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The night cannonading.

The cannonading at nightfall was of short continuance, and it soon became almost as quiet on the field of Sharpsburg, as though no armies were there confronting each other. The movement of the troops was made as noiselessly as possible. Our brigade was on the march for several hours, and through the mistake of a blundering guide, was led to a position very close to a line of Federal batteries. Here we slept unconscious of danger until nearly dawn. Before daylight, [280] General Fitz Lee ascertained the situation of the command, and endeavored to extricate us as quietly as possible, going around himself arousing and cautioning many of the men. We had got a quarter of a mile away, perhaps, and had nearly reached a position of safety beyond the crest of a hill, when we were discovered, and the enemy's guns opened on us. This discharge began the fray on the memorable and sanguinary 17th of September, 1862. One of the first shells fired, striking the earth near us, exploded, covering some of us with dust, and inflicting on brave Colonel Thornton, of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry, a mortal wound. The writer was near him at the moment, and witnessed the shrugging of his shoulders and quiver of the muscles of his face, as he felt the shock of the piece of shell shattering his arm close to the shoulder.

We had been, thus far, on the extreme left of our line of battle, and early in the day were ordered to report to General T. J. Jackson, who commanded on the right. Our men, without a round of ammunition left, were seen leisurely retiring towards the rear, singly and in groups. Some of our batteries, having shot their last round, were leaving the field at a gallop. General Jackson's order was that we should take position in rear of his troops, intercept the stragglers, and direct them to stated points, where they were refurnished with ammunition and marched back to the line of battle. Motioning to our captain to give him his ear, he directed him, in a whisper, not to halt any men of Hood's Division, saying they had liberty to retire. General Jackson's position was in the open field, near a large barn, that was burned during the day by the enemy's shells. He commanded a full view of the contending lines in the valley below, and of the Federal batteries ranged one above another on the hills beyond. The shells of the latter were passing thickly, and bursting near him, while he sat on his steed giving his orders, as serene and undisturbed as his statue in the Capitol Square at Richmond.

G. W. B.

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Sharpsburg (Maryland, United States) (1)

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T. J. Jackson (2)
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September 17th, 1862 AD (1)
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