about to attack, or do some other dreadful mischief, and they expend tuns upon tuns of shell and round-shot, which many an unhappy mule had perished by the roadside to drag from Kingston, and with no other effect but to nip in the bud some hundreds of hopeful saplings, splinter a few ancient oaks and hurt a score or so of men. There was one of the panics of the war. The perfect coolness and sang froid with which old soldiers, in some cases, come to regard those matters and occurrences which make the blood of a novice suddenly grow thick in the region of his heart, is one of the most noticeable features of the army. Some instances are related which are decidedly refrigerating. A soldier was carrying to his tent, for domestic use, a plate of flour, which he had very lately confiscated, and from which he was forming pleasing anticipations of being able to make an interregnum in the reign of hard-tack, when a wandering fragment of a shell suddenly descended upon the plate, scattering the flour into dust. The fellow merely looked at the piece of fractured crockery remaining in his hand for a few moments, and then drily observed, “No more of that on my plate if you please.” Another one of the boys was saluted in the same way by a shell travelling with its peculiar infernal yell a few inches above his head, while he was walking close along the line of battle, when he came to a halt, and without winking an eye, looked in the direction of the flying shell with a quiet “good morning.” Early on the morning of the fifth of June, it was announced at headquarters that the rebels had evacuated their works, and were in retreat. Indeed, on the night before, General Hooker's advance line had occupied their works, and their movement continued through the whole night; and in the morning none were to be seen except a few cavalry scouts lingering to observe our motions. Immediately there was a rush of eager men curious to inspect the rebel fortifications, and see the effect of their firing. The former were found to be of great strength, considering the haste with which they were necessarily erected; the strongest indeed — so our engineers say — that they have seen the rebels make at any time. They are firmly built of logs and stones covered with a heavy embankment of earth and screened by green branches of trees. They evidently cost a heavy expenditure of labor, and it is idle to deny that, in many cases, they are better than our own. Whatever flimsiness the rebels used in the construction of their redoubts early in the war, these at least are creditable to their skill, and equally to their muscle. In many places their sharpshooters had constructed little lunettes for the accommodation of two or three persons, several rods in advance of their outer line of rifle pits. They had been compelled to trench deeply, and even burrow in the ground and build strong roofings of rails to protect themselves from our shells and shot. These latter were accurately put in at a distance of a mile, by the splendid batteries of Bridge and McDowell, and, in return, the sharpshooters made large numbers of our men bite the dust. The enemy could have been forced to abandon fortifications of such strength only by strategic combinations of the most threatening character. The peculiar strength of their position, which I may say our authorities were not at all slow to admit, consisted in this, that they were posted on the summits of a series of high wooded hills, between which ran the roads, practicable for the army, while their fortifications extended in two or three strong lines down the sides of these hills, fronting directly our advance, and then for a considerable distance along the defiles parallel to the roads, and on a sufficient elevation to make it difficult to storm them. The dense thickets of bushes and trees in which they took care to locate themselves, added much to the difficulty of any attempt upon them. In front of a part of the Fourth Corps lay a large farm, extending through a fertile valley half a mile wide, and limited at either side by slight ridges, occupied by the respective combatants. This open stretch of about a mile in extent gave free play to the gunners at either end, and made it a very injudicious act to cross this space, even some distance in the rear. This farm was checkered with fine fields of green wheat and oats, but, like the apples of Tantalus, they might not be eaten. This, when the animals were limited to four pounds a day of grain (a third ration), with no hay, and all the grass in our country eaten up, and when the four pounds of yesterday weighed but three to-day and two to-morrow, was a great grievance. Accordingly, when the rebel bullets were no longer to be encountered, the orderlies and scullions and such as curry horses, trooped forth innumerable, and forthwith there was such a confiscation of heads of wheat, wheat pulled up by the roots, green oats, and swamp grass, as is not heretofore recorded in these epistles. They then pulled wheat who ne'er pulled wheat before; and the streams of small mules that poured into the fields, and the small mules and large bundles that poured out therefrom, till the supply was exhausted, was a thing strange to behold. The orders of General Sherman, that the army should be subsisted as far as possible off the country, are very seriously misunderstood by some soldiers, whether accidently or otherwise, I will not say, and there is a considerable amount of indiscriminate appropriation of rebel property in consequence. As the army moves through a new tract of country which is yet untouched, the popping of guns can be heard in the roads and fields to such an extent that it might be mistaken for stray skirmishing, were it not for certain sounds which betray unmistakably a swinish origin, and at the same time bad shooting. The inhabitants of the land have driven off a great part of their stock, including all the horses oxen and cows, but there are still found running at large considerable numbers of sheep, and a species of very elongated and shadowy
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Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
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