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[561] Third cavalry brigade, pursued the enemy several miles, as far as Carroll's saw-mill, where he found them drawn up on a wooded hill, with four guns in position. Heavy infantry and artillery firing continued until nightfall, when, in the dusk of the evening, a heavy rebel force charged on the Eighty-seventh, coming up to within ten feet of their line and firing rapidly. The gallant Eighty-seventh held their position, and, when the enemy were close upon them, delivered a volley and charged upon their assailants, driving them back in confusion. This ended the fighting for the day.

On the morning of the eighth, at an early hour, the cavalry, supported by Colonel Emerson's brigade of infantry, from Landrum's division of the Thirteenth corps, moved forward, and almost immediately discovered masses of the enemy in front. Colonel Lucas deployed his cavalry brigade on the left of the road, and Colonel Emerson's brigade was deployed on the right. Rawles's battery, (G,) Fifth United States artillery, was put into position in the road, and opened on the rebels, who were posted in a thick pine woods, with open fields in front. The day was beautiful, and the sun shone warm and bright from an unclouded sky as our lines moved forward to the music of the booming cannon and the brisk rattle of musketry. Fighting continued throughout the forenoon, during which time the enemy had been pushed back through dense piny woods a distance of six miles.

From almost every hill-top the rebels hurled their shot at our advancing columns, but doing little harm. In one of these many skirmishes Lieutenant-Colonel Webb, commanding the Seventy-seventh Illinois volunteers, was shot through the head and almost instantly killed. Lieutenant Jones, Sixteenth Indiana mounted infantry, was also killed, and Captain Merklein, Fourteenth New-York cavalry, slightly, and Captain Breese, commanding Sixth Missouri cavalry, severely wounded.

At midday the enemy was found in position in strong force at Sabine Cross-Roads, and heavy skirmishing began, which was kept up until two o'clock, when the calm that usually precedes the storm occurred. About this time General Ransom came up with another brigade of Landrum's division. General Banks in the mean time had arrived on the field, and at once sent couriers for General Franklin, who was some miles in the rear, to hasten forward with all possible despatch. Generals Stone, Lee, and Ransom rode to the front and carefully reconnoitred the enemy. He was in his favorite position, on high ground in a thick wood, with open fields in the form of a semicircle running around his front.

At half-past 2 o'clock all was quiet, and except an occasional shot from pickets here and there along the line there was no indication of the dreadful scene to be enacted. To look up at the clear blue sky and down at the green earth smiling in the sunlight, one would have thought it impossible that before the sun in the heavens went down, the turf beneath our feet would be made slippery with human gore, and strewn with the dead and dying. The day was fine. The infantry lay stretched on the ground, the troopers lounged lazily in their saddles, and the cannoneers sat upon their guns, enjoying the warm sunshine, while groups of officers gathered around their leaders and discussed the campaign, passing many a careless joke.

At three o'clock masses of the enemy were reported to be moving toward our right, and skirmishing became lively. At half-past 3 o'clock the enemy were restless along the whole front, and seemed meditating mischief. Anxiety now began to be felt for the arrival of General Franklin, and the right of our line was reenforced by taking troops from the left and centre. One brigade of Landrum's held the left, another the right and centre. Rawles's United States battery, with the First Indiana. and the Chicago Mercantile battery, was posted on the right and centre, and Nim's celebrated battery on the left, supported by the Twenty-third Wisconsin infantry. The cavalry brigade of Colonel Lucas was ordered to act upon the right flank, the cavalry brigade of Colonel Dudley was ordered to act upon the left flank of our line, and the cavalry brigade of Colonel Robinson to remain opposite the centre, in rear, on the road, and to guard wagon-trains.

At four o'clock, or a little before, the enemy was reported to be advancing, and Colonel Wilson, of General Banks's staff; Colonel Brisbin, of General Lee's staff; Major Cowan and other staff-officers, were sent to ascertain the truth of the report. These officers soon returned, and reported the whole rebel line to be in motion and rapidly advancing. Our troops in silence awaited the attack; and soon it came, the right being brought into action first. High and dreadful swelled the conflict. The enemy, pressing forward at all points, met a terrible resistance. Volley after volley was poured into their ranks, sweeping down hundreds, only to give place to new hundreds, who pressed forward to supply the places of the fallen.

Our troops stood firm; but the rebels, who outnumbered us more than two to one, began after an hour's hard fighting slowly to gain ground, and our thinned and bleeding ranks were pressed back by overwhelming numbers into the woods. The rebels now began to show a heavy force on our left, which was the real point of attack, their movement toward our right having been a ruse to induce us to weaken our left by sending troops to the right, in which they had succeeded.

It was plain to all that no human bravery or skill could long withstand the odds against which our troops were fighting, and that unless Franklin speedily arrived we would be forced to retire. General Franklin, with his staff, did come up, but his division, under command of General Emory, was yet in the rear. Our thinned and wearied ranks stood up nobly against the masses

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William B. Franklin (4)
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