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[232]

The Gap in the Confederate line.

Such losses go far to sustain the conviction that considering the disparity of numbers, barring the evening rout for which he was not responsible, Early got all out of the battle that was possible. Of the Confederate break up in the afternoon, Gordon's ‘War Reminiscences’ reads: ‘There was a large gap between my right and the main Confederate line. One after another of my staff was directed to ride with all speed to General Early and apprise him of the hazardous situation. Receiving no satisfactory answer, I myself finally rode to headquarters to urge that he re-enforce the left and fill the gap. . . or else that he concentrate his entire force for desperate defense or immediate withdrawal. He instructed me to stretch out the already weak line and take a battery to the left. I rode back at a furious gallop to execute these most unpromising measures. It was too late. The last chance had passed of saving the army from its doom. I reached my command only in time to find the initial columns of Sheridan rushing through the gap.’ As our whole force was on the front, and every inch of the line menaced, where could Early have drawn re-enforcements from? The center had already been attenuated by detaching Wofford's brigade to the right. And how could ‘concentration or withdrawal’ have been effected in the open country, in the presence of such a cavalry? There was nothing to be done but to fight where we stood. At the very time General Gordon rode to Early to ask help for the left, our right and center were fighting for life. The break up of the line reached Kershaw and Ramseur shortly after they had inflicted a decided and bloody repulse on the enemy's attack — an attack that may not have succeeded had it been met with equal resolute spirit on the left. Where the Mississippi brigade stood, the fighting was at close quarters, and on the field in our front the dead and wounded lay thick. Connor's South Carolina brigade was on our left, and the report of its commander, Major James M. Goggin, reads:

‘Soon after this the enemy made an attack on Humphrey's which was met by such a heavy fire, so coolly delivered by that brigade and the right of my own, that the enemy were checked and driven back. A repetition of the attack met with a like result, and the firing ceased along the whole line.’

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J. Cabell Early (4)
John B. Gordon (2)
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Sheridan (1)
Ramseur (1)
Kershaw (1)
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