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[563] The skirmishers along the lines who have been firing through the day, seem to be weary. But it is the calm before the storm.

There it comes--one, two, three--a dozen, a hundred shots — a roll, deep, heavy, prolonged, like the rush of a mighty torrent suddenly let loose. How it deepens I It is like the ripping of the mower, swinging his scythe in ripened grass, dried and scorched by summer heat. The great Reaper is out there upon that field, stalking unseen between the trenches, walking in darkness, bordered with lightning flashes, showering it with leaden rain, making it the Valley of the Shadow of Death! There are the cannon. Boom, boom, boom--five, ten, twenty, one hundred discharges a minute! A forest of pines shuts out the sight, but above the ever-green branches the flashes flame upon the starry heavens. No artist can picture it, no language describe it. It is terrific, yet grand and sublime. It makes one nervous to hear it, stirs the blood, rouses and excites, to know that the defenders of those works are holding their ground. You need no telegraphic despatch to assure you of the fact. A sudden lull, after a savage cry, would indicate disaster; but there is the cry, the Indian yell, not the cheer which distinguishes the charge of the Union troops from that of the enemy. There is no cessation of the roar. It deepens rather. The cry, which a moment ago rose sharp and clear above the battle-tide becomes fainter. There is a perceptible ebbing of the tide. It has been at full flood a half hour. You have been two minutes reading this narrative. How little you know of the reality. I hear it, but have little conception of what is taking place. I shall realize it more fully in the morning, when the ambulances come in with the wounded. But to be there, in it, a part of it — with blood at fever heat — with the air full of strange, terrifying noises — hissings, screechings, howlings of balls, bullets, and deafening explosions — all darkness, excepting the blinding flashes and sheets of flame! The altar of our country drips with blood. It is a Sabbath evening sacrifice, pure and precious, freely offered. Fathers and mothers have given the firstlings of their flocks, with thanks that they had them to give; they have given the best, they have given all. Patriotism is not dead.

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