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‘Come back General Lee.’

On looking out again for the enemy I noticed that they had drawn very close to our earthworks. I called out to General Lee ‘To come back, and come quick; that the enemy were close upon us, and that my men could not fire on the enemy without shooting [203] him.’ A number of my men called out: ‘Come back, General Lee; we wont fight as long as you are before us; come back.’ The decided call of the men seemed to produce a greater impression on General Lee than the eloquence of Gordon, and my curt suggestions. As Traveler could not be easily turned around with a mounted officer on either side of him, facing in opposite directions, the adjutant let go Traveler's bridle, Gordon turned him around to the right, and proudly started to lead him back, and as he was doing so, I called out: ‘Three cheers for General Lee and “Old” Virginia,’ but forgot to add Gordon's name to the list which were given with a will. Before the two generals reached the intervening space between the brigades, Gordon let go his hold of Lee's bridle and dropped behind a short space, Lee as soon as he reached the line of the brigades, turned his horse to the right, close up to mire, and Gordon and his adjutant rode up to the line of the Georgia Brigade.

When General Gordon, amid repeated shouts of ‘Lee, Lee to the rear!’ had approached within eight or ten paces of our line, he found the interval between our two brigades blocked up. A mounted officer had stationed himself on the left of Gordon's brigade, General George Evans commanding. I had remained on the extreme right flank of Early's brigade, where I had placed myself when Lee rode to the front, and the intervening space had been crowded by men of Evans' brigade. Gordon let go his hold of Traveler's bridle, and reined up his horse to fall in behind Lee, and as he did so a member of the Warren Rifles ran forward, seized Lee's horse by the bridle reins, and amid redoubled shouts of ‘Lee, Lee, Lee to the rear! Lee to the rear!’ led him up to the crowd and guided him through the crowders, and I backed my horse to the left to give a freer passage to the riders, and they passed through in single file, and the field of coming carnage resounded with wild shouts of ‘Lee, Lee, Lee!’

[This man is identified by ‘R. D. Funkhouser’ in communication of the Times-Dispatch of Jan. 29, 1905, as Sergeant Wm. A. Compton, of Company D, 49th Virginia Regiment, ‘who is still living and an active business man in Front Royal, Va., to-day.’]

When the Warren Riflemen ran forward, thinks I, that is Sergeant Compton, of Captain Updyke's company; he has disobeyed my order of ‘steady, front!’ but he is a brave soldier and a good file officer, and I would not like to wound his pride. He has rendered [204] Lee all the homage in his power, and when I made way for Lee and his escort to the rear I was glad that a soldier of my regiment had guided Lee back to us and to safety and to sight of his headquarters, where he was much more needed and in much less danger than in front of our fighting line, which was some sixty yards distant from the firing line of the enemy when we started on the charge.

As Lee drew up to me I shoved my horse slightly in advance and turned his head a little in advance of ‘Traveler,’ to intercept if possible any further repetition of such recklessness; and I looked inquiringly at General Lee for some order or for some word, but got none. Just then I saw the heads of the enemy bobbing up in irregular order on the far side of our parapets, and saw the sun rising beautifully above the trees and lighting up the scene of approaching conflict with rich, mellow rays. I said to General Lee: ‘Shall we give them the bayonet, General?’

He answered: ‘Yes.’

Just then the enemy fired a scattering, ineffective volley into our ranks. I called out: ‘No time for fixing bayonets. Charge!’ The men gave the Confederate yell and rushed on the enemy, who fled precipitately. The brigade, instead of stopping in our earthworks, mounted them and pursued the fleeing enemy. About midway of the woods in front of our central line of works we met another body of the enemy, who showed fight. We hurled them back after a sharp little bout. In these woods I found Colonel John S. Hoffman, of the 31st Virginia, in a thicket of bushes, fingering the leaves at his feet, and asked him where he was hit. He said the bushes had knocked his spectacles off and he could not see. I told a man standing near him to find the Colonel's spectacles for him, and if he could not do so to lead the Colonel back to the rear, as he could not see a yard without his specks.

I heard some one call out: ‘They have killed Major Pilcher,’ and saw that some of my own men had fallen. Then I lost my head and became as reckless as any of my men. Rushing them through the woods and coming out myself on their extreme right flank close to a ditch of moderate dimensions, with whitish gray earth thrown out in front, marched across a small branch near the foot of the woods, and up to a bog or morass, which proved to be impassable to man. While we were being here delayed, the 52d Virginia, under Captain Watkins, and the 13th Virginia, under Colonel Terrill, rushed by us at half-speed, leaving the 31st, 58th and 49th Virginia regiments with me. These last avoided the obstacle [205] almost before the orders could be given by a give-way to the left, a left half-flank, a rapid wheel of the left to the right, and a slowdown on the right, and rushed after the enemy, who fled in detached squads like a mob. We did not come up with any of them until after we passed a narrow little ditch. On the far side of this ditch we found a Federal captain with a drawn sword in his hand, and behind him about a score of his men, with guns in both hands. As none of them attempted to use their arms, I demanded their surrender; but as they would not throw their arms down the men bayoneted a few of them, and I told the men to knock them down and take their arms away; but the cracking of skulls of unresisting me grated on my nerves, and I ordered the men to knock their hands away from their guns. I tried to make the captain understand what I meant by surrender, but he held his naked sword in both hands and answered in a language which I had never before heard spoken, sung or acted. It was neither English, French, German, Spanish nor Italian. My men coming up were about to knock him in the head, but I told them to knock his hands away front his sword. I sent the captain and his few surviving men to the rear under a guard of two of my men. This little episode over, I looked to the front and saw some of the enemy on the edge of a pine thicket of very irregular shape, on ground which rose from the ditch and at a distance which varied from 100 to 150 yards from it. We charged them, and they disappeared into the recesses of a thicket. My men were about to follow them when I recovered my senses and ordered a halt.

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Robert E. Lee (25)
John B. Gordon (8)
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Updyke (1)
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January 29th, 1905 AD (1)
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