138 Southern Historical Society Papers.
Had there been an officer of authority present, or had the quarter- masters, to whom the train belonged, had their hearts in the discharge of their duties at such a crisis, these and many other instances of disorder and loss of precious time might easily have been avoided. Never was the necessity of a well-organized corps of inspectors, with high rank and well-defined authority, so apparent as in this miserable retreat.
Shortly after we had managed to pass by this obstruction and ob- tained a tolerably clear road, the enemy were reported on our flank, and skirmishers were thrown out, but no demonstration was made. The men were now becoming exhausted and falling out in numbers, but not a ration could be anywhere procured, nor could any halt be made to give them rest and sleep.
Night came and found us toiling on at a snail's pace. Nothing is so fatiguing and demoralizing to soldiers on the march as an irregular step and uncertain halts. About 9 P. M., just as the head of the division was crossing the railroad through a deep cut, with a wood in front, the column was suddenly fired into. A scene of the most painful confusion ensued.
Most of the men became panic-stricken, broke and sought cover behind trees or fences, while not a few skulked disgracefully to the rear. They began to discharge their pieces at random, in many in- stances shooting their own comrades, and bullets were flying from and to every direction.
This lasted for a considerable time, and all efforts to restore order were unavailing, only exposing those who made such attempts to imminent danger of being shot down. Finally, the men were in- duced to cease firing and partially reform their ranks.
It is believed that a small scouting party of the enemy fired into the head of the column and then hastily retired, but it is by no means certain that the panic did not wholly originate among ourselves.
Just as the line was reforming, my horse started violently at seeing Major Frank Smith's dead horse in the road, and this trifling inci- dent caused a second disgraceful panic along that part of the col- umn.
Warned by what had occurred before, the officers cried out earn- estly: " Don't shoot; don't shoot, men! " But some fifty or a hun- dred guns were fired.
With a sickening feeling I siw in the moonlight a number of bright barrels pointed directly at me, and many bullets passed close by. Unable to dismount from my plunging horse, it was certainly