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[73] and displaying the most unflinching courage.1 Their conduct was indeed splendid. Their situation, as we have seen, became so distressing that the officers were ordered to make their men run out of the works in squads, and get back into their own lines as best they could. It required considerable time to communicate the order from the several division headquarters down to the men through their respective brigade and regimental commanders. In several instances, staff officers bearing these orders were shot down, and the orders were not communicated and had to be repeated. The smoke and noise of the artillery, mortars and small arms, whose fire was concentrated on the few acres around Steadman occupied by the Confederate troops, was so great that it was difficult either to see or to hear at any distance. Many of the captured troops undoubtedly never received the order, and fought the enemy in front, not knowing that their comrades had left until they received a fire from the flank and rear, which cut off flight and forced surrender. Most of the commands, however, had received the order before the countercharge began, and it burst upon the Confederates just as their line of battle, in several places, was leaving the captured works, and had turned their backs upon the enemy to regain our own retrenchments. Under these circumstances, the number taken prisoners was not exceptionally large compared to the number engaged, and it does not at all sustain the verdict that the troops did not fight well, or that their morale had been so impaired that they could no longer be relied on for offensive movements.

1 General Lee, in a dispatch sent to the Secretary of War at 11.20 P. M. that day, says: ‘All the troops engaged including two brigades under Brigadier General Ransom, behaved most handsomely. The conduct of the sharpshooters of Gordon's corps, who led the assault, deserves the highest commendation.’

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