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From Gettysburg to five Forks.

The necessities and casualties of war called Longstreet and Ewell away from the great chieftain, but Hill was always at his right hand in council and in action. To this larger command General Hill [382] brought the experience and the prestige of success gained as a division commander. From this time forward the life of A. P. Hill is written in the history of that famous corps, and is too well known to be detailed here.

From Gettysburg, in July, 1863, to Five Forks, in March, 1865, it is a record of unceasing activity, sleepless vigilance, and of great battles. At Gettysburg he met and repulsed the corps of Reynolds and Howard, and captured the town. On the retreat from that disastrous field his corps held the post of honor and danger, in rear and nearest the enemy.

No task which falls to a soldier's lot is more difficult to fill than to cover the retreat of a large army, with its trains and artillery. It requires the most sleepless and untiring vigilance to avoid surprise, the coolest courage to face sudden and unlooked for emergencies, and the faculty of inspiring dispirited, disheartened, and overtaxed soldiers with confidence and courage. How well General Hill was fitted to perform this difficult task the result proves. The entire army, with all its baggage-trains and artillery, was brought safely across the Potomac, and the pursuing army was not able to deliver one single telling blow to the retreating Confederates.

General Hill's corps, like his old division, was ever in motion, always ready to march at a moment's notice, always in the fight, and always giving a good account of itself.

Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor, Jerusalem, Plank-Road, Ream's Station, the Crater, Weldon, Hatcher's Run, Petersburg, and many other combats and affairs speak the deeds of Hill and his brave men.

During the seige of Petersburg, Hill's corps was on the right of the army, which was the exposed flank, and which it was General Grant's constant aim and object to turn in order to cut General Lee's communication with the South, and force him to retreat. To avert repeated efforts to accomplish this cherished design, kept the Third corps in constant motion, while the rest of the army was left in comparative quiet. From July to March, every effort in that direction was met and defeated by General Hill with promptness and without heavy loss on his part. During the campaign of 1864, the Third corps captured from the enemy thirty pieces of artillery, large quantities of small arms and military stores, and more prisoners than it numbered, without the loss of a single gun, and with the loss of but few prisoners. The early spring of 1865 found the Army of Northern [383] Virginia reduced to an attenuated skirmish-line, extending from the Chesapeake and Ohio railway on the north of Richmond to the Norfolk and Western railroad on the south of Petersburg, a distance of over thirty miles, and confronted by an enemy more than three times its own numbers. The odds were too great to hope for successful resistance, and when General Grant massed his well-equipped veterans on General Lee's right, in front of Hill's corps, the ‘beginning of the end’ had been reached.

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