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[190] General Johnston, at dusk on the 16th, fell back to Cassville, where he remained till the 19th. An order from General Johnston was that day read to the troops, to the effect that ‘the army would retreat no further, but would meet and fight the enemy at this place.’ It was heard with the greatest delight by the troops, and excited general enthusiasm. In the afternoon, the men were ordered to prepare entrenchments, which they did under the heavy fire of the enemy.

To the chagrin of all, that very night at 10 o'clock an order came to fall back. This sudden change of intention was at that time a mystery, but in his official report General Johnston has stated the cause. General Hood had said that he could not hold his part of the line; General Polk that he did not think he could hold his; while Hardee, who held the weakest part of the whole line, was of the opinion that he could hold his.

On the morning of the 20th the line of retreat was taken up across the Etowah river to Alatoona, and thence to New Hope Church, near Dallas. On the 25th the enemy moved up and charged the greater part of the line, but were repulsed with heavy loss at every point. The Third Maryland was not engaged till late in the evening, when it did terrible execution in the enemy's ranks, itself having but two men slightly wounded.

Again on the 27th, the enemy charged our right wing, and the Third Maryland was ordered to open upon them. A heavy fire was kept up for about an hour with telling effect. This was evident from the fact that the enemy's shots were continually rising; this was a sure sign that they were becoming excited. The elevating screw of a cannon is depressed by the impact upon it of the breech at the moment of firing, with the effect, of course, of elevating the muzzle, and causing the shot to rise higher and higher. The screw should be run up after each discharge of the piece-something that in the tumult of battle a gunner might easily forget.

During this artillery duel, a shell from the enemy exploded in a building immediately in the rear of the battery, and but a few paces from it, and set the building on fire. There was danger of the fire communicating with the ammunition, therefore, it was absolutely necessary to extinguish it to make the position of the Third Maryland at all tenable. Private W. J. Lewis, of Lieutenant Ritter's section, volunteered to bring water from a branch, two hundred yards in front of the line, to put out the fire. He was exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy, but returned unharmed, and accomplished his object. The building was saved, and the position held by the Third Maryland.


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