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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/32

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24 Southern Historical Society Papers.

After all these things were looked after, we had to wait for night to begin the movement. The entire corps, three divisions, had to be marched out of the trenches so as to give room to form their separate columns, and then to march back to the breastworks so as to bring the head of the columns to the spot where our works were to be crossed.

This was done quietly and with the least possible noise. No com- mands were given, but the words were passed in low tones from man to man. About an hour before daylight my storming party pressed cautiously and silently one by one over the breastworks, and crept up close to one of our solitary pickets in his pit and lay down on the ground.

The ground at this point was a cornfield, but the farmer who had planted it had not seen fit to gather his crop, and as the storming party moved out they made more noise among the cornstalks than the " Yank " on picket was accustomed to hear, and he sang out to our picket: "I say, Johnny, what are you doing in that corn?" To this Johnny very innocently replied. "All right, Yank, I am just gathering me a little corn to parch! " " Yank " answered: ' 'All right Johnny, I won't shoot!" After a short pause the "Yank" again addressed his neighbor, " I say, Johnny, isn't it almost day- light ? I think it is time they were relieving us." Johnny sang out in a cheery voice: " Keep cool, Yank; you'll be relieved in a few minutes." It was a clear, crisp March morning, the stars were shin- ing overhead, and save for the colloquy between the two pickets, all was as quiet as the grave.

There was no evidence that, within a few hundred yards of the spot where we stood, ten thousand armed men were crouching low, anxiously watching for the appointed signal which was to hurl them upon the enemy and sound the death knell of hundreds of brave men.

All our movements had been conducted so quietly that not a sus- picion had been aroused, not even among the enemy's pickets, some of whom were not over fifty yards distant from our men.

I had selected to lead the storming party, Captain Anderson, of the 49th Virginia, and Lieutenant Hugh P. Powell, of Company A, of the 1 3th Virginia, officers belonging to my old brigade, who were personally known to me to be the bravest of the brave, and in whom the men had confidence. The men under them were selected from a much larger number, who in response to a call for volunteers promptly offered their services.