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A famous charge.

Both together they numbered about six hundred-just the number that made the famous charge at Balaklava. They had been ordered forward, and could not stop without orders; so on they went.

Was there a man dismay'd?
     Not thoa the soldiers knew
Some one had blunder'd;
     Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
     Theirs but to do and die:
Into the Valley of Death
     Marched the six hundred.

And there is the opening they came to. It is a valley with the hill next to the enemy rising somewhat abruptly, and crowned with fortifications, as far as could be seen, both to the right and to the left, behind which were the enemy's infantry and artillery, and within less than 100 yards of those breastworks, which were wrapped in a flame of fire and a pall of smoke, with

Cannon to right of them,
     Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
     Volley'd and thunder'd; [209]
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
     Boldly they marched and well,
Into the jaws of death
     Into the mouth of hell,
Marched the six hundred.

And when the fire was so severe that the men could stand no longer, and knowing it was all the result of somebody's blunder, they lay on the ground and loaded and fired as fast as they could, waiting for orders to retire. But no order came.

Officers were falling so fast that no one knew who was in command. And just at this time T. R. B. Wright, who was then a private in the Essex Sharpshooters, seeing our flag fall, ran and seized it and carried it to the front, calling to the men to follow. Ah, Tom, Sergeant Jasper did not perform as brave an act as that, but the men couldn't follow. Had they attempted it, without an interposition of Providence, not one would have been left to tell the tale, and God alone spared your life.

And, when Adjutant R. L. Williams could find no officer above his own rank to command the regiment, he took the responsibility upon himself, and ordered a retreat; and

Then they came back, but
Not the six hundred.

Casualties—Colonel, dead; Lieutenant-Colonel, wounded; Major, dead. Every captain, except one,1 either dead or wounded. Every first lieutenant either dead or wounded. Every second lieutenant, except four, either dead or wounded. One-third of the men either dead or wounded. And what is left of the 55th Virginia Regiment is commanded by the adjutant and four second lieutenants.

Cardigan, at Balaklava, left hundreds of prisoners behind. Pickett, at Gettysburg, left thousands; but every man of the 55th Virginia who could walk was brought off the field. [210]

When can their glory fade
On the wild charge they made.

I was lying on the ground by the side of Tom Wright at the time. I stood up, gave the order to my company and instantly I was wounded by a piece of shell from the enemy, and Garland Smith, only a few feet from me, was wounded by a bullet from our own men in our rear.

Yes, brave old Tom Coghill, you took me to that very white oak tree, with scars on it now from top to bottom, and there we lay with Garland Smith behind us, until the fire slackened.

Jackson and A. P. Hill both being wounded, Stuart was sent for during the night to command the corps, and our brigadier (Heth), was put in command of the Light Division, and Colonel J. M. Brockenbrough succeeded to the command of our brigade.

And over the same ground our brigade was ordered next morning (the 3d) to advance in line to near the same spot and halt-Fortieth and Forty-seventh on the right of the road, and Fifty-fifth and Twenty-second battalions on the left-and either by a blunder or dereliction of duty on the part of some one, when they arrived at the proper place, the Fortieth and Forty-seventh were halted, and the Fifty-fifth and Twenty-second battalions were not halted, but allowed to keep straight forward and charge the whole of Hooker's army alone.

1 Captain W. J. Davis and several of his men having got lost from his regiment in the darkness after the wounding of General Jackson, called out for the 55th, and was answered, ‘Here we are!’ and, not knowing any better, walked right into the enemy's lines, and inquired for his company, when a boy, apparently about sixteen years old, stepped up close to him, and, looking on his collar, discovered his rank, and, patting him on his shoulder, said ‘Captain, this is the 55th Ohio, and you are my prisoner.’

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