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[487]

About 9 P. M. that night I received notice that the plan of attack would be changed and that neither the rifles across the river, the howitzers rigged as mortars, nor any other of the 34 guns arranged to fire on the fort would be used, except to fire a signal. Several days had been spent in preparation for a cannonade, with all our guns concentrated on the small area enclosed by the fort, and now it was all to be given up as well as all to be hoped for from the fire by daylight of a half mile of sharpshooters within from 120 to 250 yards. The fort had no embrasure on its west front and its fire would have to be over the parapets and much exposed.

The advance was intended to be a surprise, and the signal guns were ordered to be fired just before dawn, that the approach of the column might not be visible. There was little time for consultation for it was ordered that at moon rise, about 10 P. M., the enemy's picket line should be taken and occupied by our sharpshooters, and the troops should be under arms.

Soon after 10 P. M., there was a general advance by our picket lines on both sides of Fort Sanders, and after some two hours of sharp fighting, 50 or 60 prisoners had been taken, the enemy's pit occupied, and they did not have out a picket 20 yards from the fort. Lt. Benjamin, commanding, feeling sure that the attack would be at daylight, required every man to sleep at his post, and one in every four to keep awake as a sentry. During the night an occasional gun was fired with canister or shell at random from the fort. Federal accounts state that our own artillery was also fired during the night, but this is a mistake. Our own troops were being moved and would have been endangered by such a fire.

At the earliest sign of light in eastern sky, three successive guns fired from different batteries gave the signal to the sharpshooters to open fire and for the storming columns to advance. Their shells were visible like meteors in the air and they exploded high above the fort. For a few minutes about a dozen guns poured a hot fire on the fort and into the angle of the lines behind it. This was intended only to encourage the storming columns, and was discontinued in a few minutes. At once the sharpshooters opened their fire upon the parapet, and orders were

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