This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 leading to Locust Grove, to within half a mile of the Orange Court-house road. Across this road, and far to the left, the troops led by Hancock were disposed--Colonel Carroll's and General Hayes' (now Colonel Crocker's) brigades on the right, and Generals Ward's and Owen's brigades on the left of the thoroughfare. The three brigades of General Getty's division of the Sixth corps, commanded by Generals Eustis, Wheaton, and Grant, were in support. General Mott's division, of the Second corps, adjoined on the left — the whole left of this line being under command of Birney. The divisions of Generals Gibbon and Barlow formed the left of the line, under command of Gibbon. Our cavalry were operating still further on the left, and the left flank of the army was, for the first time, in a position strongly supported by artillery. At precisely twenty minutes before five o'clock, Friday morning, the enemy anticipated and took from us the opening honors of the intended attack, by throwing themselves, with considerable impetus, against our left and left centre. They were repulsed and driven back by the Sixth corps, which accomplished the work in time to join the advance movement begun at five o'clock by most of the army. The right of Hancock's forces, swinging on the left like a pivot, pushed on in advance of Griffin and Crawford, leaving a gap there. The flank thus exposed was at once supported by General Wadsworth's division and the brigade of General Webb in time to repulse an effort of the enemy against it. At eleven o'clock the determined fighting of Hancock's troops had won a mile and a half of ground, part of which was open in their front, charged and taken a portion of the enemy's line of rifle-pits, together with several hundred prisoners, and were still fighting, lacking ammunition. Meanwhile, the Sixth corps was thundering in the forest below, with musketry and a few scattered cannon. The enemy's artillery was not silent; it began early to play bass above the infernal falsetto of musketry that drowned the fair sounds and songs of early morning. A battle fought upon the field, seen from some height, or even watched from the midst of its own danger, has a conspicuous sublimity which dulls the sense of horror. Carry the same fight into the depth of a jungle; watch it or listen to it, if you can, without a ghastly thrill. There, in the depths of those ravines, under the shadows of those trees, entangled in that brushwood, is no pomp of war, no fluttering of banners in an unhindered breeze, no solid tramp of marching battalions, no splendid strategy of the fields Napoleon loved to fight on. There a Saturnalia, gloomy, hideous, desperate, rages confined. That metallic, hollow rack of musketry is like the clanking of great chains about the damned; that sullen yell of the enemy, a fiendish protest and defiance. How the hours lag; now each minute is freighted with a burden that the days would have groaned to bear in other times! Still the sad, shuddering procession, emerging out of the smoke and tumult and passing on. Still the appealing eyes and clenched hands and quivering limbs of human creatures, worse than helpless, whose fighting is over. The paths are full of them; the woods are thick with them; the forest seems to take up the slow movement, and move with them, like giants hovering over the funeral of Liliputians. Piled in ambulances, they move on further yet, while the torture of battle plies on below, making more victims. Here and there, beside some path, you shall see a heaped blanket, labelled by some thoughtful bearer with the name the corpse beneath it bore in life; here and there you shall come across a group of men bending over one wounded past help, and dying an agonized death. And often — too often — the shameful spectacle of one bearing a weapon, unhurt, pallid and fear-stricken, flits through an opening toward the rear and is gone. You shall meet with soldiers in groups of one, or two, or three, hidden in some thicket or, coolly making coffee by the roadside. And hearing the roar of the battle below, and seeing the bloody trails of the battle behind, it shall be a glad thing to see these men hunted by officers back with curses to the ranks, to share the dangers of their nobler comrades. About this battle there is a horrible fascination. It is like a maelstrom. You feel it sucking you in, and you go nearer to see men fall like those you have seen fallen. Down through the break, underneath the edges of the smoke, where the bullets are thick and the trunks of trees, like the ranks of men, sway and fall with the smiting of shells, you have a little view of the courage and the carnage of this fight. There are the enemy, retreated to the breastworks — a ragged pile of fallen trees and heaped — up earth — hiding their heads, spitting lead and flame. Here is the Sixth corps--what you can see of it — plunging on, firing continually, tumbling over branches and limbs, sinking waist deep in swamps, fighting with its might and bleeding at at every pore. The troops of the First division, under Wright, are martyred for a time in a ravine swept by musketry in front, and by a cross-fire of artillery from right and left. The few guns that we have posted to the left have funeral voices for our enemy on the ridge, perishing beneath their fire in scores. The ridge is taken, the division breathes once more, but on come the enemy, an avalanche of greater numbers, pushing us back. Not much headway can be made in a place like this against positions like these, and although at eleven o'clock, when a lull drops upon the field, not more than half a mile of ground has been gained, and the enemy's works are not taken. Before noon, the gap still existing between Hancock's advanced line and the left of Warren's was made the opportunity of the enemy. Burnside was expected, but Burnside's troops were not in position. They were on the way.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.