Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/160

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156 Southern Historical Society Papers.

posed of the 5th and 23d North Carolina, the 24th Virginia and the 2d Florida Battalion was ordered back to aid Longstreet in resist- ing the furious attack. At the moment of our reaching the field the bloody drama was going on in full view of the town. Much \v;is said at the time and afterwards of the part the 23d Regiment took in that battle. The writer can only give facts from a personal stand- point, as recalled by him, a private then in ranks, conscious too of a liability to error in an understanding of the existing facts. The design was a charge by Early' s Brigade against a strong position manned by Hancock's Brigade, on the enemy's right. When drawn up in line for the forward movement, General Early rode the length of the brigade, using, in that fine-toned voice of his, something like the words: " Boys, you must do your duty." The line had steadily advanced a 100 yards or more when a body of thick forest of trees and undergrowth confronted the 2jd, into which the regiment marched, the line at once becoming irregular and more or less jum- bled by reason of the natural obstacles to its progress. At this moment General D. H. Hill appeared, mounted, in our front, and saying sharply to the men, now confused in ranks and each one com- manding his comrades: " Hush your infernal noise." In an instant more the right wing of the brigade, having greatly the advantage of ground in marching, as we believe, and thus coming first in view of the enemy's battery, received their galling fire, and was hurled back by a fury of shot and shell irresistible by mortal force. The 5th North Carolina made a gallant but fruitless charge, losing many val- uable lives, and the 23d did not support it at the critical moment. That moment was of the briefest possible span; like a sea wave against the sea wall, the charge bounded back instantly. Colonel D. K. McRae, of the 5th North Carolina, alleged that the 23d was inexcusably derelict in duty, and that its colonel halted the regiment in those woods without authority. Colonel Hoke, on the contrary, maintained that General Early gave the order to halt. Whether the command of " halt " and "lie down " was given to the 23d a second sooner than the batteries opened on the assaulting columns, would be hard to tell, for the action of the 23d in halting and lying down appeared to be about the same moment a portion of the assaulting force was rushing pell-mell back upon its line in the woods. It was all the work of a few minutes, and the brigade, chagrined at defeat and mourning the loss of many gallant spirits, fell back in order. Only four or five men in the 23d were wounded, and this by random bullets.