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[293] their left, they sought cover behind the cavalier-trench won by the Virginia brigade — many officers and men testifying by their blood how gallantly the venture had been essayed.

Half an hour later, the Alabamians under Saunders arrived, but further attack was postponed until after 1 P. M., in order to arrange for co-operation from Colquitt on the right. Sharply to the minute agreed upon, the assaulting line moved forward, and with such astonishing rapidity did these glorious soldiers rush across the intervening space that ere their first wild cries subsided, their battle-flags had crowned the works.1 The Confederate batteries were now ordered to cease firing, and forty volunteers were called for to assault the Crater, but so many of the Alabamians offered themselves for the service, that the ordinary system of detail was necessary. Happily, before the assaulting party could be formed, a white handkerchief, made fast to a ramrod, was projected above the edge of the Crater, and, after a brief pause, a motley mass of prisoners poured over the side and ran for their lives to the rear.

In this grand assault on Lee's lines, for which Meade had massed 65,0002 troops, the enemy suffered a loss of above 5,000 men, including 1,101 prisoners, among whom were two brigade commanders, while vast quantities of small arms and twenty-one standards fell into the hands of the victors.3

Yet many brave men perished on the Confederate side. Elliott's brigade lost severely in killed and prisoners. The Virginia brigade, too, paid the price which glory ever exacts. The Sixth carried in 98 men and lost 88, one company--“the dandies,” of course--“Old Company F” of Norfolk, losing every man killed or wounded.4

1 After the recovery of the lines north of the Crater, Meade determined to withdraw all his troops. The order was given at 9.30 A. M., but Burnside was authorized to use his discretion as to the exact hour, and it was nearly 12 M. before the order was sent into the Crater. Of course, no one knew this on the Confederate side, and the fact can in no way detract from the splendid conduct of the Alabamians, but it accounts in great measure for the slight resistance they encountered. See Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. i, pp. 58, 157. General Hartranft's statement is very naive as to the conclusion he reached when he saw the Alabamians rushing forward with their wild cries: “This assaulting column of the enemy came up, and we concluded--General Griffin and myself--that there was no use in holding it (the Crater) any longer, and so we retired.” --Ib., p. 190.

2General Burnside's corps, of 15,000 men, was * * * to rush through and get on the crest beyond. I prepared a force of from 40,000 to 50,000 men to take advantage of our success gained by General Burnside's corps.” --Meade.--Ib., p. 37.

3 After carefully analyzing all the Federal reports, General Mahone put the loss of the enemy at 5,240; Cannon (Grant's Campaign Against Richmond, p. 245) at 5,640; General Meade (Report of August 16th, 1864) puts loss at 4,400 in A. P. and 18th corps, but does not give loss in Turner's division, 10th corps.

4 Company K, of Sixth Virginia, carried in sixteen men; eight were killed outright and seven wounded. The small number of men carried into the fight by the Sixth is explained by the fact that quite half the regiment was on picket on the old front (on the right), and could not be withdrawn. The 41st Virginia lost one-fourth its number; the 61st within a fraction of half its number. The loss in the 16th was nearly as great as in the 6th proportionally, but I have been unable to get the exact figures in that regiment and in the 12th.

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