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[450] enemy penetrated to the very face of the breastwork, to be hewn down and sent back like a broken wave. Column after column still came on, dealing death and meeting it, and making way for other columns, and others still; and all the day long, against this rush of a foe that seemed disdainful of life, the angle was held by our troops, fighting, falling, but unyielding, to the close. Our artillery made havoc on that day; from dawn to dusk the roar of the guns was ceaseless; a tempest of shell shrieked through the forest, and ploughed the field.

When the night came, the angle of those works, where the battle had been the hottest, and from which the enemy had been finally driven, had a spectacle, for whoever cared to look, that would never have enticed his gaze again. Men in hundreds, killed and wounded together, were piled in hideous heaps — some bodies that had lain for hours under the concentric fire of the battle being perforated with wounds. The writhing of wounded beneath the dead moved these masses at times; at times a lifted arm or a quivering limb told of an agony not yet quenched by the Lethe of death around.

Bitter fruit, this — a dear price, it seemed, to pay for the capture of a salient angle of an enemy's intrenched work, even though that enemy's loss was terrible — even after the brilliant surprise and the prisoners of the morning. For the enemy on the right still occupied his original line, and still opposed us in front, on a prolongation of the same, leaving in our possession the angle. Of what Burnside might have done on the left this day, or of what he did, I am still uninformed.

During the night another movement by the left flank was made by the army, and in the morning the Fifth and Sixth corps had moved to the left of Hancock and Burnside. At nine o'clock A. M., the army faced the enemy, still this side of Spottsylvania Court-house, in a line south-east by north-west, stretching across the road from Spottsylvania Court-house to Fredricksburg.

Of the events of yesterday, consisting of the enemy's capture and our retaking of a position designated by a house on the extreme left of our line, you have had particulars.

The position now occupied by the enemy in our front is one so strong as to seem actually impregnable. Their works stretch in a semi-circle around Spottsylvania Court-house, and are said to have been long constructed, in anticipation of the very emergency which has now arrived. To advance directly upon these works, defended as they are by an army which has thus far so stubbornly opposed us, will prove a fearful business. I believe that General Grant will first try other means.

Meanwhile the army rests; the battle of musketry has ceased for a time in the forests; only the dull boom of a distant cannonade links the fortnight of battles past with the weeks of battle yet to come.

And as soft as the shadows and breezes that fall upon and sweep across the slumbering lines of men in arms among these hills, ought to rise in the North and sink here, in this interval of peace, the rewarding gratitude of a nation.

Not so much, perhaps, for what the army has achieved, as for what it has suffered. Something besides military discipline, something besides the end to be attained — grand though that is — has inspired these soldiers along the pathway of blood just traversed. That element of the immortal which keeps the long slumber of an earthquake in men's breasts, during ordinary times, has made a volcano of every soldier's heart who lies here with his musket — a single scale upon this serpent in arms. There was promise of it in these faces long before the battle came; a look, prophesying tragedy. These were they who had quitted the old paths, known unto millions, that lead to peaceful graves. These were they to whom that thought of death, shunned by those who could only meet death by chance, was an understood and accepted guest. Behold, in the eyes of those in cities a kind of stupor; in the eyes of these thousands in the field a kind of electric light. Life with the first a fitful, earthly flame; with the last a fiery, hot emotion, kept awake in every vein by thought of the vulture above it, waiting to swoop. They laugh, and talk, and blaspheme, and are reckless of fine phrases, these men, much like their old selves in workshops and saloons. But there is something above the workshop and the saloon, the riot and routine of towns and farms, in the carriage of men intended for battle. They have lifted their souls out of the depths into the high tide of that majestic current of life, beneath which the accidents of earth and death are as rippling pebbles.

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A. E. Burnside (2)
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