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[416] Sanderson Station was uninterrupted, but about four miles further west our advance drove in the enemy's pickets, keeping up a continuous skirmish with them for about four miles, when the Seventh Connecticut, who were in the advance, deployed as skirmishers, fell in with the enemy's force in a swamp, strengthened still further with rifle-pits. Here they were met with cannon and musketry. The Seventh were armed with Spencer rifles, which fire eight times without loading, with which they played dreadful havoc with the enemy. They were then ordered to take one of four pieces of artillery the enemy had, but were unsuccessful. They held their ground nobly, as long as their sixty rounds of ammunition lasted, which was perhaps three quarters of an hour, but were retiring just as the main body of our army came up. The Eighth colored marched on the railroad, came up first, and filed to the right, when they were soon met with a most terrific shower of musketry and shell. General T. Seymour now came up, and pointing in front toward the railroad, said to Colonel Fribley, commander of the Eighth, “Take your regiment in there” --a place which was sufficiently hot to make veterans tremble, and yet we were to enter it with men who had never heard the sound of a cannon. Colonel Fribley ordered the regiment, by company, into line, double-quick march; but, before it was fairly in line, the men commenced dropping like leaves in autumn. Still, on they went, without faltering or murmuring, until they came within two hundred yards of the enemy, when the struggle for life and death commenced. Here they stood for two hours and a half, under one of the most terrible fires I ever witnessed; and here, on the field of Olustee, was decided whether the colored man had the courage to stand without shelter, and risk the dangers of the battle-field; and when I tell you that they stood with a fire in front, on their flank, and their rear, for two hours and a half, without flinching, and when I tell you the number of dead and wounded, I have no doubt as to the verdict of every man who has gratitude for defenders of his country, white or black.

Colonel Fribley, seeing that it was impossible to hold the position, passed along the lines to tell the officers to fire and fall back gradually, and was shot before he reached the end. He was shot in the chest, told the men to carry him to the rear, and expired in a very few minutes. Major Burritt took command, but was also wounded in a short time. At this time Captain Hamilton's battery became endangered, and he cried out to our men for God's sake to save his battery. Our United States flag, after three sergeants had forfeited their lives by bearing it during the fight, was planted on the battery by Lieutenant Elijah Lewis, and the men rallied around it, but the guns had been jammed up so indiscriminately, and so close to the enemy's lines, that the gunners were shot down as fast as they made their appearance; and the horses, whilst they were wheeling the pieces into position, shared the same fate. They were compelled to leave the battery, and failed to bring the flag away. The battery fell into the enemy's hands. During the excitement Captain Bailey took command, and brought out the regiment in good order. Sergeant Taylor, company D, who carried the battle-flag, had his right hand nearly shot off, but grasped the colors with the left hand, and brought it out.

I took my position along the railroad, and had the wounded brought there, and while busily engaged a volley was poured into us. About a dozen of cavalry were preparing to make a charge on us, but disappeared as the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts advanced out of the woods. They knew the men were wounded, and that it was an hospital, but disregarded it; and had it not been for the Fifty-fourth, which advanced in splendid order, they would undoubtedly have taken us all prisoners. The Seventh New-Hampshire was posted on both sides of the wagon road, and broke, but rallied in a short time, and did splendid execution. The line was probably one mile long, and all along the fighting was terrific.

Our artillery, where it could be worked, made dreadful havoc on the enemy, whilst the enemy did us but very little injury with his, with the exception of one gun, a sixty-four pound swivel, fixed on a truck-car on the railroad, which fired grape and canister. On the whole, their artillery was very harmless, but their musketry fearful. We were informed in the morning that they had some ten thousand men, and four guns, while we had less than six thousand, but eighteen guns. The troops all fought bravely; the First North-Carolina (colored) did nobly. I saw at an early stage of the fight that we would be whipped, and went round among our wounded and told them, as many as could get away, to start for Barber, and then started the ambulance crowded full. The day and the field being lost to us, we started on the retreat, and reached our old quarters yesterday. We were compelled to leave a few of our men behind, and they fell into the hands of the enemy. It could not be helped; I had but one ambulance to a regiment, and the railroad was useless, because we had no locomotive. However, we got some horse-cars to within eighteen miles of the field, which aided us greatly. How the rebels have disposed of the colored men who fell into their hands we have not heard yet; but we hope that the fear of retaliation, if not the dictates of humanity, will cause them to reconsider their threat of outlawry. If not, we must act accordingly. Our men are neither discouraged nor dismayed, but ready for another fight.

We would like to have our regiment recruited. We should have at least two hundred men immediately. Will the committee not make an effort to send them to us? I have no doubt but the War Department would allow it. Please do your best for us. If it could, be done, we would like two flanking companies of one hundred men each, armed with Spencer rifles. I think they are just the thing for bushwhacking. You can tell the committee that we look to them as our

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