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[20] back in disorder, while the Rebels followed fast, and then bullethitting around us caused guards and prisoners to decamp.

What was the import of this?

None could tell, but still the reflux tide bore us back with it. At last a prisoner, a wounded Rebel officer, was being supported back to the rear, and we asked him, and the reply came back: ‘Stonewall Jackson has just gotten back from Harper's Ferry, those troops fighting the Yankees now are A. P. Hill's division.’

Well, we felt all right, if Old Stonewall was up, none need care about the result.

Still forward came the wave of gray, still backward receeded the billows of blue, heralded by warning hiss of the bullets, the sparkling of the rifle flashes, the purplish vapor settling like a veil over the lines, the mingled hurrahs and wild yells, and the bass accompaniment over on our left of the hoarse cannonading. Back we went, stopping on top of every rise of the ground to watch the battle. It was nearly night, the last gleam of the sun's rays struck upon the glass windows of the houses of the little village of Sharpsburg, and made them shine like fire, brighter, more vivid, than even the flames bursting from one house that had been set on fire by an exploding shell.

At last the bridge is reached—the stone bridge that crosses Antietam creek—the key point of the Federal position, the weak point in their line, the spot so anxiously watched by McClellan, for he sent repeated dispatches to Burnside late that evening, as A. P. Hill bore back the advancing tide—his order was: ‘Hold on to the bridge at all hazards; if the bridge is lost all is lost.’

Here was the point Toombs's Georgians made such a gallant defence of the river early in the forenoon, and the dead lay thick all around.

But the battle in our front ceased suddenly, though on other parts of the field it still kept up. As we approached the bridge we were astonished to see so many troops—not a man under ten thousand said my comrade—and they were all fresh troops. Certainly, there was no danger of Burnside losing the bridge, with all those splendid soldiers ready to defend it. Had those men advanced early in the day, instead of being held back, it would have been a black day for the South, and the Yankees would have gained a glorious victory, for we had no reserves, and A. P. Hill was miles away in the morning.

The ground all about the bridge was covered with the dead and wounded, for the Yankees had established a sort of field hospital here, and the desperately hurt in the immediate front were left at this


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