noticed the countenances and rolling eyes of the terror-stricken negroes.
I particularly noticed in the hands of one of the frightened creatures the new silk of a large and beautiful stand of colors, the staff swaying to and fro as the color-bearer, his eyes fixed in terrified gaze at his armed adversaries, was being pushed and jostled by his comrades.
With my gun still loaded I might have fired into this mass of men, but I regarded these also as practically our prisoners.
Casting my eyes upon the ground over and beyond the breastworks—east of them, I mean—I there saw large numbers of the enemy retreating to their own breastworks.
Many, however, were taking shelter behind—that is, on the east side, or outside, of our breastworks, as I could see from the tops of their caps, just over the parapet.
Into a squad of those I saw retreating to their own works, I fired my rifle, and not stopping to note the damage done by my shot, or to enquire who was thereby hurt, I jumped into one of the little ditches leading out from the main trench.
This ditch was about as deep as I was high and about eighteen inches wide.
Proceeding down it towards the trench, or main ditch, I was suddently confronted by a negro soldier at the other end of it, standing with his gun pointed towards me at ‘a ready,’ and looking me in the face with a grin on his.
As may be imagined, I was now in quite a predicament.
What should I do?
Shoot the fellow I could not—my gun, having been just fired, was empty.
Bayonet him I could not, as I had no bayonet on my gun. I had lost my bayonet at the battle of the Wilderness
, and glad of having done so, as I was thus lawfully relieved of that much weight on a march, I had never bothered myself about getting another, never having expected to get close enough to an armed enemy to need it. Nor could I club this man; the narrowness of the ditch prevented.
Nor could I turn my back upon him with safety.
But there was a protecting hand to save me. Just in front of me, and to my right, was a large recess in the earth, perpendicular to the little ditch in which I stood and parellel to the main ditch or trench, large enough for a horse to stand in—say eight feet in length, four in width and of the same depth with the little ditch.
Into this recess, by a rapid stride to my front and right, I made my way, and there loaded my rifle in the quickest possible time; no muzzle-loader was ever loaded in less time.
I was now less than five feet from a trench full of Federal soldiers with arms in their hands, and was in a position critical and perilous in the extreme.
Just as I got into this place, I discovered near me, at my feet, a