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[244] had been examined by the enemy with disappointment and rage. We had destroyed all we could not transport.

Towards noon the line had retired several miles, and rested behind Savage station, to destroy the public property which had accumulated there. A locomotive on the railway was started swiftly down the road, with a train of cars, and soon plunged madly into Chickahominy, a mangled wreck. The match was applied to stores of every description, and ammunition was exploded, until nothing was left to appease the rebel appetite for prey. Destruction was complete, and the ruins were more touchingly desolate amid the mangled victims of war's ruthlessness, who lay on the hillside mourning the departure of friends with whom they had bravely fought. Would that such pictures could be sealed up in the book of memory, never to be opened to the human heart. Many a manly fellow has told me since that all human sorrow seemed condensed into that one woeful parting. If it were ever manful to shed tears, men might then have wept like Niobe. Let us draw the veil to hide the wounds more agonizing than rude weapon ever rent. Hundreds — I don't know how many — were left upon the green sward and in our too limited hospitals, to wait the cold charities of bitter enemies.

The column and all that might train had now been swallowed in the maw of the dreary forest. It swept onward, onward, fast and furious like an avalanche. Every hour of silence behind was ominous, but hours were precious to us. Pioneer bands were rushing along in front, clearing and repairing our single road; reconnoissance officers were seeking new routes for a haven of rest and safety. The enemy was in the rear pressing on with fearful power. He could press down flankward to our front, cutting off our retreat. Would such be our fate? The vanguard had passed White Oak bridge and had risen to a fine defensive post, flanked by White Oak swamps, where part of the train at least could rest. How sadly the feeble ones needed it, those who having suspected their friends were about to abandon them, trusted rather to the strength of fear to lead them to safety, than to the fate which might await them at the hands of the foe. But the march was orderly as upon any less urgent day, only swifter — and marvellous, too, it seemed that such caravans of wagons, artillery, horsemen, soldiers, camp-followers, and all, should press through that narrow road with so little confusion.

Two miles beyond the bridge the column suddenly halted. A tremor thrilled along the line. A moment more, and the dull boom of a cannon and its echoing shell fell grimly upon our ears. Were we beleaguered? An hour later, and there was an ominous roar behind. The enemy was thundering on our rear. I know that the moment was painful to many, but no soldier's heart seemed to shrink from the desperate shock. Back and forth dashed hot riders. Messengers here, orders there, composure and decision where it should be, with determination to wrest triumph from the jaws of disaster. As yet every thing had prospered, and at noon a brighter ray flashed athwart our dreary horizon. Averill — our dashing “Ashby” --had moved with the vanguard, met eight companies of rebel cavalry, charged them, routed them, pursued them miles beyond our reach, and returned in triumph with sixty prisoners and horses, leaving nine dead foes on the field. He explained it modestly, but I saw old generals thank him for the gallant exploit — not the first of his youthful career. Gen. Keyes had sent a section of artillery with the vanguard, Averill's cavalry escorting it. The rebels charged at the guns, not perceiving our cavalry, which was screened by thickets. The artillery gave them shell and canister, which checked their mad career. Averill charged, and horse, rider and all were in one red burial blent. Dead horses are scattered over that field, and dead men lie under the shadows of the forests. We lost but one brave trooper.

Headquarters, which had tarried near the bridge, were now moved two miles beyond. Keyes's corps was forward, Sykes was guarding our flanks, Morell was moving behind Keyes, Fitz-John Porter stood guard around the camp. Day was wearing away. An awful tumult in rear, as if the elements were contending, had been moving senses with exquisite power. Foaming steeds and flushed riders dashed into camp. Stout Sumner was still holding his own. The enemy was raging around him like famished wolves. There seemed to be a foe behind every tree; but the old hero and his gallant soldiers fought like lions. You could see the baleful fires of cannon flashing against the dusky horizon, playing on the surface of the evening clouds like sharp magnetic lights. Long lines of musketry vomited their furious volleys of pestilential lead through the forests, sweeping scores of brave soldiers into the valley of the shadow of death. And nature now, as if emulous of man's fury, flashed its red artillery, and rolled its grand thunder, over the domes of Richmond, now miles to the right of us. Moment after moment elapsed before even practised soldiers could decide which was the power of God and which the conflict of man, so strangely similar were the twin reverberations. But the sharp glare of electricity recorded the truth in vivid lines of fire. No combination of the dreadful in art and the magnificent in nature was ever more solemnly impressive.

Nothing struck me so keenly during all that gloomy day and more desolate night, as the thinly disguised uneasiness of those to whom the country had entrusted its fate. It was well that soldiers who carry muskets did not read the agony traced upon the face of that leader whom they had learned to love. A few in that gloomy bivouac folded their arms to sleep, but most were too exhausted to enjoy that blessed relief. That dreadful tumult, but a few short miles in the distance, raged till long after the whippowil had commenced his plaintive song. Late at night, couriers, hot from the field, dashed in with glad tidings. Sumner had beaten the enemy at every

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