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[415] and the cooperation off to the right of the gallant Kershaw, and then under Hindman's direction about three o'clock delivered one of the most vigorous assaults of that bloody day. The Federals fought with the desperation of men standing in their last stronghold, the Confederates with eager yearning for that complete and crowning victory which they now saw suspended like a dazzling prize on the fiery crest of the fated hill. But the hill could not be won. A new force now appeared on the Federal side. Gordon Granger had marched with Steedman's division of his corps, of his own motion, at the continued sound of doubtful battle, from a point three miles away from the Federal left to the mountain ridge on their right, then the scene of this final struggle. Thomas in an instant threw Steedman's division into the fight on Brannan's right, and the Confederate line was hurled stubbornly fighting headlong down the steep. And now the parts were reversed, and for some minutes, so fierce was the Federal onset, it needed all the firmness and all the personal ascendency of the Confederate officers to maintain their old line below the top of the ridge.

At this crisis Longstreet, with that cool yet inspiring determination which you have witnessed on many fields, gathered his strength for a decisive assault on the frowning bastion in his path. If there was any soldier then living who would resolutely put troops into a place of that sort when he had made up his mind that the thing was to be done, if there was any soldier who had an eye to pierce to the decisive points of a battlefield, I think Longstreet was that man. Longstreet had one fine division, Preston's, which had not yet drawn trigger. This division, containing several Virginian regiments, he about four o'clock determined to use with other forces against the hill, in conjunction with a new display of artillery against the angle of Thomas's line. Preston dashed boldly at the hill, gallantly supported by Kershaw's division, Johnson's, and a part of Hindman's, the action being taken up later to the right by Stewart. For an hour and a half this furious assault was pressed, the fighting having already been almost continuous at this point for two hours and not ceasing till nightfall; but the hill was not carried — not carried in the sense that its defenders were forced from it along the whole line at the point of the bayonet. Here and there the crest would be gained, but the Confederates never got full possession of the position till its defenders abandoned it at the order of their commander in execution of a general movement of retreat.

No doubt it was a question of time. The Confederates were gradually creeping around Steedman's right, the position was fast becoming untenable, and the rapid approach of night was a godsend to Thomas.

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