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[281] since we moved out the night before. The mud by this time had become deep, and horses and men were somewhat jaded. At 10 o'clock the rain had ceased, and snow began to fall; and our clothing, before wet, now began to freeze. When you add all this to that seeming natural tremulousness that is the accompaniment of a night attack under the most favorable circumstances, it will readily be admitted that this combination was enough to shake up a tin soldier. We had approached within a mile of the camp-fires when we were brought to a sudden halt by a volley poured into the head of our column by the enemy's pickets; but on account of the pitchy darkness only one man was wounded, Sergeant McNeil, of Company C, First North Carolina Regiment, being shot through the arm. Perfect silence had been enjoined by General Hampton for two reasons. The camp-fires being so close to Richmond and between us and the city, they might be those of friends, and this information must be obtained before any attack was made. If they were those of the enemy, our arrangements must be perfected before the enemy were roused from their slumbers. So in silence and without pursuit of the pickets that had fallen back, we waited until the alarm was supposed by them to be false. Then General Hampton ordered the first squadron of the First North Carolina Regiment, composed of Companies F and C, to dismount, deploy as skirmishers, advance toward the camp, and when assured of the fact that foes, not friends, were in front, to charge the camp. The captain of Company F, being the ranking officer, had command of the execution of these details and the subsequent attack. When this skirmish line had advanced a short distance, a horse was discovered tied to a fence, which had been abandoned by those who had fired and fallen back; this horse was equipped with new bridle, saddle and blanket, that pointed sharply to the fact that the enemy were near; but this suspicion was forced to a certainty of conviction when our advance brought us near enough to the picket, who challenged ‘Who comes there?’

General Hampton was quickly informed of the certainty, of the enemy's presence. He quickly placed the two pieces of Hart's Battery in position on an eminence close by, and gave instructions to the commander of the dismounted men to charge when the artillery had fired fourteen shells into the enemy's camp. We were now within 150 yards of the sleeping foe, who seemingly, overcome by the exposure and fatigue of three days and two nights of severe weather, were now an easy victim to surprise and panic. This little band of forty dismounted men counted the shells with great precision

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Wade Hampton (3)
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