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[247] regimental colors floated gayly in the light of the mid-day sun. The far-stretching columns of troops, with glistening weapons, moved forward with uniform motion, presenting, at a distance, the appearance of one compact mass. On the left, dense masses of sulphurous smoke hung just above the trees, and in front and along the lines the shells were bursting in the air, while the solid shot, seemingly imbued with infernal energy, ploughed the ground, bounding and plunging over the field, leaving all over the meadow little clouds of dust to mark their course. That march, through that storm of shell and shot, was a fit introduction to the scenes upon which that division was about to enter.

But little time was occupied in reaching Thomas, where General Granger, commanding the reserve, and General Steedman, were already holding consultation with him. As we approached, General Whittaker, whose brigade was in the advance, was told that it was absolutely necessary that he should drive the enemy from the ridge on our right, where heavy forces had been massed, as if for the purpose of flanking Thomas. Indeed, the occupation of that ridge was so threatening, that, if the enemy continued to hold it, Thomas must have retired. Whittaker said he would take the ridge, and he did it.

This is the way it was done: The six regiments of the First brigade were formed in two lines — the first comprising the Ninety-sixth Illinois, Colonel Thomas E. Champion, on the right; One Hundred and Fifteenth Illinois, Colonel J. H. Moore, in the centre; and the Twenty-second Michigan, Colonel Le Fevre, on the left. Then came the order to advance. With a yell, the first line bounded forward on the double-quick. Up and down the little hills and through the narrow valleys which intervened, they pressed hastily forward, until they came within short range of the rebel musketry, which opened upon them furiously, while the grape and <*>canister from the battery on the ridge swept cruelly through their ranks. Almost exhausted with their hurried march, and their long-continued double-quick, the troops recoiled for a moment under that withering fire; but ere the most timid could think of retreating, Colonel Champion promptly gave the command to halt, lie down, and fire, which was obeyed on the instant. There the line lay for five minutes, responding resolutely to the fire of the enemy. That five minutes was a terrible ordeal for our soldiers — for during that short period their ranks were more than decimated. Then came the order to fix bayonets, and charge upon the enemy. The ardor of the men overcame their fatigue, and, tired as they were, they resumed the double-quick march as they advanced up the ridge, right in the face of a galling fire. If a man fell — and many did — he was left to enrich the soil of Georgia with his life's blood, or if able, to creep, alone and unassisted, to the rear, for none who were able to march left the ranks, which were kept well closed up, and the line was firmly maintained.

By this time the Seventy-eighth Illinois and One Hundred and Twenty-first Ohio, of the Second brigade, had came up and were advancing on the right of the first, and a little to the rear. Never was support more opportune, for while Whittaker's men were charging up the ridge, the enemy received a well-directed fire from Colonel Mitchell's forces, and when the crest of the ridge was gained, the enemy was discovered retreating in confusion, and their battery had disappeared. With a loud huzza we followed them; but not far. Fresh troops were sent against us, and the fire became as scathing as ever. We halted in our advanced position, and held it, while the contending musketry, sharp and incessant, almost stunned the ear. The enemy constantly strengthened his lines, and their fire became hotter and quicker. The first line was ordered to fall back. The second line took its place, and held the position a short time, when the forces were ordered to retire to the crest of the ridge, from which the enemy had been driven.

That was the way the fight, on the part of Steedman's division, opened on that day. It had gained a great advantage, but it was not to maintain it without a severe contest. Bragg's reserves — the flower of the Potomac army--were sent to dislodge us from our newly gained position. But it availed them not. Battery M, First Illinois artillery, was planted far to the right, in a commanding position; and such was the conformation of the ground, that as the rebel line advanced to the assault, they came under the sure and effective range of our guns. Their battery had been planted in a new position, bearing upon ours, and the continued roar of artillery soon was mingled with the sound of musketry.

Our lines were extended to the right, so as to reach and support our battery, which the rebels were threatening to attack. A general assault was soon made upon our lines, but it proved disastrous to the rebels. Our grape and canister made great havoc in their ranks, while our soldiers took careful aim before pulling the triggers of their Enfield muskets. The rebels were badly repulsed, and as they retreated we followed, pursuing them a considerable distance. But while this move exposed us to the fire of their artillery, they were much less in danger from our battery. Other troops, in heavier force, took the place of those whom we had driven, and the battle waged fiercely again until we were ordered to retire.

Let the simple truth be told. That retreat, in fact that whole battle in which our division was engaged, was not conducted with precisely the same order observed on a dress parade. I have read of such things; I have heard of troops acting with Arctic coolness and impassibility under the most galling fire, minutely observing every direction of the tactics. It may be so, but it was not so with our division on that day. When the men were ordered to advance they kept their line pretty well, but there were many whose eagerness carried them ahead of it, and some whose timidity kept them in rear of it. In retreating, the men paid but little attention to keeping their lines well dressed, and had the appearance of a mass rather than a line. Nay, more; some of

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