mounted, rode to his command, and ordered an assault.
At eleven o'clock word was sent to General Sedgwick
that skirmishing in front of the Sixth corps was becoming heavy, and that now was the time.
mounted in turn, galloped down the Germania plank-road about a mile, dashed into the forest at the head of his staff, and penetrated to the front just as the firing began to increase.
We follow him.
A moment's halt for consultation — a moment's look around.
Not a far look, nor an inspiring one; for, about, beneath, and overhead, the tangled underbrush, and knotted trunks and ragged foliage of a chapparal consume the spaces into which the eye yearns to penetrate.
Is a battle to be fought here in this labyrinth, are troops to be manoeuvred, are lines of battle to be formed and shifted, are weapons to be used, charges made, the tragedy of a modern combat enacted in this hideous place?
Listen: the clanking music of the skirmish line sounds in the distance; the voice of cannon is deep in the recesses of the woods.
There is a volley at last--General Griffin
's division of the Fifth corps has opened the fight.
“Forward! by the right flank; forward
rings along the lines.
Yonder in front are the gleaming bayonets of our first line of battle; back, just in rear, is the second line, the anxious eyes of the soldiers peering through the trees.
Was it a sadder wind than usual that swept down from the front that moment, bearing the first earnest clangor of the combat?
Else why, as that wind touched the faces of the men, did such a mournful fervor blend with, but not blight the resolute curves of lips that pride forbade to tremble?
“ Forward I by the right flank; forward!”
again and again repeated far to right and left, until it becomes an echo.
And through a thicket, blind and interminable; over abattis of fallen trees; through swamps, and ditches, and brush-heaps; and once — a glorious breathing-space — across a half acre of open field, the obedient troops move on. How long, and weary, and expectant the struggling march is, with the hollow roar of that fight sounding nearer and nearer in the hot air!
Sometimes the eyes of the men sink to note a by-path in the forest, like that which many a one has travelled in old days to some old spring of home-like memory.
And here is the “birr” of a bullet, like that which startled one who heard it one summer afternoon, when a brother hunter was careless, and fired at a partridge as he stood in range.
The bee-like sounds are thicker on this ridge; in the forest, a little way ahead, there is a crackling, roaring tumult, seasoned with wild cheers.
The Fifth corps has begun the fight in earnest — Griffin
is pressing on. Wadsworth
, and Robinson
, and Crawford
are going in; the latter on the left, supported by Getty
, is advancing toward the enemy at Parker
, who are on the Orange Court-house
road, is the junction of that and the Brock
road, up which, from the direction of Chancellorsville
is advancing to make connection.
is the vital point — that junction; to be held against all odds unto the death, else the army is severed.
To hold the enemy all along the line in check, to prevent his massing any forces in our front upon that point, the Fifth corps is pressing on, and the Sixth corps is about to enter.
Here, marching through the forest with General John Sedgwick
and his officers, between the first and second lines of battle of that grand old corps, which has left its mark in blood on every great battle-field in Virginia
, we can hear but not see the progress of the contest in front and on the left.
We hear that Griffin
, after gallantly charging the enemy, advancing over two lines of works, have met with superior numbers, have fought courageously, but have been pushed back.
The cannon that spake a moment ago are silent.
They were two guns of Captain Winslow
's (Second Massachusetts) battery, the horses of which have been killed, the men of which have been sorely pressed, and which have been spiked and abandoned.
We hear that Crawford
's division of Pennsylvania Reserves, sent forward to Parker
's store to check the surging tide of Hill
's troops, pouring on to attack that junction of two roads on which so much depends, have been hurled back by the same overwhelming pressure that forces Wadsworth
, and that the Seventh Pennsylvania regiment has been captured.
We hear that everywhere the enemy is strongly posted, everywhere; on height, in the dense forest, using occasional open fields in the rear for artillery, but forcing us to attack in positions where the use of our own artillery is impossible.
A cunning and a deceitful foe, knowing of old the splendid aim and discipline of our batteries, now compelled to silence.
The air is stifling, the sun sends its rays down through the jagged limbs of the chapparal around like red hot spears.
This march is long, these bullets from an unseen foe are staining some sleeves and jackets too soon.
On!--for our share of the battle cannot too soon be over.
They are there at last; the bushwhackers, thick as the sprigs and leaves that partly hide their treacherous faces.
As the ponderous battle-line of the Sixth corps swings into level in their front, it sends a volley in greeting that thins those faces even as a wind of autumn rushing through an oak. General Ricketts
is on the left, General Wright
next, General Neill
, of the Second division, whose iron brigade is made up of men who never flinched a desperate strait, holds the right of the line in support.
The fighting — who shall describe it?
Not a thousand men can be seen at once, yet for miles in the front thousands are engaged.
The volleyed thunders of the combat roll among the glens and ravines hoarser and higher than the