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244

ADVANCE OF THE SKIRMISH LINE.

the plain. The air was mild and balmy as on a September day, and the fifty thousand men whom the reveille woke from their slumbers began to prepare for action, and were soon marshalled in “ battle’s magnificently stern array.

They were arranged as follows: The Sixth Corps, under General Smith, on the right, composed of three Divisions, viz: General Newton's on the extreme right and rear, resting near the bridges ; General Brooks' in the centre, and General Howe's on the left. The First Army Corps, General Reynolds, extended still further to the left, drawn up in the following order: General Gibbon's Division on the right, connecting with General Howe's; General Meade's, centre; and General Doubleday's, left, facing to the southward, and resting nearly on the river. The Thirty-third was posted in the first of the three lines of battle, to support a battery. General Jackson commanded the rebels in front of us. At an early hour the Thirteenth Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Bucktails, among other Regiments, were deployed in front, as skirmishers, between whom and the enemy's skirmishers considerable firing ensued. General Vinton, now commander of the Brigade, venturing too far in front, was shot through the groin, and conveyed back to the Bernard House, which had been appropriated for the Division Hospital. Col. Taylor took command until the arrival of Gen. Neill, formerly of the Twenty-third Pennsylvania. As soon as the heavy mist cleared away, Capt. Hall's Second Maine Battery, planted at the right of Gibbon's Division,

GALLANT CHARGE BY MEADE.

245

opened upon the enemy. Artillery firing now became general along the whole line. Heavy siege guns in our rear, the First Maryland and First Massachusetts Batteries, and Battery D, Fifth Artillery, on the right; Captain Ransom's and Captain Walker's in front, and Harris' Independent on the left, kept up a terrific fire on the rebels. Orders now came to advance, and about nine o'clock, Gibbon's and Meade's Divisions commenced moving slowly forward, thereby almost straightening our lines, which were previously arranged somewhat in the form of a crescent. Considerable resistance was met with, but the forces continued to move forward, until at midday the line of battle was half a mile in advance of where it had been in the morning.

But now came the reserve fire of the enemy, with terrific force. Shot and shell were poured into our men from all along the heights, which, curving around in the shape of a horse-shoe, exposed them to an enfilading fire. The rebel infantry likewise appeared, and fired rapidly. Still Meade and Gibbon continued to press on, and as the enemy gave way, cheer after cheer rent the air from our troops. General Meade now led his Division on a charge, and pressing on the edge of the crest, skilfully penetrated an opening in the enemy's lines and captured several hundred prisoners, belonging to the Sixty-first Georgia and Thirty-first North Carolina Regiments. Owing, however, to the lack of reinforcements, he was eventually compelled to fall back. While the fight was progressing at this point, Jackson sent down a

246

A TEMPORARY LULL.

heavy column, near the Massaponax, to turn our left, but it was handsomely repulsed and driven back by Doubleday.

Very heavy firing now raged along the line. Dense clouds of smoke hid friend and foe from view, and the heavy roar of artillery and musketry shook the ground as with an earthquake. The bloody carnival was at its height, “and wild uproar and desolation reigned” supreme. Mortals could not long endure such a conflict, and after forty minutes' duration, it was followed by a temporary lull, the combatants resting from their labors through sheer exhaustion. The rising smoke disclosed the field strewn with the dead and wounded, lying thick as autumnal leaves. The lull, however, was of short duration. Again “stiffening the sinews and summoning up the blood,” the warriors rushed forward over the mangled forms of their comrades, and the conflict raged with fury. One of Gibbon's Brigades, gallantly charging over the plain, dashed right up to the mouths of the frowning cannon, and storming the enemy's breastworks, captured two hundred prisoners. Once more the air resounded with cheers, cheers which, alas! were many a noble fellow's deathcry. But unable to withstand the galling fire, the troops, like those of Meade before them, were compelled to relinquish their hold on the crest, and fall back, with decimated ranks.

Reinforcements now arrived, consisting of Sickles' and Birney's Divisions from Hooker's command, and were sent to the support of Meade. Newton's

GENERAL BAYARD KILLED,

247

Division was also transferred from the extreme right of the line to the right of the First Corps, and became engaged. General Franklin was seated, most of the time, in a little grove, which he had made his temporary headquarters, watching the progress of the battle, and delivering orders to the Aid-de-Camps, who were constantly arriving and departing. Occasionally mounting his horse, he rode up and down the lines, regardless of the missiles of death, anxiously peering in the direction of the woody crest, to discover if possible some weak spot in the enemy's lines. Generals Smith and Reynolds were with him frequently.

About one o'clock, the young and gallant General Bayard, of the cavalry, was fatally wounded. He had just seated himself under a tree by General Franklin, when a ball striking a few yards in front, ricocheted, and passed through his thigh, inflicting a fearful wound. He was immediately conveyed to the hospital, and died a few hours afterwards. As he was lying on the couch, the Chaplain of the Harris Light Cavalry approached, and inquiring if he desired him to write anything for him, “By-andby,” he replied. Then turning to Surgeon Hackley, he asked if he should be able to live forty-eight hours. A negative answer being given, he further inquired if he should die easy. He was to have been married in a few days.

Meanwhile Generals Howe's and Brooks’ Divisions were exposed to an enfilading fire from the enemy's artillery. The Thirty-third still supported a battery.

248

EXPLOSION OF A SIXTY-FOUR-POUNDER.

Instead of being posted some distance to the rear, Colonel Taylor was ordered close up to the guns, and the men lay almost beneath the caissons. Shot and shell were whizzing, screaming, crashing, and moaning all around them, but they manfully maintained their position, receiving the fire directed upon the artillerists. Towards noon a 64-pounder opened from the hill directly back of Fredericksburg. The first shell struck a few feet in front of the Regiment, the second fell directly in their midst, plunging into the ground to the depth of three feet or more. The enemy had obtained most perfect range, and would have inflicted a great loss of life, had not the monster gun, very fortunately for us, exploded on the third discharge. The guns which the Thirtythird supported were repeatedly hit by the enemy, whose batteries could be distinctly seen glistening in the edge of the woods a mile distant.

One round shot struck the wheel of a caisson, smashing it to atoms, and prostrating the “powder boy,” who was taking ammunition from it at the time. Had the missile gone ten inches further to the left, it must have exploded the caisson and caused fearful havoc among the Thirty-third. Here Colonel Taylor lay with his men, for many long hours, exposed to the fury of the rebel cannoniers, without shelter or protection of any kind, until the after part of the day, when they were relieved by the Forty-third New York, Col. Baker, and fell back to the second line of battle. Towards evening, a Brigade of the enemy charged down from the crest upon one of our

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