Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/162

This page needs to be proofread.

158 Southern Historical Society Papers.

soldiers, what is said of the fighting qualities and achievements of one command may, with proper exception and qualification, be said of another for indeed were they "Romans-all." We would, to compass our wishes, recall the scenes of each battle and impart to them a descriptive glow that might, in some degree at least, measure with the grave reality at the time they were enacted. Time inevitably casts a dimness over any event, however dear to the heart its memo- ries may be; and we cannot hope at the best to give to those scenes more than a feeble semblance of what they really were. We would, were it practicable, give experiences in "words that burn" to the high-born purposes and resolves that stirred the hearts of those gal- lant spirits who fell in the discharge of duty, and around the critical hour of their fall would we throw a halo of glory that, reaching for- ward, might consecrate their names for all time to come. But the task 'is above our skill, and we must be content in the hope that we shall be able to place on record a simple and true statement of some of their deeds, with regrets that the whole thrilling story can never be told.

At Seven Pines the natural conditions were anything but favor- able to an attack on the enemy. Heavy rains had fallen, and the earth everywhere was sloppy and boggy. On the firing of three big guns as a signal, the line of attack moved out and across a field of wheat towards the enemy. After crossing the field, the 23d found in its front, a swamp thick with undergrowth and tangled vines, and about waist deep in water. At this point was met the fire from the opposing batteries supported by musketry, and many of our boys fell in the water. Some, doubtless, were drowned, whose wounds were not necessarily fatal.

Beyond this swamp was encountered a net work of abattis hun- dred of tree laps with the ends of limbs pointed and sharpened. Here many a brave boy met his fate without flinching. The right under Huger, the centre under Longstreet and D. H. Hill, and the left under G. W. Smith, were pressing steadily forward. A Northern writer, from this point of view, describes the scene thus:

" Our shot tore their ranks wide open, and shattered them asunder in a manner frightful to witness, but they closed up and came on as steadily as English veterans. When they got within" 400 yards, we closed our case shot and opened on them with canister. Such de- struction I never witnessed. At each discharge great gaps were