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[235] from the front and placed in readiness to march at early dawn. Only two guns of Carrington's Battery were left to support Johnson's division.

Before it became light enough to distinguish objects, the rapid firing of our skirmishers in the wooded ravine in front of the centre of Johnson's line gave notice that the enemy was advancing, and the heavy tramp of a large body of infantry and the sharp words of command could be distinctly heard. Very soon our skirmishers came falling back, firing as they came, and announced what we already knew, that a heavy column was advancing to the attack. Our men were all up and ready for them with their muskets cocked, peering through the gloom for the first glimpse of their foes. For several moments, which seemed very much longer to the anxious and expectant Confederates, no enemy came in sight; but the tramp of armed men drew nearer, and the commands of their officers sounded more distinctly.

The enemy, consisting of Hancock's corps, formed in columns of brigades, had emerged from the ravine and advanced about one-third of the way across the open plateau before they could be seen, or could themselves see our works on account of the fog. All at once the slowly-lifting fog showed them our heavily fortified position, some four or five hundred yards in their front. At this expected but unwelcome sight the advancing columns paused and wavered and hesitated, and seemed to refuse the task before them. Their mounted officers rode in front and urged them on, while many officers on foot and horseback shouted: ‘Forward! men, forward!’ and repeated the words again and again. Then the moment for the Confederate fire had come, and the men, rising to full height leveled their trusty muskets deliberately at the halting column, with a practiced aim which would have carried havoc into their ranks. But the searching damp had disarmed them, and instead of the leaping line of fire and the sharp crack of the muskets came the pop! pop! pop! of exploding caps as the hammer fell upon them. Their powder was damp, and with their muzzle-loading muskets there was no help for them. A few, very few, pieces fired clear; but fresh caps on most of them only produced another failure. A muzzle-loading musket with damp powder behind the ball is as useless to a soldier in an emergency like that as a walking-cane.

As the enemy received no fire from our lines they took heart and


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Edward Johnson (2)
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