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[383]

Meanwhile, the withdrawal of a division from Slocum had enabled Ewell to assail our right wing in superior force, crowding part of it back considerably, and seizing some of its rifle-pits. Hence, just at dark, the enemy assailed the right of Howard's shattered 11th corps, holding the right face of Cemetery hill; but gained no essential advantage.

Night closed the 2d day of July and of the battle, with the Rebels decidedly encouraged and confident. Of the seven corps composing our army, three had been severely handled, and at least half their effective strength demolished. Reynolds, commanding the 1st, and Brig.-Gen. Zook, of Sickles's corps, had been killed; Sickles, of the 3d, had had his leg shattered by a cannon-ball, and was out of the fight; our total losses up to this hour were scarcely fewer than 20,000 men; and none were arriving to replace them. The ground whereon Reynolds had fought and fallen so gallantly was about the center of their army; they held that also on which Howard had been cut up, and that from which Sickles had been hurled in disorder. True, they also had lost heavily; but they had reason for their hope that the morrow's triumph would richly repay all their losses.1

The battle opened next day2 on our right; where Slocum — his division having returned from the left — pushed forward to retake his lost rifle-pits, and did it, after a sharp conflict, reestablishing his line, and resting upon it. Meantime, Lee had reenforced Longstreet with three fresh brigades, under Pickett, which arrived from Chambersburg an hour or two before Sedgwick came up on our side, a division from Ewell, and two detached from Hill; and the Rebel left was firmly established and its batteries planted on the ridge whence Sickles had been driven.

There was a pause of anxious expectation, fitfully broken by spits of firing here and there, while the Rebels were making their dispositions and posting their batteries for the supreme effort which was to decide this momentous contest. At length, at 1 P. M., the signal was given, and 115 heavy guns from Hill's and Longstreet's front crossed their fire on Cemetery hill, the center and key of our position. Here, a little behind the crest, was Meade's headquarters; though the hill had been plowed by Rebel balls during the fierce fighting

1 Lee, in his official report, says:

After a severe struggle, Longstreet succeeded in getting possession of and holding the desired ground. Ewell also carried some of the strong positions which he assailed; and the result was such as to lead to the belief that he would ultimately be able to dislodge the enemy. The battle ceased at dark. These partial successes determined me to continue the assault next day.

2 Friday, July 3.

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