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[109]

The morning of the fifteenth was dark and sombre. A heavy pall of fog and smoke rested on the face of the earth, and enveloped every object in thick darkness. At six A. M. the movement of the troops was entirely impracticable, but between seven and eight A. M. the fog began to rise, and the troops silently and rapidly commenced to move into the positions assigned to them. This preliminary work being completed, nothing further remained for the Fourth corps to do. until the cavalry and General Smith had made the long swing from our right which Was necessary to bring them on the rear and left of the enemy's position. At 12:30 P. M., General Smith having swung up his right so that his command prolonged the front of the Fourth corps, the serried ranks of the corps began to advance towards the enemy's intrenched position. I should have remarked previously, that as soon as the troops began to debouch from our intrenched line, the skirmishers were pushed forward to cover the movement, and soon became sharply engaged with the enemy's skirmishers and readily drove them back.

During all the preliminary movements an occasional shot from the enemy's batteries showed he was keenly watching our movements. As the shells hurtled through the air, and burst over the troops, they added interest to the scene. When the splendid array of the troops began to move forward in unison the pageant was magnificently grand and imposing. Far as the eye could reach the lines and masses of blue, over which the nation's emblem flaunted proudly, moved forward in such perfect order that the heart of the patriot might easily draw from it the happy presage of the coming glorious victory. A few minutes after 12:30 P. M., I deemed the movement favorable to the attack on the left and rear of Montgomery's Hill. Montgomery's Hill is an irregular cone-shaped eminence, which rises four hundred and fifty feet above the general level of the surrounding country. The ascent to its summit, throughout most of its circumference, is quite abrupt, and its sides are covered with forest trees. The enemy had encircled the hill, just below its crest, with a strong line of intrenchments, and embarrassed the approach of an assaulting force with an abatis and rows of sharpened stakes firmly planted in the ground. This hill was the enemy's most advanced position, and was not more than eight hundred yards from our lines.

The ascent on the left and rear of the hill, taken in reference to the enemy's occupation, is more gradual than the portion which directly confronted our intrenchments. As our troops advanced and swung to the left, the left of the hill was brought directly in front of the third division of the corps. This disposition was favorable to the intended assault. I ordered Brigadier-General Beatty, commanding the Third division, to detail a brigade to make the attack. The Second brigade of the Third division, commanded by Colonel P. Sidney Post, Fifty-ninth Illinois veteran volunteers, was selected for the work. The necessary arrangements having been made at one P. M., I gave the order for the assault. At the command, as sweeps the stiff gale over the ocean, driving every object before it, so swept the brigade up the wooden slope, over the enemy's intrenchments, and the hill was won. The Second brigade was nobly supported in the assault by the First brigade (Colonel Streight's) of the Third division. Quite a number of prisoners and small arms were captured in the assault. Previous to the assault I had caused the enemy to be well pounded by the artillery from our lines. This was the first success of the day, and it greatly exalted the enthusiasm of the troops. Our casualties were small, compared with the success.

Up to this time, the Twenty-third corps, Major-General Schofield, commanding, had been held in reserve in rear of the Fourth corps and Major-General A. J. Smith's command; but shortly after the assault on Montgomery's Hill, I received a message from the commanding General of the forces, to the effect that he had ordered General Schofield to move his command to the right, to prolong General Smith's front, and directing me to move my reserves as much to the right as could be done compatibly with the safety of my own front. The order was at once obeyed by shifting the reserve brigade of each division to the right. The entire line of the corps was steadily pressed forward, and the enemy engaged throughout its whole front. The battery accompanying each division was brought to the front, and being placed in short and effective range of the enemy's main line, allowed him to rest. As the troops advanced, the skirmishers were constantly engaged, at times so sharply that the fusilade nearly equalled in fierceness the engagement of solid lines of battle. I pressed the corps as near the enemy's main line as possible, without making a direct assault on it; in doing so, at the same time swinging to the left, the right of the corps which had, during the previous part of the day, been in rear of General Smith's left to support it, passed in front of it. This movement brought the centre of the corps, General Kimball's division, directly opposite to a very strongly fortified hill near the centre of the enemy's main line. Impressed with the importance of carrying this hill, as the enemy's centre would be broken thereby, I ordered up two batteries, and had them so placed as to bring a converging fire on the crest of the hill.

I will here remark, that the enemy's artillery on this hill had been annoying us seriously all the day. After the two batteries had played on the enemy's line, for half an hour, during which time the practice had been most accurate, I ordered General Kimball to assault the hill with his entire division. Most nobly did the division respond to the order. With the most exalted enthusiasm, and with loud cheers, it rushed forward, up the steep ascent, and over the intrenchments. The solid fruits of this


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A. J. Smith (5)
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