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[352] of Hooker and Mansfield, he determined to meet Sumner's advance with a bold counterstroke. McLaws and Anderson, by a night march from Maryland heights, had joined him in the early morning of the 17th and were resting near Sharpsburg. He proposed to join with these the forces of Walker and lead them to the assistance of Jackson.

At half-past 8 of the morning the advance of Sumner's 18,000 veterans, the third of McClellan's successive assaulting columns entered the East woods, followed by Sedgwick's division. The sight was not a reassuring one as Sumner's men crossed the field of recent carnage strewn with the dead and wounded of Hooker and Mansfield. Greene's Federal division still held on near the eastern edge of the West woods, but did not move against Jackson's naturally fortified line. In a deploy of 6,000 men, in the East woods, Sumner faced the big cornfield, strewn with its fresh-mown harvest of the dead, then, in three lines, moved westward across that field and the Hagerstown turnpike to the front of the long line of the West woods. Stuart's guns raked his advance with an enfilade, while Jackson's, from the commanding ridge behind the West woods, raked it at short range. Sumner's right soon struck the brave three hundred that alone. remained of the famous fighting Stonewall brigade; but these courageous Virginians flinched not, and from behind the upstanding ledges of rocks and the great oaks of the northern part of the West woods, they stayed the progress of the Federal advance, helped by the depleted command of the unyielding Early on their left, while Lee and Jackson were moving to set the battle in order to fall on Sumner's left flank. Hood had fought his men to a mere wreck, at the Dunker church, and had sent Col. S. D. Lee to tell the commanding general that unless immediately reinforced the day was lost. He met the great leader, on his led horse, about a half mile from the church. He reassured the chief of artillery, who had excitedly delivered Hood's message, by quietly saying: ‘Don't be excited about it, Colonel. Go and tell General Hood to hold his ground. Reinforcements are now rapidly approaching and are between Sharpsburg and the ford. Tell him that I am now coming to his support.’ Just then he turned and saw McLaws' division approaching at a double-quick from Sharpsburg.

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