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[85]

The sharp skirmish fire soon grew into a furious and heavy volume of musketry. The ever faithful Carter joined in with his deep-toned guns. The cavalry on our right pressed forward at a gallop, and wild and fierce shouts resounded throughout the heavens. As the sun drove away that Sunday morning mist, it looked down upon a scene that will forevermore thrill Southern hearts. In a steady line, sustained on the left by artillery, which flamed forth at every step, with cavalry charging fiercely on the right, the Confederate line of battle, scarlet almost from the array of battle flags floating over it, went forth to death, driving before it masses of blue cavalry and artillery.1 Spring was just budding forth, and the morning sun glistening from budding leaf and tree, shed a halo about the red battle flags with the starry cross, as if nature would smile on the nation that was dying there. We pressed on and beyond the Courthouse. Fitz Lee and his cavalry rode unmolested on the Lynchburg road, but Gordon's infantry was impeded by a desperate resistance. Gordon's men captured a battery, and still pressed on. It was too late. The ‘infantry under Ord,’ nearly 30,000 strong, now filed across our pathway, throwing out batteries from every knoll, and rapidly advanced lines of infantry against us.2 Gordon could not withstand what was in front, and to stop to resist it, would be to involve his flank and rear in clouds of enemies. Slowly this glorious color guard of the Army of Northern Virginia retraced its steps to Appomattox Courthouse, bringing with it prisoners and captured

1 Sheridan says his cavalry fell back slowly in accordance with orders. Ord says: ‘In spite of Sheridan's attempt the cavalry was falling back in confusion before Lee's infantry.’ Crook says: ‘The cavalry was forced to retire by overwhelming numbers until relieved by infantry, when we reorganized.’ Merritt and Custer say the same thing.

2 General Ord thinks his advance was made about 10 o'clock. It was however, a few minutes after 9 o'clock.

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