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Mahone's men already standing to their arms;

but the Federals, from their lofty “look-outs,” were busily interchanging signals, and to uncover such a length of front without exciting observation, demanded the nicest precaution. Yet was this difficulty overcome by a simple device, for the men being ordered to drop back one by one, as if going for water, obeyed with such intelligence, that Warren continued to report to Meade that not a man had left his front.1 [290]

Then forming in the ravine to the rear, the men of the Virginia and Georgia brigades came pressing down the valley with swift, swinging stride — not with the discontented bearing of soldiers whose discipline alone carries them to what they feel to be a scene of fruitless sacrifice, but with the glad alacrity and aggressive ardor of men impatient for battle, and who, from long knowledge of war, are conscious that Fortune has placed within their grasp an opportunity which, by the magic touch of veteran steel, may be transformed to “swift-winged victory.”

Halting for a moment in rear of the “Ragland House,” Mahone bade his men strip off blankets and knapsacks and prepare for battle.

Then riding quickly to the front, while the troops marched in single file along the covered-way, he drew rein at Bushrod Johnson's Headquarters, and reported in person to Beauregard. Informed that Johnson would assist in the attack with the outlying troops about the Crater, he rode still further to the front, dismounted, and pushing along the covered-way from the Plank Road, came out into the ravine, in which he afterwards formed his men. Mounting the embankment at the head of the covered-way, he descried within 160 yards

1 The device was, of course, Mahone's. General Meade says: Generals Hancock and Warren “sent me reports that the enemy's lines in their front were strongly held, * * * that the enemy had sent away none of their troops in their front, and it was impossible to do anything there.” --Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. i, p. 7. General Warren appears to have been hard to convince, for as late as Dec. 20th, 1864, he testifies that he is “quite well satisfied that they (the enemy in his immediate front) did not take part in the attack.” --Ib., p. 82.

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