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[292] fierce moments no man heeded time, no man asked, no man gave quarter; but in an incredibly brief space, as seemed to those who looked on, the whole of the advanced line north of the Crater was retaken, the enemy in headlong flight,1 and the tattered battle-flags planted along the parapets from left to right, told Lee at the Gee House that from this nettle danger, valor had plucked the flower, safety for an army.

Redoubling the sharpshooters on his right, Mahone kept down all fire from the Crater, the vast rim of which frowned down upon the lower line occupied by his troops.

And now the scene within the horrid pit was such as might be fitly portrayed only by the pencil of Dante after he had trod “nine-circled Hell.” From the great mortars to the right and left, huge missiles, describing graceful curves, fell at regular intervals with dreadful accuracy and burst among the helpless masses huddled together, and every explosion was followed by piteous cries, and often-times the very air seemed darkened by flying human limbs. Haskell, too, had moved up his Eprouvette mortars among the men of the Sixteenth Virginia--so close, indeed, that his powder-charge was but one ounce and a half--and, without intermission, the storm of fire beat upon the hapless men imprisoned within.

Mahone's men watched with great interest this easy method or reaching troops behind cover, and then, with the imitative ingenuity of soldiers, gleefully gathered up the countless muskets with bayonets fixed, which had been abandoned by the enemy, and propelled them with such nice skill that they came down upon Ledlie's men “like the rain of the Norman arrows at Hastings.”

At half-past 10, the Georgia brigade advanced and attempted to dislodge Wilcox's men, who still held a portion of the lines south of the Crater, but so closely was every inch of the ground searched by artillery, so biting was the fire of musketry, that, obliquing to

1 Ib., pp. 21, 121, 208. General Ayres, U. S. Volunteers, says: “I saw the negroes coming back to the rear like a land-slide.” --Ib., p. 165. General Ferrero, the commander of the Negro Division, who was censured by the Court of Inquiry for “being In a bomb-proof habitually” (p. 216) on this day, also testifies emphatically to the disorderly flight, but scarcely much weight can be attached to his statements unless corroborated by others. On Aug. 31, 1864, excusing the behavior of his troops, he testifies: “I would add that my troops are raw troops, and never had been drilled two weeks from the day they entered the service till that day.” --Ib., p. 181. On Dec. 20th, 1864, he testifies: (my troops) “were in fine condition — better than any other troops in the army for that purpose. We were expecting to make this assault, and had drilled for weeks and were in good trim for it.” --Ib., p. 106. Perhaps his excuse for this discrepancy of statement may be that of the notorious Trenck of the Life Guards, who, when reproached for his mendacity about the battle of Sohr, cried out: “How could I help mistakes? I had nothing but my poor agitated memory to trust to.” --Carlyle's Friedrich, vol. VI, p. 97.

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