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

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's . on Fort Met/into). 23

dangerously near, would dodge into their caves and await the harm- less explosion in safety.

One morning in March, 1865, General Jonn B. Gordon, my corps commander, requested me to ride with him, and we crossed the Pocahontas bridge, and rode to a point on the hills on the left bank of the Appomattox river opposite the enemy's second line of fortifi- cations on the right bank of the river in front of Hare's Hill or Fort Stedman. We spent an hour or more examining the enemy's posi- tion through our field glasses, when General Gordon turned to me and very carelessly inquired what I thought of the position occupied by my division, and whether I thought I could hold it against an assault by the enemy in force.

I replied that I did not think I could hold my position against an assault because the enemy's lines were so close they could dash over our works any night before we were aware of their coming, and I added: " I can take their front line any morning before breakfast."

General Gordon smiled and remarked: " Don't you forget what you have said; I may call on you to make your words good." He then told me that he had suggested to General Lee the idea of mak- ing an assault upon tfce enemy's works in his front and would know in a few days whether it would be adopted. A few days later Gor- don sent for his three division commanders and informed us that the attack would be made; and the time and manner of the assault were then determined on. My division was to attack Fort Stedman and the other two designated points on the right of the fort.

The attacks were to be made simultaneously by each division, the signal for the assault to be three musket or pistol shots fired in quick succession.

Each division was to be preceded by a storming party consisting of fifty picked men carrying axes to clear away the chevaux de /rise, and one hundred picked infantry men armed with muskets, com- manded by a captain and one lieutenant, on whose courage and coolness we could confidently rely; each division to follow closely behind the storming party, marching by the right flank.

The preparations for the movement were simple, but required some little time. In the first place, rations for three days had to be issued, cooked, brought up, and distributed. The cartridge boxes had to be examined and filled up with cartridges; muskets had to be inspected; the sick and disabled sent to hospitals; the storming party selected, and instructed as to what was required of them.