Gordon's Assault on Fort Stedman. 25
When all was ready, we awaited the signal in breathless suspense, but the suspense was relieved when General Gordon came down the line to where the head of my column rested, and, finding my com- mand ready to move, stepped to one side and fired three pistol shots in rapid succession. The last report was scarcely heard before the recumbent figures sprang to their feet and Captain Anderson com- manded, "Forward! Double-quick!" and his men moved off at a trail arms, and not a word was spoken or a sound heard except the regular beat of their feet as they stepped out at a double-quick.
I have read many accounts, both in history and fiction, of such attacks, and my blood has been stirred in reading them; but I never read an account of one so dashing, so orderly, and so quiet as this. The cool, frosty morning made every sound distinct and clear, and the only sound heard was the tramp! tramp! of the men as they kept step as regularly as if on drill, and the cries of the Federal picket as he ran with all speed into the fort, shouting: " The Rebels are coming! The Rebels are coming! " Our men were instructed not to try to capture or harm the "Yank," but to follow the path he took, and it would carry us to the opening in the enemy's chev- aux defrise, and not to cheer until they were on the enemy's breast- works; and then to cheer as loudly as possible as a signal for the division to follow, and to fire as rapidly as they could reload, in every direction, through the fort, to confuse the Federals and pre- vent them from rallying and forming before our main body should come up.
The gallant little band came to a halt as they reached the obstruc- tions, and a galling fire from muskets inside the fort met them at that point, and a number of them were killed and wounded during the pause.
The halt was a short one, for sharp axes wielded by strong arms were at work, and the heavy blows rang out on the frosty air like the blows of giants, and in a few seconds more the " Rebel yell " made the welkin ring, announcing to our expectant ears that Fort Stedman was carried, and that our boys were inside the enemy's works.
They proceeded at once to make it lively by firing promiscuously in every direction wherever they could see a blue coat to fire at.
The enemy were taken entirely by surprise and all were asleep except the thin line which guarded the side of the redoubt which faced our lines.
In the fort were a number of little huts, with comfortable bunks,