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[278] What was to be done? We had lost all semblance of organization—a veritable mob with no means to turn the captured guns upon the enemy. In this dilemma, each man decided that question for himself. Green soldiers though we were, our short experience had taught us to know just when to run, and run we did, I assure you. We did our level best to get to a place of safety, though we did not reach it till many had been stricken down by the bullets of the approaching column and were left between the lines, the dead to lie there till their decomposed bodies appealed for their burial, while the wounded suffered untold agonies in the broiling sun until death came to their relief. None dared to rescue them. In one instance a rescuing party went out in the night and brought in one of our boys, who had lain for two days so near the opposing lines his cries for water awakened the better nature of the enemy who kindly threw canteens of water to him.

Thus the last desperate attempt of Grant to get between Lee and Richmond had failed. Although baffled, subsequent events proved the Army of the Potomac was not vanquished. In all that long assaulting line only the Seventh New York Heavy Artillery had succeeded in penetrating Lee's lines. But the honor was won at a fearful cost. We left Cold Harbor with over 400 less in our ranks than when we came. Yet, the grand assault was by no means all of Cold Harbor. We who were there well remember those ten or twelve long days that we lay hugging our breastworks, when it was almost sure death to show a head, and when at the close of each day came the terrific artillery duel. Then, as the boys used to say, hell had broke loose. There was no time during the war, probably, when the sharpshooters got in their deadly—I might say murderous—work, more successfully.

In reference to the burial of the dead, wherein your correspondent intimates a lack of humanity on the part of General Grant in refusing the request of General Lee, permit me to say those of the Army of Northern Virginia should be sufficiently impressed with the magnanimity of General Grant to feel convinced such a refusal would be foreign to his nature. By the way, I was one among the number detailed to bury the dead, and have a vivid recollection of the scene—how we chatted familiarly with the like detail from the other side while engaged in our gruesome task; how Major Springstead, our officer in charge, and the Confederate officer exchanged cordial greetings. However, that was not all; they seemed to be more interested in the contents of a black bottle than in the burial of the

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Robert E. Lee (3)
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