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[453] Fifth corps was added to Hancock's attack in the center. Lee had not another man to spare, but the few hardy veterans that sustained the keystone of this arch of defense, held it with a desperate and unyielding courage unsurpassed in the annals of human conflicts.

The Federal engineers had, by careful triangulations, mapped the great salient and, guided by this information, batteries were so placed, in all available positions, as to bring cross-fires to bear upon its defenders. Big mortars were placed in position that dropped their heavy shells into the Confederate lines. Cannon were dragged to the front, and their muzzles thrust through or across the Confederate log intrenchments, and fired upon Lee's three brigades of heroes, who, unhesitatingly, stood to their assigned duty. Infantrymen, from opposite sides of the works, climbed up and fired into the faces of their opponents; they grappled one another and attempted to drag each other across the breastworks; bayonet thrusts were made through crevices; the continuous musketry fire cut off large trees standing in the line of the works; the dead and the dying had to be flung to the rear to give room for the living, fighting ones, in the trenches; and, to add to the horrors of the combat, a cold, heavy rain set in and partly filled the trenches, where the combatants stood, until they seemed to fairly run with blood.

Lee's charges and lines of defense were greatly strengthened by his grandly served artillery, which, when not assigned to fixed positions, hastened to the battle, took every point of vantage it could find, and poured shot and shell, with telling effect, into every portion of Grant's advancing lines, breaking their ranks and often driving them to the rear. Wherever they found an open front, where they would not fire on their comrades, the unaided artillery drove back Federal attacks. The writer, who was on this field of awful combats, does not believe that human ear ever listened to a more steady and continuous roar of musketry and artillery than that which rose from that field of fierce contention, from the dawning of the day until late in the afternoon. The slackening fight continued until night closed the scene, when Hancock withdrew his surviving and nearly exhausted veterans from the ditch in which they had fought so long, leaving but a regiment behind as a picket. Gordon's men worked throughout the succeeding night, throwing

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Fitz Lee (3)
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