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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/30

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22 Southern Historical Society Papers.

They hollowed out the ground just in rear of the trenches, and made cellars or caves under the earth in which they slept, ate and lived for five months.

One-third of the men were kept standing on guard along the breastworks day and night to give warning of an attack in time to enable their comrades to spring to their feet and seize their mus- kets. As the pickets could not look over the works without expos- ing themselves to certain destruction, small loopholes were provided at intervals of fifteen or twenty feet, large enough to admit the bar- rel of a musket and enable the owner of the weapon to see the ene- my's works over its sights. From these little openings on either side a desultory fire was kept up, each side firing at the only vulner- able spots, which were these loopholes. They were easily located by the smoke from the muskets, and their exact situation became known to all. So accurate was the marksmanship that the wood around the openings was worn away by the bullets, and in many places was replaced by iron rails from the railroad track. Once in a while a man would be killed by a musket ball coming through these openings.

To prevent surprise in the night-time, a number of pits large enough to allow a single soldier to hide in were sunk a few yards in front of the chevaux de frise, and after dark, pickets were sent out to occupy these pits, and keep watch for any suspicious movements. To enable them to pass in and out a few gaps were left in the chev- aux de frise. These pickets were relieved every four hours, and in front of Fort Stedman the hostile sentinels were not more than fifty yards apart, but they kept a sort of truce between themselves, never tried to harm one another, and beguiled the weary hours chaffing each other.

The Federal soldiers always accosted the Confederates as "John- ny," and the Confederates the Federal as "Yank." During the night the musketry firing ceased and quiet reigned, unless the mor- tar batteries took a notion to take a hand and treat us to displays of fireworks, such as can never be forgotten by those who witnessed them.

The mortars sent their shells up into the air, leaving a trail of light behind like a rocket, and the shell descended like the stick of a rocket.

The soldiers became accustomed to this display, and would watch the descending shells, and, when they saw they were likely to fall