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[208] with not less than 37,000 infantry, full forty per cent. of whom were flushed with their recent success at Fort Donelson. Nor was this all. Not more than four or five miles from Tecumseh Sherman was Lew Wallace's Division, over 7,000 strong and twelve guns.

It is bruited that both Generals Grant and Sherman felt and expressed premonitions of the attack. Indeed, some feeling of that kind may have been in their minds, for the great poet says:

By a divine instinct men's minds mistrust
The danger; as, by proof, we see
The waters swell before a boist'rous storm.

But in that event it is passing strange they did not take even the ordinary precautions which habitually hedge an army in the field. Instead of that, in sooth, there was no line of infantry pickets in advance of the ordinary chain of sentinels; apparently no cavalry exterior either to Sherman or Prentiss, and that invading army lay drowsily in its cozy encampment, as if supremely confident no harm threatening and no disaster could befall it. Many as yet were in their blankets, fast asleep; many others washing and dressing; others cooking their morning meal. Some were eating leisurely at bounteous mess chests, and the arms and accoutrements of all were spread around in the orderless fashion of holiday soldiers.

Meanwhile, swiftly forward through the woods strode the Confederates.

With an elastic tread, inspired by hope and the fresh April morning air, they surged onward and forward, until, the mist gradually lifting, the sheen of the white tents, their goal might be seen through the trees. On poured the living current of the Confederates. By a mischance, their left had not been thrown sufficiently near to Owl Creek so when the collision came it was only with the left brigade (Hilderbrand's) of Sherman's Division; but it fell with overwhelming force upon Prentiss from flank to flank. Their sentinels, taken by surprise, were run in, with barely time to discharge their pieces. Just at their heels came the Confederates, cheering heartily; and so complete a surprise of an army has not the like in history.

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