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[255] The scene presented by the lurid glare of a score of burning buildings at once, lighting up the whole horizon, was as beautiful as it was horrible, and only lacked a Nero fiddling from the court-house to render the analogy complete of another similar scene of old, equally terrible, wanton, and useless. Of property, a few more thousands destroyed, a few more families cast homeless and destitute upon the world, naked and starving. What of it? Some booby officer misunderstood the order, perhaps. Of course it is to be regretted; but where there is so much suffering, we have no room for minor sympathies. The domestic drama hides its diminished head before the magnificent horrors of military tragedy. It is war; that is all about it. Who has time to think of justice, mercy, right, honor, charity, or even honesty, amid the turmoil of war? All namby-pamby virtues have lost their savor. The attainments of peace become flat before the pungent excitements of war.

Tuesday, Nov. 24.--Skirmishing commenced early and briskly on our left front this morning. The rebs had gained a hill and thrown up rifle-pits near the round-house during the night. The Forty-eighth Pennsylvania and Twenty-first Massachusetts, during the morning, charged the pits, and driving the rebs out at the point of the bayonet, covered the trenches and returned to their own, with a loss of two killed and four wounded. On our left, for some hours, the fire of the sharp-shooters was quite hot from a house above and the rebel trenches. The Second Michigan charged there also in the most gallant manner, and drove the rebs back; a fierce and bloody engagement ensued, with great loss on both sides, our boys remaining in possession of the works, which they obliterated and fell back. The loss of the Second Michigan was ninety killed, wounded, and missing. Deserters and prisoners bring in the most exaggerated accounts of the numbers and intentions of the enemy, which we sift a little, and believe as much as we please of what is left. Rumors reach us, through rebel sources, that Bragg is not succeeding so well as they wish. We devoutly hope their sources of information will prove to be as correct as they usually are. We begin to doubt the rebel intention to attack us here at all. We have at no time doubted our ability to hold our own, however. The starvation business is very slow, and it will be many weeks ere we come to mule diet. Rations of hard bread were issued to the men to-day for the first time since we came in, and I understand there is considerable store on hand. We have also plenty of corn, beef, and pork. Citizens suffer more than the army. No farmers come in, and, of course, no markets. The sutlers closed their stores and packed their goods on the first intimation of danger. We begin almost to wish that the enemy would do something to break the monotony of which we grow weary, and there is talk of going out to find them if they persist much longer in their course of energetic inactivity. Captain Poe's “fortified convaniencies,” as an Irish sergeant denominated them while explaining the rifle-pits to me, this morning inspire us with marvellous confidence; misplaced, however, by the poor sergeant, who received a ball in the face while peering between the logs on the breastworks in search of rebels. The poor fellow recognized me in the hospital, and complained bitterly of a headache. The ball entered at the inner canthus of the left eye, and was lodged somewhere about the ethmoid bone. A headache was not to be wondered at. At night, belligerent activity ceases. Our pickets suspend all animosities, and fraternize in the most cordial manner. In accordance with compacts, they come together and exchange their respective experiences of moving accidents by flood and field. The Ninth corps and Longstreet's men are old opponents of Potomac memory, and have abundant mutual reminiscences of interest to exchange. At daylight, however, returning to their posts, the exhibition of a head or hand of either side is but an invitation to a hostile bullet.

General Manson, in command of the Thirty-fifth corps, and General Hascall, are indefatigable. One cannot ride along the lines any hour, day or night, without meeting one or the other. Manson's excellent bonhomie has an inspiriting influence on the men; while the serious air and confident ways of Hascall invigorate as a tonic would. The Tennesseeans are under command of our sprightly, gallant Colonel Casement, of the One Hundred and Third. Behind breastworks they may be relied upon. The Colonel has faith, and is confident, vigilant, and industrious. The destinies of our left are in the hands of Casement and his new men. On the south bank of the Holston, Colonel Cameron's brigade has charge of our interests, aided by Wolford's brigade. Altogether, we feel quite confident to look after our own safety until Bragg and Grant have arranged their little affairs. I hope every thing from the results of that.

Wednesday, Nov. 25.--Skirmishing in our front very light; it was ascertained that the rebs had crossed in considerable force to the south bank of the river, and threatened to take position on a hill from which they could enfilade our left lines. Cameron sent the Twenty-fourth Kentucky to feel of them, and a sharp contest ensued for the possession of the hill. The Twenty-fourth Kentucky were unable to hold the ground. The One Hundred and Third Ohio and Sixty-fifth Illinois, sent to reenforce them, finally drove the enemy from the coveted position. Our loss in this affair was sixty killed and wounded. Matters are now assuming an interesting outlook. Old scout Reynolds came in this evening from Kingston, bringing confirmation of Bragg's defeat and the assurance of present aid from Grant. Sherman is said to be at Cleveland, Generals Fry and Willcox at Bean's Station, and considerable force at Wytheville — from all of which, if true, Longstreet's position will not prove to be an easy one. His chief care will now be to effect his escape by the North-Carolina mountains as the only road left open to him.

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