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[67] upon the bank of the river opposite the city, he saw that he had a task before him that would require all his courage and all his nerve. His men were losing confidence and relish for fighting. When they crossed the river and passed through the town, out upon the shelf of land back of the city, across which they had seen all day such desperate charges of our men to the foot of the semicircle of fortified hills,—and all in vain,—they felt that the battle of Fredericksburg was already lost.

It was now that Vincent proved himself. A member of the regiment, in writing of this battle, speaks of the high and chivalrous sense of duty which caused their Colonel to seem almost reckless in the example he set, under the terrible fire the new troops issuing from the city drew from the enemy. Forming under this fire, the regiment advanced just before dark, and relieved troops in our front line. Here it remained for twenty-four hours. In the mean time the command of the brigade fell to Vincent. During the night he took advantage of a slight rise in the ground and caused the men further to protect themselves with earth thrown up by bayonets and dippers. On Sunday his troops suffered less than troops to the right and left, but it was a long day. No attack was made, and there could be no communication with the rear, for they were so near the enemy that it was death to rise from the ground.

Soon after sunset a message was sent out from the city for him to fall back as soon as he safely could. The men were immediately cautioned to be ready to rise and march to the rear. All knew the danger. The moon was shining brightly, and for an hour it seemed that it would be impossible to retire without loss of life. But when the order first came the young commander had observed a few little clouds just appearing over the hills. Soon those near him, wondering why he did not direct the movement to begin, saw his anxious look fastened upon one of these clouds; and as by inspiration the whole brigade knew what he was awaiting. The cloud increased in size, came nearer, grew blacker, came

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Bethuel B. Vincent (2)
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