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[252]

When Lee evacuated Petersburg on the night of April 2d, the Guards marched out with the rest of the army. It was an all-night march and all the next day, then a few hours' rest, and the march resumed before dawn. This continued until April 6th, when Lee's retreating army was brought to bay at Sailor's creek. General Gordon's Corps was the true rear guard, but in the various operations and movements of the day, General Ewell's Corps, of which Custis Lee's Division was a part, got into the rear, and in its turn became the rear guard. The army was hemmed in, but the men did not know it. The Guards were fording Sailor's creek, with the colorbearer in the middle, carrying the color-staff inclined upon his shoulder, when a spent bullet struck the staff, splitting it exactly in the middle and just burying itself in the crack. The bullet came from ahead, and the men saw that they were surrounded. Custis Lee's Division was the rear of the corps, Crutchfield's Brigade in the rear of the division, and the Guards at the rear of the brigade. The brigade was halted a few hundred yards from the creek, about half way up the slope of a long acclivity, and the line formed, with the Guards on the extreme right of the line.

Major Basinger in his review of the history of the Guards, gives a brief, but interesting, account of the battle:

When the enemy's infantry began to ascend the slope to attack the Confederate troops holding their fire until they should get quite near, a strong body was discovered making its way through a thicket of pines on the right of the Guards so as to take them on the flank and rear. Fortunately, they were impeded and disordered by the thickness of the grove, Major Basinger happened at the moment to be near the extreme right of the Guards.

There was no time for deliberation. He immediately marched the battalion by the right flank obliquely to the rear, fixing bayonets as they went, so as to face this unexpected enemy, and, reforming his line, attacked at once with the bayonet, while they were yet entangled in the wood. The Guards were but eighty-five that day, and nothing but the disorder of the enemy in the thicket saved them.

Their attack was successful; the enemy was driven off, with the loss of two regimental flags and many killed, but with serious loss to the Guards also. The battalion then returned to the original line to take its part in the main battle. But again the enemy came through the thicket of pines, and were met in the same manner as before. But they were too strong, and the corps had suffered too much in


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