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[386]

Now let us hear “ Agate,” from our side, describe that last, determined effort of the Rebellion to maintain a foothold on the free soil of the North:

The great, desperate, final charge came at 4. The Rebels seemed to have gathered up all their strength and desperation for one fierce, convulsive effort, that should sweep over and wash out our obstinate resistance. They swept up as before: the flower of their army to the front, victory staked upon the issue. In some places, they literally lifted up and pushed back our lines; but, that terrible “position” of ours!--wherever they entered it, enfilading fires from half a score of crests swept away their columns like merest chaff. Broken and hurled back, they easily fell into our hands; and, on the center and left, the last half-hour brought more prisoners than all the rest.

So it was along the whole line; but it was on the 2d corps that the flower of the Rebel army was concentrated; it was there that the heaviest shock beat upon, and shook, and even sometimes crumbled, our line.

We had some shallow rifle-pits, with barricades of rails from the fences. The Rebel line, stretching away miles to the left, in magnificent array, but strongest here — Pickett's splendid division of Longstreet's corps in front, the best of A. P. Hill's veterans in support — came steadily, and as it seemed resistlessly, sweeping up. Our skirmishers retired slowly from the Emmitsburg road, holding their ground tenaciously to the last. The Rebels reserved their fire till they reached this same Emmitsburg road, then opened with a terrific crash. From a hundred iron throats, meantime, their artillery had been thundering on our barricades.

Hancock was wounded; Gibbon succeeded to the command — approved soldier, and ready for the crisis. As the tempest of fire approached its height, he walked along the line, and renewed his orders to the men to reserve their fire. The Rebels--three lines deep — came steadily up. They were in point-blank range.

At last, the order came! From thrice six thousand guns, there caine a sheet of smoky flame, a crash, a rush of leaden death. The line literally melted away; but there came the second, resistless still. It had been our supreme effort — on the instant, we were not equal to another.

Up to the rifle-pits, across them, over the barricades — the momentum of their charge, the mere machine strength of their combined action-swept them on. Our thin line could fight, but it had not weight enough to oppose to this momentum. It was pushed behind the guns. Right on came the Rebels. They were upon the guns — were bayoneting the gunners — were waving their flags above our pieces.

But they had penetrated to the fatal point. A storm of grape and canister tore its way from man to man, and marked its track with corpses straight down their line! They had exposed themselves to the enfilading fire of the guns on the western slope of Cemetery hill; that exposure sealed their fate.

The line reeled back — disjointed already — in an instant in fragments. Our men were just behind the guns. They leaped forward upon the disordered mass; but there was little need for fighting now. A regiment threw down its arms, and, with colors at its head, rushed over and surrendered. All along the field, smaller detachments did the same. Webb's brigade brought in 800: taken in as little time as it requires to write the simple sentence that tells it. Gibbon's old division took 15 stand of colors.

Over the fields, the escaped fragments of the charging line fell back — the battle there was over. A single brigade, Harrow's (of which the 7th Michigan is part), came out with 54 less officers, 793 less men, than it took in! So the whole corps fought — so too they fought farther down the line.

It was fruitless sacrifice. They gathered up their broken fragments, formed their lines, and slowly marched away. It was not a rout, it was a bitter, crushing defeat. For once, the Army of the Potomac had won a clean, honest, acknowledged victory.

Gen. Doubleday, testifying before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, says:

About 2 P. M., a tremendous cannonade was opened on us from at least 125 guns. They had our exact range, and the destruction was fearful. Horses were killed in every direction ; I lost two horses myself, while almost every officer lost one or more, and quite a large number of caissons were blown up. I knew this was the prelude to a grand infantry charge, as artillery is generally massed in this way, to disorganized the opposing command, for the infantry to charge in tile interval. I told my men to shelter themselves in every way behind the rocks, or little elevations of ground, while the artillery-firing took place, and to spring to their feet and hold their ground as soon as the charge came.

When the enemy finally charged, they came on in three lines, with additional lines called, in military language, wings, the object of the wings being to prevent the

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