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[38]

Where? Was the question every one asked and no one replied, except to guess. No troops were stirring. It was a quiet morning indeed.

General Sherman was seen going to the left, and General Thomas, the staid old adviser of Rosecrans, and who is the most intimate and respected adviser of General Sherman, was seen jogging quietly in the same direction. It was determined at last by General Sherman that a high knob, the slope of which was covered with a dense growth of underbrush, should be carried by assault.

Brigadier-General Ward, the rough, stern old Kentuckian, who commands a brigade in Butterfield's division, was chosen to perform the work, and it delighted him. The assaulting force was formed in column of battalion, the Seventieth Indiana taking the lead, followed in turn by the other regiments of the brigade. General Coburn's brigade was to have been held in reserve, but afterwards participated. Colonel Wood's brigade participated also in the grand assault. General Ward moved his brigade, which he had formed under cover of the woods, out into the open field, and prepared to move towards the knob. On the very summit of this almost inaccessible knob the enemy had constructed a redoubt for four guns. No sooner had Ward's troops emerged into the open ground beyond the works, when the little redoubt belched forth a torrent of missiles that overshot the column and failed to injure a man. From the rebel rifle-pits on the right flank, however, and from the rebel infantry on the knoll, came a sleet of bullets, in which it seemed almost, if not quite miraculous that anything could live. Through all this the column pressed, the Seventieth Indiana rising the slope, entering the thicket, and pushing towards the redoubt. The artillerists apply their matches to no effect; up go the men; they enter embrasures, shoot the gunners at their work, and the flag floats from the parapet.

General Ward is severely wounded in the charge, and upon the young and gallant Harrison devolves the command of the brigade.

Just in rear of the redoubt runs a splendid line of rifle-pits, rising from behind, from which the rebels pour in such withering volleys that we were forced to retire from the work. Through the interstices, now and then, as the breeze carries off the sulphur cloud, the flag is seen waved by the faithful color-bearer.

Finding that the brigade was not strong enough to carry the rifle-pits, Colonel Harrison determined to withdraw the troops under cover of the fort and hill.

As we were leaving, the rebels, thinking we had been repulsed, cheered lustily. This stung the gallant color-bearer Hess, of the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Illinois, and springing back to the embrasure again stood and floated the colors defiantly at the enemy. Brave fellow, his death atoned his rashness. A rebel, levelling his musket, shot him through his heart. There were other hands to grasp the flag, and it came back only to return and wave from the very spot where its former bearer fell.

The boys were determined not to let the guns slip from their grasp, and about three hundred huddled under cover of the redoubt, and picked off every enemy that made an effort to take them out. Was ever battery in such an anomalous position? Within grasp almost of two parties, and yet it would be almost death to either to attempt their seizure. There with straining eyes lay the disputants hour after hour, killing and maiming each other, and yet both determinedly clinging to the trophy After dark the rebels made a charge for the battery, but the staunch three hundred drove them back and retained possession.

About eleven o'clock at night the three hundred men were released by a detail, which with spades widened the embrasures and dragged out the guns.

The loss of the brigade in this brilliant affair was almost four hundred men.

General Harrison, grandson of the old President, in whose veins courses the same patriotic ardor that so distinguished his grandfather, made application in conjunction with General Ward for permission to charge the enemy's main line in rear of the redoubt, but the General regarded the sacrifice as unnecessary, and the request was not granted.

Colonels Coburn and Wood, each of whom fought brigrades on the left of Ward, suffered heavy losses, and reaped honors that will not soon fade.

General Geary, who attacked the enemy, was in turn attacked further to the left, also suffered heavy losses, but he has the satisfaction of knowing by the best evidence in the world, the bodies of the slain that were strewn over the ground in the morning, that he wreaked terrible vengeance for the blood he lost.

Of all the fearful things in the world a night attack, I truly believe, is most dreaded by the soldier. Between eleven and twelve o'clock tonight our whole line was roused to arms by volleys of musketry and the deafening cheers of the charging enemy. The most exciting and most demoralizing rumors imaginable took wing at once, and the uproar was indescribably bewildering. Were you ever thrown under the influences of a night assault? Well, if you were not you don't know what a “skeer” is, then, at all. Did you ever put on boots, vest, coat, and hat, wrap up your blankets, run a mile in a circle in search of your horse, find him, strap on the saddle, and mount in less than four minutes and a half? Well, I think I did on the night of the grand sham assault. All night the rebels worked like beavers, chopping and swearing (especially the latter), and apparently rolling logs.

The morning of the sixteenth my ears were greeted by the same sounds of musketry, but they were from our skirmishers who were endeavoring “to wake the Johnnies up,” as they expressed it. The Johnnies were all gone, however, safe over the Oostanaula. They had


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J. N. Ward (6)
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