many to sleep no more.
Walking among the white tents, where surgeons and nurses were murmuring among the wounded, one asked a foolish question: When is this to end?
In one corner of a hospital tent, as in many others that night, lay a dying man — a lieutenant in one of the Massachusetts
regiments, engaged during the afternoon.
Type of a thousand officers, who, like him, have been thus stricken and have thus died, his last moments demanded the hush and pause rendered by all feet and voices in that tent.
His face, turned away from the battle-field, looked toward the North
A handsome, noble face it was, shadowed by dark hair, and saddened by the droop of a dark mustache.
His breast was bare; a bandage was drawn across it, covering a wound, the pain of which disturbed him no more.
He lay quietly breathing, as if asleep.
He was not asleep, however, for presently, as two or three standing by began to say among themselves that it would soon be over, he put a pale hand, that trembled like an aspen, down beneath his shirt upon the other side, and drew forth what might have been expected, a dull, soiled velvet ambrotype case, which he held a few moments, without attempting to open.
One who. stood there felt instinctively that the dying man wished but could not ask him to stoop over where he lay. That one bent to hear a faint, broken whisper, beseeching him to take the velvet case and find the one who wore the face within it, and give it back with the blessing of a lover.
It would have been well, perhaps, had the one who thus accepted this trust unclasped the case before the hand from which he took it had grown quite cold and motionless.
Else, having looked, he might have whispered into the dull ear of the dying lieutenant promise of a surer and speedier meeting with the girl he loved than he could have had but for this day's dark fate.
For it happened that he, the living, knew that she, too, had died, and awaited somewhere the coming of what had just departed.
Operations of Monday, May 9.
In the early part of the previous night Hancock
's corps advanced, connecting on the left with Wright
's division of the Sixth corps, which connected in turn with Warren
, pushing his right across Po creek and seizing the Block House
road, running from Parker
's store to Spottsylvania Court-house.
's corps were discovered marching south, so that on Monday morning the entire army of Lee
was again in our front.
The artillery began at early dawn, and kept up a lazy firing, occasionally heightened to a combat, throughout the day. The position of our line was advanced and strengthened, from time to time, without a general battle.
's division of the Sixth corps, posted Sunday on Warren
's right, was now moved round to join the Sixth, which thus, for almost the first time in all the engagements, held an unbroken line.
The day was hot; the enemy's sharpshooters were busy.
Perched in forest trees, above the heads and out of sight of our skirmishers, they played a serious havoc along our lines.
No officer who showed himself was safe from the bullets of these assassins.
General W. H. Morris
, of the Sixth corps, another general officer, and numerous officers of the staff and line, were wounded or killed early in the day. Not even some great battles had done us more damage in commanders; yet only a slothful boom of guns, and a hollow, irregular clatter along the infantry line, were heard until the close of day, when a sharp little engagement occurred, resulting in the farther advance of our right and right-centre.
About the middle of the day General John Sedgwick
, who, since the march from Brandy Station
, had never left his command, walked out with Lieutenant-Colonel McMahon
, his Chief of Staff
to the advanced line of breastworks occupied by his men. A little hum of leaden bees about this place caused the soldiers in the works to dodge and duck their heads.
The General smiled at them good-naturedly ; he had a winning smile.
Finally one bee hummed so near a poor Irishman's auricle that he dropped down upon his face.
touched him with his foot, in humorous disdain: “Pooh, pooh, man I who ever heard of a soldier dodging a bullet I Why, they couldn't hit an elephant at that distance I”
There was a laugh at this, even though the straggling bees yet hummed unpleasantly around.
The General was still smiling over the banter, when Colonel McMahon
heard the buzz of a bullet culminate in what seemed an explosion close beside him.
“That must have been an explosive bullet, General.”
But as the face of General Sedgwick
slightly turned toward the beloved officer at his side, a curious, sad, not despairing, but almost contented smile was upon it. Another moment, and the form of the General
fell helplessly backward.
It was caught by Colonel McMahon
as it fell.
A ball had entered the face, just below the left eye, pierced the brain, and passed out at the back of the head.
He never spoke afterward, though he breathed softly for a while.
He will never speak again, to command or to caress; to punish with disdain and censure; to elevate with reward and praise.
0, noble Sixth corps; tried and true Sixth corps; though you have been saddened by the death of many comrades, did you ever weep for a comrade like this?
Are your deeds so high, your banners so glorious, now that he who directed them is fallen?
Are your lost ones so low, now that he slumbers among them?
Oh, well may you speak soft, lips that have shouted defiance; well may you toll slowly, guns that have rung “conquest” at his will I He sleeps; let the battle sleep for a time.