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[268] a donkey began an unmerciful bray, when a unanimous shout came up from the impenitent and sorrowless gray-coats, ‘Hold on, Colonel, one at a time, one at a time.’ There is a delicacy of insinuation about this reply, which makes it unsurpassed and unsurpassable. No! I was not that colonel, though I could tell of as grievous a mishap to myself did not modesty forbid. I will tell rather of some other glorious exploits of the ragged Rebels.

At Boonsboro, or South Mountain, my division, reduced to five thousand men by battle, disease, hard marching and want of shoes, was called upon to confront McClellan's army and to hold Turner's Gap against two corps of that army, while two other corps were in supporting distance. The immense wagon-yard and parks of reserve artillery of Lee's whole army were at the foot of the mountain on the west side. General Lee himself, with Longstreet's command, was at Hagerstown, thirteen miles off. A thin curtain of men extending for miles along the crests of the mountains on that bright Sabbath day in September, was all we had to check a vast, perfectly organized and magnificently equipped army. There was nothing else to save our trains and artillery; there was nothing else to prevent McClellan from cutting in between Lee and Jackson; there was nothing else to save Longstreet's corps from irretrievable ruin. That thin curtain once broken, the enemy would have full possession of all our supply trains and supplies—ordnance, commissary and quartermaster stores; worse still, the two wings of Lee's army would have been riven asunder, never to be reunited. But there were giants in those days of 1862, and the haggard, weary, worn-out private in the ranks was a hero in his own right, and capable of multiplying himself into overwhelming numbers. From 9 A. M. till 3 1/2 P. M. two brigades and three regiments held at bay Reno's corps (said officially to be fifteen thousand strong), which attacked on our right, moving on the old Braddock road. Then three very small brigades of Longstreet's command, in an exhausted condition from their hot and hurried march, came to our assistance. With their aid the crests of the mountain and the road were held. Reno was killed at nightfall in Wise's field, where the fight began in the morning, and within fifty yards of where our beloved Garland fell.

But on our left a commanding hill was lost before sundown. All the fighting before five o'clock was on our right, and the first reinforcements from Longstreet were turned off in that direction where the enemy advanced very cautiously, because advancing in the woods and constantly apprehensive of surprise from overwhelming numbers.


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