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Burnside's captured dispatch.

The battle, as we have seen, did not cease until half-past 12 on the night of the 17th, and the evacuation of the town seemed inevitable, when, by a happy accident, an officer of Burnside's staff, losing his way in the darkness, rode into the Confederate lines, bearing a dispatch from Burnside to Meade to the effect that the Ninth corps had been very roughly handled and should be promptly reinforced. This dispatch had been referred by Meade to Smith for his information, with the request that he at once reinforce Burnside with [271] such troops as could be spared. Scarcely had Beauregard finished reading the captured missive, when a courier galloped up with a message from Hoke, stating that he had easily repulsed Smith's assaults and could lend a helping hand elsewhere.1 But before this, Beauregard, foreseeing the rupture of his lines, as yet too extended for the strength of his command, now materially weakened by recent casualties,2 had selected a new and shorter line to the rear, and shortly after the combat ceased, the toops were ordered to retire upon this new position — a delicate movement, considering the proximity of the enemy, yet executed rapidly and without confusion, for he had caused the line to be marked with white stakes, and required brigade and division staff-officers to acquaint themselves with the positions to be occupied by their respective commands.

This was the line held until the close of the defence.

1 This incident is vouched for by two of General Beauregard's staff-officers.

2 Beauregard's Ms. Report.

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