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A typical battle scene.

For a second time the fire slackened and then reopened fiercely, and a third prolonged and stubborn combat ensued. It was evident they were putting in fresh men; our ammunition was running low, and General Hill ordered a charge. We started with a yell and the firing ceased. It did not take us long to reach the enemy's position. The line of their formation did not need the double row of knapsacks neatly piled behind it to mark where it had been. It was bloodily signified by prostrate forms, many dead, others gasping. They lay in every direction, like a rail fence thrown down. In several instances body lay upon body. It was a wretched sight. We tried to give the wounded some water, the only aid in our power. The first man I bent over was past all human help; the next was unable to swallow, and as I sought to raise him the bones of his head cracked in the palm of my hand.

During our brief rest at this spot the men busied themselves in various ways. Most of them replenished their cartridge-boxes from those who had fallen; others tore open the knapsacks and kicked the contents about the ground; others explored the haversacks plentifully strewn around. I refilled my box, wiped out my gun, threw away my old canteen and got me a new one, and then fell — to on some biscuit. While there engaged we were ordered forward, and, dropping everything, reformed and went on. After marching a while the woods grew clearer, and presently we emerged at the end.

To use the favorite simile of Sancho Panza, all that had gone before was but tarts and cheese-cakes to what now ensued. At the edge of the woods was a belt of felled timber, beyond that a clearing, and woods beyond that again. At the far side of the timber a bran-new regiment of Federal infantry, the fifth, as I make it, we had encountered that day, was drawn up to bar the way. Later in the day we learned it was the Seventieth New York. And I desire here to do justice to the soldierly steadiness of this command. For two hours or more it held us at bay, at one time forcing us back a short distance by the sheer weight of its fire, and never gave way till two-thirds of its officers and nearly one-half of its men had been shot down; till its brave and skilful colonel had been twice wounded [416] and knocked senseless, and clambering over the timber we had got fairly in among them.

But, not to anticipate; on emerging from the woods the scene was one of stern and imposing grandeur. The smoke of the previous combats was slowly drifting out of the forest and rising like a thin veil between us and the enemy. Through the haze could be seen the long line of infantry, splendidly equipped and motionless as so many statues, the sombre blue of their uniforms relieved by a shining crest of steel, the gold blazonry of the regimental colors, and the gay hues of the national flag.


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Ambrose P. Hill (1)
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