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[305] These replied most gallantly, and in spite of inferiority of numbers, managed to return almost gun for gun with their heavier armed adversaries. Our guns were handled by companies A and H of the First United States regular infantry, under command of Capt. Mower. The firing on both sides was generally accurate. Early in the day one of our guns was struck fairly in the muzzle by a shot from the enemy, breaking off a large piece from the side and killing and wounding no less than eight men, and during the day their shells and shot fell all around our guns, and ploughed up the parapet and the ground around in every direction; but, fortunately, this shot was the only one which took effect within the batteries. Another shot, however, passed through the line of the Twenty-seventh Ohio regiment, as they were marching in column behind the batteries, and took off the legs of three men. I saw the poor fellows at the hospital. They were all young, fine-looking men, of the best class of our volunteers, and my heart ached for them.

Our cross-fire was apparently not less effective. Several of our shots were distinctly seen to strike the gunboats, and it is probable that one or two of them were seriously injured. Early in the day one of the boats, shortly after receiving one of our shots, hauled off and was not seen afterward. Later in the day, immediately following a volley from our guns, a cloud of white steam was observed to burst from another of the boats, completely hiding her from view, and when next seen she was apparently floating with the current and soon disappeared behind the trees. In the lower fort, also, as we afterward found, three of their guns had been struck by our shot, and two of them disabled.

During the afternoon of Thursday, an attempt was made by the enemy to flank our batteries. Two or three regiments were sent out from the upper fort with directions to pass around to the right, and if possible get behind and capture our batteries. In the course of their route in the woods they came suddenly upon one of our fieldbatteries, which was posted there, supported by an Indiana regiment, and which opened upon them so fiercely with grape and canister that they retired in confusion to their works, nor did they attempt another sortie during the engagement.

All day Thursday there had been indications of an approaching storm, and shortly before midnight it burst upon us with frightful fury. I think I never saw lightning more fierce or thunder more sharp and apparently near. The whole sky was one sheet of lurid flame, across which sharp tongues and spires of yet more vivid brightness dashed and darted in every direction, while the earth fairly trembled with repeated crashes of thunder, and the rain seemed to fall in solid masses of water. During all this terrible commotion of the elements, the Twenty-seventh and Thirty-ninth Ohio, and the Tenth and Sixteenth Illinois regiments, were on duty guarding the batteries and rifle-pits. Notwithstanding that they had been under arms since three o'clock of the previous morning, and had lain all day in the trenches, exposed to the terrible fire of the enemy, enduring a strain upon the nervous system unappreciable by one who has never been under fire, not a man of them flinched. Like statues they stood there — each wrapped in his blanket, motionless as marble, and chiefly solicitous to keep their muskets and ammunition dry.

As they stood there, muffled in their dark blankets, from which the rain was dripping, alternately revealed and hidden as the vivid flashes came and went, they scarcely seemed creatures of flesh and blood, and the mind involuntarily went back to some of those old stories in the Arabian Nights, in which whole armies are suddenly turned to stone by the power of enchantment, and a vague feeling of wonderment came over us, whether after all these stories might not be true and the phenomenon actually before us. And I doubt not that if any, even the bravest rebel in the enemy's entrenchments, had looked forth and beheld them standing there so firm and immovable, he might have felt a wholesome dread of meeting on the battle-field men who for an entire day had so patiently endured the storm of their iron hail, and at night could as coolly face the conflict of heaven's artillery.

We little thought then that while our men were thus patiently enduring the storm, to guard themselves from a surprise, our frightened foes were hurrying on board their vessels, to flee away and leave the labor of months and thousands of dollars of property behind them. This discovery came later.

About daylight, most of the troops who had been under arms during the night, were relieved and marched back into camp for breakfast. We were fairly in the midst of the enjoyment of that meal, the men were grouped about their campfires, eating, drinking, laughing and joking after the fatigues of the night, when we were startled by a series of uproarious cheers in the direction of the fort. We listened. The cheers were repeated. What could it mean? Presently a rumor began to circulate that the enemy had evacuated their works during the night, leaving everything behind them. Could it be possible? Yes, for the next moment there comes a messenger confirming the fact. In a very few minutes your correspondent is mounted, thanks to the kindness of Major Noyes, of the Thirty-ninth, and in company with the Major and some other friends, is on his way to view the works of our late adversaries.

I have hitherto in my letter spoken of the fort, as if there were but one, for until after the evacuation, I, in common with most others, had supposed that to be the case. There are, however, two, or perhaps, more properly speaking the upper one might be called an intrenched camp, protected by a ditch and breastwork, and mounting four heavy guns. This is situated just in the edge of the village, at its upper side, and on the bank of the river. It encloses perhaps two acres of ground, and is nearly filled with tents, which had evidently been abandoned in

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