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Cold Harbor, June 4, 1864.
There has been a constant fire along the lines all day. The skirmishers are so close that the losses on both sides are many. The Surgeon-in-Chief of the Sixth corps informed me that they had averaged six wounded an hour — about two hundred during the twenty-four hours. Probably the Second and Eighteenth have lost quite as many. The enemy have retired in part, from our right, and the losses in the Fifth and Ninth are less.

The breastworks and trenches are in some places not more than two hundred feet apart, so determinedly have we pressed upon the enemy — advancing our works a few paces every night. We have a half dozen lines of breast-works. If we should be driven from the front one, there are still several others from which we could fire upon the enemy. The men take their places at midnight, where they must stay till, under the cover of darkness, they can be relieved. There they sit — crouched, cramped. To raise their heads above the parapet is certain death. And so along the rebel lines there are loop-holes where keen-eyed men watch for the enemy. The soldiers on both sides delight to draw the fire of their opponents. They raise their hats a trifle — whiz — whiz — whiz — the bullets go around, or may be through it. The obstinacy of the rebels is matched by the persistence of our own men. It is not often in field operations — not siege — that opposing forces come in such close contact.

The foreign papers are full of the war in Denmark — a war in which, in the greatest battle fought, the loss was less than a thousand men placed hors de combat. How little the world knows of the magnitude of our own war! How little we ourselves know of it I Our skirmishes, even, of which we hardly take notice, are of greater moment than the battles, the accounts of which fill the foreign newspapers.

There was a slow cannonade in the morning, which gradually died away; but the infantry took it up, and so the Sabbath hours have been far from peaceful.

At sunset, there was the booming of distant cannon — heavy guns to the left of Richmond — whether from the gunboats, or from the rebel artillery in the defences, repulsing Sheridan, who has gone in that direction, we have no knowledge.

8:30 P. M.--The sun has gone down, and the darkness is stealing on. It is the usual hour for the ripple of musketry along the lines, and several nights we have had it — the rebels choosing it for attacking our advanced force.

We have had occasional shots from the artillery. There is one piece which hurls its shells far over our lines toward headquarters. Other than this, there is but little to break the silence. [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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Denmark (Denmark) (2)

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P. H. Sheridan (2)
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June 4th, 1864 AD (2)
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