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[585] advance, for it was still feared that the enemy might make an offensive return along the road. In the mean time, Meade had arrived within eight hundred metres of the positions occupied by Walker's artillery near Prospect Hill. At a given signal the latter opened the fire; the twelve guns posted at the left centre of the Confederate line did the same. Meade found himself alone in an entirely open space, where he was exposed to the fire of two powerful batteries, which were on Jackson's flanks, and the projectiles of which crossed each other in his ranks. The very silence which prevailed, in the woods that covered the enemy, proved to the experienced soldiers that the latter was there in force, and was seeking to provoke an attack.

Before making this attack it was necessary to silence his guns and wait for the reinforcements required for holding him in check at other points. Gibbon deployed on the right of Meade, and the left of Smith's corps, consisting of Howe's division, advanced toward the positions of Bernard's Cabin, forming a junction with Gibson. Finally, Franklin, whose grand division was already in line, summoned to his aid the two divisions of Stoneman's corps which had been detached from Hooker's command, and stationed on the left bank for the purpose of supporting him in case of need. Sickles' division remained near the bridges, whilst that of Birney was sent to Meade's relief. About this time, a little before noon, Franklin received an order from Burnside, as vague as the preceding ones, directing him ‘to advance his line and his right.’ It was at the moment when, in fact, the whole of his line was advancing, and it was too late to introduce any changes in the dispositions already made.

While the infantry was thus deploying along the Federal left, the three batteries of Birney's division engaged Walker's artillery, posted on Prospect Hill; Gibbon's cannon replied to the Confederate guns planted in front of the railroad, and after one and a half hour's fight they finally succeeded in obtaining a decided advantage. Two of Walker's caissons exploded; and although Jackson had employed all the guns which covered his front, his fire had evidently slackened. Birney approached, and Reynolds gave Meade the signal for attack.

A. P. Hill had posted part of the brigade of Brockenborough

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