which must be added four thousand three hundred and eighty-two cavalry, so imperfectly armed and so recently organized that all but one third of it was useless, except for outpost service that did not involve skirmishing.
Our pickets had been thrown out well in advance of our first line of battle, not far from the enemy's position, without seeing or discovering any of his pickets or outposts.
Such an oversight on the part of the Federal
commanders is really unaccountable, unless they chose to overlook that important maxim of war: ‘Never despise an enemy, however weak and insignificant he may appear.’
So near to each other were the opposing forces, that, hearing a loud beating of drums about the hour of tattoo, and believing it proceeded from our lines, General Beauregard
immediately despatched a staff officer with orders to suppress such thoughtless and imprudent sounds.
The staff officer returned shortly afterwards and reported that the noise General Beauregard
had heard, and was desirous of quieting, came, not from our troops, but from the enemy's encampments in our front.
Later in the evening, a Federal assistant surgeon
and his orderly, riding out on some night excursion, crossed our picket lines and were captured.
They were speechless with astonishment when brought to Generals Johnston
, at beholding so large a force within striking distance of their own camps, where all was now silence and repose, and where none suspected the approaching storm.
From them we learned that General Grant
had returned for the night to Savannah
, and that General Sherman
commanded the advanced forces.
No other information of importance was obtained from the two prisoners.
Such was the lack of discipline in the largest part of the Confederate forces, that, despite the strict orders given to enforce perfect quiet among our troops, drums were beaten, bugles blown, fires kindled, here and there, by many regiments, and firearms discharged, at different points in our rear, during that eventful night.
These and other bivouac noises should have betrayed to the Federal
generals on the first line the close proximity of their foe. That such was not the case is due, no doubt, to the fact that they fell into an error similar to that which General Beauregard
and others of our officers had made, and attributed these untimely sounds to their own troops.