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[86] few shell had reached us early in the day, and as it was nearer the Manassas road than almost any other portion of the field, more of the enemy's reinforcements gathered about its ridge than to the aid of the beaten rebels in the woods and valleys. Here there was an open battery, and long lines of infantry in support, ready, for a wonder, to let our wearied fellows see the fresh forces they had to conquer.

As the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-ninth wound round the meadows to the north of this hill, and began to cross the road apparently with the intention of scaling it, we saw a column coming down from the farthest perspective, and for a moment believed it to be a portion of Hunter's division, and that it had succeeded in completely turning the enemy's rear. A wild shout rose from us all. But soon the look-outs saw that the ensigns bore secession banners, and we knew that Johnston or some other rebel general, was leading a horde of fresh troops against our united right and centre. It was time for more regiments to be sent forward, and Keyes was ordered to advance with the First Tyler brigade. The three Connecticut regiments and the Fourth Maine came on with a will: the First Connecticut was posted in reserve, and the other three corps swept up the field, by the ford on the right, to aid the struggling advance.

All eyes were now directed to the distant hill-top, now the centre of the fight. All could see the enemy's infantry ranging darkly against the sky beyond, and the first lines of our men moving with fine determination up the steep slope. The cannonading upon our advance, the struggle upon the hill-top, the interchange of position between the contestants, were watched by us, and as new forces rushed in upon the enemy's side the scene was repeated over and over again. It must have been here, I think, that the Sixty-ninth took and lost a battery eight times in succession, and finally were compelled, totally exhausted, to resign the completion of their work to the Connecticut regiments which had just come up. The Third Connecticut finally carried that summit, unfurled the Stars and Stripes above it, and paused from the fight to cheer for the Union cause.

Then the battle began to work down the hill, the returning half of the circle which the enemy, driven before the desperate charges of our troops, described during the day, until the very point where Tyler's advance commenced the action. Down the hill and into the valley thickets on the left, the Zouaves, the Connecticut, and New York regiments, with the unconquerable Rhode Islanders, drove the continually enlarging but always vanquished columns of the enemy. It was only to meet more batteries, earthwork succeeding earthwork, ambuscade after ambuscade. Our fellows were hot and weary; most had drunk no water during hours of dust, and smoke, and insufferable heat. No one knows what choking the battle atmosphere produces in a few moments, until he has personally experienced it. And so the conflict lulled for a little while. It was the middle of a blazing afternoon. Our regiments held the positions they had won, but the enemy kept receiving additions, and continued a flank movement towards our left — a dangerous movement for us, a movement which those in the rear perceived, and vainly endeavored to induce some general officer to guard against.

Here was the grand blunder, or misfortune of the battle. A misfortune, that we had no troops in reserve after the Ohio regiments were again sent forward, this time to assist in building a bridge across the run on the Warrenton road, by the side of the stone bridge known to be mined. A blunder, in that the last reserve was sent forward at all. It should have been retained to guard the rear of the left, and every other regiment on the field should have been promptly recalled over the route by which it had advanced, and ordered only to maintain such positions as rested on a supported, continuous line. Gen. Scott says, to-day, that our troops had accomplished three days work, and should have rested long before. But McDowell tried to vanquish the South in a single struggle, and the sad result is before us.

As it was, Capt. Alexander, with his sappers and miners, was ordered to cut through the abatis by the side of the mined bridge, in the valley directly before us, and lay pontoons across the stream. Carlisle's artillery was detailed to protect the work, and the Ohio and Wisconsin reserve to support the artillery. Meanwhile, in the lull which I have mentioned, the thousand heroic details of Federal valor and the shamelessness of rebel treachery began to reach our ears. We learned the loss of the brave Cameron, the wounding of Heintzelman and Hunter, the fall of Haggerty, and Slocum, and Wilcox. We heard of the dash of the Irishmen and their decimation, and of the havoc made and sustained by the Rhode Islanders, the Highlanders, the Zouaves, and the Connecticut Third; then of the intrepidity of Burnside and Sprague — how the devoted and daring young governor led the regiments he had so munificently equipped again and again to victorious charges, and at last spiked, with his own hands, the guns he could not carry away. The victory seemed ours. It was an hour sublime in unselfishness, and apparently glorious in its results!

At this time, near four o'clock, I rode forward through the open plain to the creek where the abatis was being assailed by our engineers. The Ohio, Connecticut, and Minnesota regiments were variously posted thereabout; others were in distant portions of the field; all were completely exhausted and partly dissevered; no general of division, except Tyler, could be found. Where were our officers? Where was the foe? Who knew whether we had won or lost?

The question was to be quickly decided for us. A sudden swoop, and a body of cavalry rushed down upon our columns near the bridge.

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