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[509] to move promptly in either direction. Five batteries accompanied the assaulting column, and in addition twenty picked artillerymen, volunteers for the duty, who were supplied with tools for the purpose of turning any captured guns immediately upon the enemy. Pioneers were distributed in advance, to clear away obstructions, and the sharpshooters of the corps were disposed so as to render the most effectual service. Perfect silence was enjoined on the entire command until the moment of assault.

The ground in front, though clear of trees, was obstructed by marshes which partially covered the enemy's line, and immediately on the right was an inundation, rendering an approach in that direction entirely impracticable, while still further to the east were the strong works originally constructed for the defence of Petersburg. The fortifications to be assaulted consisted of a line of rifle-pits with deep ditches and high relief, covered at intervals of every few hundred yards by forts or batteries well supplied with artillery, and the whole preceded by three separate lines of abatis and fraise.

By some mischance or misapprehension the pickets in the vicinity of the forming columns began a fire while the troops were taking position, and thus brought a return fire, not only on themselves, but on the dense masses in their rear. This for a moment threatened to interfere with the plan of the attack, by precipitating an advance; but, although many casualties occurred, the officers succeeded in quieting the men, who remained without returning a shot or uttering a word to disclose their position to the enemy.

At four o'clock the unusual darkness rendered

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