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[256] Hill, Magruder, and Huger, on our right wing, pushed down the Long Bridge road in pursuit, and took position on the left and front of the enemy, under fire of all his artillery on land and water.

About four o'clock in the afternoon, the skirmishers of our pursuing column, on emerging from the wood, were met by the fire of the enemy, and fell back to report to the commanding General, Magruder, whose division, embracing the brigades of Howell Cobb, Toombs, Wright, and Armistead, was in the advance. Two batteries of light artillery, Grimes's and the Second Richmond howitzers, were immediately ordered to take position in the cleared field, some fifty yards from the edge of the forest, and to open fire upon the enemy's batteries, while the infantry were drawn up under cover of the woods, to be pushed across the field at the proper moment. Grimes's battery was thrown into hopeless disorder by the killing of three of its horses and the wounding of several others in the act of taking its ground, and never did get into position; whereupon the Purcell battery, Capt. Pegram, was ordered to replace it.

The howitzers, and Capt. Pegram's veterans, at once opened a furious cannonade on the Yankees, firing with great steadiness and effect, but so desolating was the rain of shot, shell and spherical-case showered upon them by the enemy's guns, which had obtained the exact range, that they were greatly cut up in a short time, and had to be withdrawn. At the same moment, a column of not more than six hundred confederate troops, which had moved with wonderful precision and celerity across the plateau, to a point within one hundred and fifty yards of the Yankee batteries, were compelled to retire with heavy loss, and in some disorder. The Letcher artillery, of six pieces, under command of Capt. Davidson, was now ordered to the spot till then occupied by the Purcell battery, and getting their guns quickly in place, despite the withering tempest of flame and iron, commenced to serve them with the utmost efficiency, firing twelve or fifteen discharges to the minute, while a second column of infantry advanced through the cleared space at double-quick to storm the terrible batteries of the foe.

The fire was now appalling, and to add to the horrors of the scene, the gunboats of the enemy in the river began to throw the most tremendous projectiles into the field. The column moved on nearer and yet nearer, its ranks thinned at every moment, and lost to sight in the thick curtain of smoke which overspread the crimsoned battleground. But once again the whirlwind of death threw the advancing mass of gallant men into inextricable disorder, and they retired. Still the Letcher artillery held its ground. A brave lieutenant and two of the men had been killed at their pieces, nineteen others had fallen wounded by their side, and the horses were piled around them in heaps; a caisson had exploded, yet their fire was kept up as steadily as if they had been firing a holiday salute.

An hour and a half more had now passed since the opening of the battle, and a third column upon the centre moved onward to the Yankee guns. The dark mass soon disappeared in the cloud which enveloped all objects, and though it lost strength and solidity at every step, in the brave fellows who fell struck by the hurling missiles that strewed the air, it still gained the slope where stood the enemy's batteries, but only to be driven back, as had been their comrades before them. Meanwhile, the indomitable Jackson had assailed the enemy with great energy on the right of their position, and soon drove them from the field. The dusk of evening, deepening into darkness, favored the retreat of the Yankees, who succeeded in carrying off their pieces, though with a loss in killed and wounded equal to, if not greater than our own.

Thus closed the terrible battle of the first of July. The battle-field and the region round about seemed as if the lightnings of heaven had scathed and blasted it. The forest shows, in the splintered branches of a thousand trees, the fearful havoc of the artillery. The houses are riddled; the fences utterly demolished; the earth itself ploughed up in many places for yards; here stands a dismantled cannon, there a broken gun-carriage ; thick and many are the graves, the sods over which yet bear the marks of the blood of their occupants; on the plateau, across whose surface for hours the utmost fury of the battle raged, the tender corn that had grown up as high as the knee, betrays no sign of having ever “laughed and sung” in the breeze of early summer; every thing, in short, but the blue heaven above, speaks of the carnival of death which was there so frightfully celebrated.

About a quarter of a mile from the field stands, on the roadside, the house occupied by Gen. Lee, as his headquarters during the battle. The weather-boarding, and the shingled roof, exhibit abundant evidences of the terrible nature of the cannonade. The elongated shells thrown by the gunboats, were most fearful projectiles, measuring twenty inches in length by eight in diameter. It is remarkable that, as far as we know, the only damage done by them was to the enemy. Not having the proper range, the gunners so elevated their pieces as to let those messengers of death fall mostly among the ranks of their own men. The effect of one which burst near Crew's house, was indescribably fatal. It struck a gun of one of the batteries, shattering it into fragments, and by the explosion, which followed instantaneously, seven men standing near the piece were killed in the twinkling of an eye.

They fell without the movement of a muscle, in the very attitudes they occupied the moment before, stiffening at once into the stony fixedness of death. One, indeed, was almost blown into annihilation; but another was seen still grasping the lanyard of his gun; yet another, belonging to an infantry regiment, held in his hand the ramrod with which he was driving home the load in his Belgian rifle; while the fourth, with clenched lips, retained in his mouth the little portion of the cartridge he had just bitten off. The faces

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Pegram (2)
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