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[62] It was the first time since its organization, and, until it folded its colors forever at Appomattox, it was the last, that the brigade ever was broken on the battlefield.

But the promised reinforcement came. It was not in time to save us from a great mortification; but it was in time to retrieve the disaster. It was Wofford's brigade of Kershaw's division. It swooped down upon the enemy in the midst of their exultation and confusion, and swept them away like chaff. I was hardly near enough, and was too busily engaged in reforming my men, to witness the achievement, and only knew that the enemy disappeared like an apparition, and subsequently learned the cause. The Florida brigade had narrowly escaped capture by falling back precipitately with my own. General Perry was severely wounded, and never rejoined his command.

Shortly after my brigade was reformed, General Heth moved up with a part, at least, of his division, and the two commands advanced together over the ground which had been the scene of our discomfiture, and far beyond. The extended lines of breastworks which the enemy had constructed, and various other indications, proved that the attack upon our flank had been made with a heavy force. They were troops of Burnside's corps, probably one or both of the divisions with which he had reinforced Hancock the night before. Considering their numbers, their effort has always seemed to me a feeble one. They had been preparing for the attack several hours, had stopped to fortify, and then advanced slowly and timidly upon the exposed flank of a small force. When their attack came, they were held in check a long while by twelve hundred men, and were finally driven away by a single brigade. But they were gone. Profound silence reigned in those deep woods, which had so lately echoed with the thunder of battle. Night had come; the roar of the strife had ceased on the right. The forged thunder-bolt, aimed by a master's hand, still remained to be delivered from Ewell's left, to close the first act of the bloody drama of 1864, and to consign the battle of the Wilderness to history.

When the Muse of history shall have done her complete work, the conflict on the Orange plank-road that day will be set down as one of the most remarkable in the annals of warfare. Fifteen thousand men, half exhausted by a rapid march, press the head of their column upon a field already occupied by fifty thousand veterans, completely organized, ably commanded and drawn up in

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