson and his engineers that, if not too much pressed, he can in a day or two establish a battery within the work. The contest still rages, and as both sides are throwing up earthworks, it seems as if we might find at the end of a few days our point gained and our lines advanced to a most commanding position.

Our losses, I grieve to say, include several very fine officers. The total up to noon to-day, in this particular division, will amount to about three hundred in killed and wounded — perhaps forty of the former. Major Leander Fink was killed by a ball through the forehead. Colonel Melancthon Smith, an excellent soldier and a model gentleman, is dangerously and we fear mortally wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Reese, of the Thirty-first Illinois, is wounded in the arm. Lieutenant J. Clifford, of the Forty-fifth Illinois, is wounded severely. Captain Boyce and Adjutant Frohok, of the same regiment, are wounded also. There are some others, removed to the general hospital, whose names I cannot send at present. 1

1 See Report of General Grant, page 142, Docs. ante.

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