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DESCRIPTION OF THE HEIGHTS.
To Gen. Neill's Brigade was assigned the honor of leading the left one of the storming columns, and to the Thirty-third the honor of leading the Brigade. The reader will remember that the line of works to be taken was about one third of a mile in the rear of Fredericksburg, constructed on a natural bluff, extending above and below the city for some distance, and known as “Marye’s Heights." Beneath ran the famous stone-wall, forming the western boundary of the plain over which the charging columns must pass. Along the lower edge of this plateau, close by the reservoir, which separates it from the city, the troops were massed, lying on the ground to avoid the enemy's fire. The diagram on the opposite page represents the scene of action, with the relative positions occupied by the advance Regiments of the assaulting columns.
Heavy artillery firing was kept up during the morning, between the rebel batteries and our own, planted along the edge of the river. The siege guns posted on Stafford Heights fired repeatedly on the enemy's works, doing good execution. One of the shells exploded a rebel caisson at the redoubt near the stone-wall, and killed ten horses. After blowing up the caisson it struck two directly behind, and hurled eight others down the steep precipice in the rear into the yawning chasm beneath. They presented a hideous spectacle as they lay at the bottom, dead and dying.
At length, as the City Hall clock struck eleven, came the order for the charge, and the lion-hearted
AN INSPIRING SIGHT.
men rose to their feet. The hundreds of spectators in the rear held their breath in terrible suspense, expecting to see them the next moment prostrate in the dust. “Forward !” cries Gen. Sedgwick, and they echelon up the open plain, regardless of the frowning batteries which vomit grape and cannister upon them. Col. Spear drops dead from his horse, and the Sixty-first Penn., at the right of the Chancellorsville road, momentarily recoils; but the Fortythird New York comes rapidly to the rescue, and the columns again press forward, delivering the battle cheer, which is heard above the roar of artillery and fierce roll of musketry. Three hundred yards are passed, one hundred more will bring them to the stone-wall. All the guns along the crest now concentrate their fire on the plain. Col. Johns falls, Col. Newman falls, Major Wheeler falls ; Captains Gray, Ballinger, Irwin, Burke and Knickerbocker are dead; the ground comprised within the focus is strewn with the bodies of the slain. But there is no wavering, and in a moment more the “SlaughterPen” is ours. The Sixth Maine and Thirty-first New York scale the wall, bayonet the defenders, dash up the crest, and amid long continued shouts and cheers, turn their own guns upon the fleeing enemy. “What men are these,” inquires a terrified gunner, as our brave boys appear upon the ramparts. “We are Yankees,— -; do you think we will fight now?" is the response.
Neill's Brigade, further to the left, has likewise swarmed over the wall, and now unfurls its banners on the Heights.
THE EMEMY'S WORKS CARRIED. 297 Only part of the work is, however, done. The guns on the right and left of the Chancellorsville road have been stormed, but there yet remains a heavy battery further to the left, which is now turned upon the portion of the works occupied by us. The Thirty-third tarries but a moment, and then starts for these guns, followed by the remaining Regiments of the Brigade. Quickly descending to the ravine at the left, they double-quick through underbrush and obstructions of every description, cheered on and led forward by the Colonel, Lieut.-Colonel, Major and Adjutant. The rebel gunners see them coming through the thicket, and depressing their guns, rain down a tempest of cannister. Captain Root falls, pierced through the thigh; Capt. Cole is prostrated by a minie; Lieut. Byrne lies by his side; seventy men are wounded or dead. The old flag, which waved in triumph at Williamsburg, Golden's Farm and Antietam, goes down. A second color-bearer seizes the banner and raises it on high, but a bullet quickly lays him low. Another and another grasps the standard, until six have been shot down, when Sergeant Vandecar rushes forward, hoists the tattered banner on his musket, and the Regiment presses forward. As they emerge from the wood to the opening, they are saluted with a rapid fire from the rebel infantry supports, but unmindful of the deluge of iron hail, they push on, clamber up the green glacis, sweep over the parapet, and capture a thirty-two pounder at a bound. Oh! it was a splendid sight to see those gallant fellows rush boldly up to the
THE MEN HELD BACK WITH DIFFICULTY.
cannon's mouth, and snatch victory from the jaws of death.
The artillerists, with the exception of a few who fled, were captured or killed. The supports fell back and formed in line of battle. A squad of them, who lagged behind, were ordered to surrender. They refused to do so, when a ball from the musket of Sergeant Proudfoot brought one of them to the ground. Again they were ordered to halt, and again refusing, Sergeant Kane killed a second. A third and fourth were likewise shot down. Having formed in line, the infantry opened a heavy fire on the Thirty-third, also drawn up in line. The Seventh Maine soon came up to its support, being received with loud cheers, and formed on the left. The Twenty-first New Jersey not long after followed, and the rebels were put to flight.
It was with the greatest difficulty that Col. Taylor could restrain his men from following. Many of them, unmindful of the orders of their Captains, did push forward in the pursuit, killing and wounding several of the fugitives. The Thirty-third's banner was unfurled over the captured redoubt, and the men lay down to rest after their arduous labors. Two more guns were taken by the Regiments of the Brigade further to the left.
This part of the enemy's line of fortifications consisted of four detached earthworks, very strong and inaccesmible to infantry, as they supposed, on account of the steepness of the hill and dense underbrush, which intervened between it and the city. Lieut.