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[287] near me, and told him to keep the enemy in check, and that as soon as my wound was bandaged I would return. Before reaching the hospital I was so weak from the loss of blood that I realized I could never lead my men again. In the hospital I met General Whiting, suffering uncomplainingly from his wounds. He told me that General Bragg had ignored his presence in the fort, and had not noticed his messages.

Perceiving the fire of the garrison had slackened, I sent my adjutant, John N. Kelly, for Major James Reilly, next in command (Major Stevenson, who died shortly after in prison, being too ill for duty). Reilly came and promised me that he would continue the fight as long as it was possible, and nobly did he keep his promise. I again sent a message to Bragg begging him to come to the rescue.

Shortly after my fall the Federals made an advance and capturing several more of the gun chambers, reached the sally-port. The column in the work advanced and was rapidly gaining ground when Major Reilly, rallying the men, including the South Carolinians, drove them back with heavy loss. About 8 o'clock my aide came to me and said the supply of ammunition was exhausted, and that Chaplain McKinnon and others had gathered all from the dead and wounded and distributed it; that the enemy had possession of nearly all the land face, and it was impossible to hold out much longer, and suggested that it would be wise to surrender, as a further struggle would be a useless sacrifice of life. I replied that while I lived I would not surrender, as Bragg would surely come to our rescue in time to save us. General Whiting declared if I died he would assume command and would not surrender.

I have been blamed for unnecessarily prolonging the fight, but when it is remembered that I had promised the noble women of Wilmington who had visited the fort after our Christmas victory that their homes should be protected by my garrison, and that General Lee had sent word that if the fort fell he could not maintain his army (and that meant the loss of our cause), is it to be wondered that I felt it my sacred duty, even after I was shot down, to appeal to officers and men to fight in defence of the last gateway to the South, as long as there was a ray of hope?

I had a right to believe that the troops which General Lee sent to our assistance would rescue us, and if Bragg had ordered Hoke to assault with his division late that afternoon we would have recovered

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Braxton Bragg (4)
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