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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/49

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Th>, Battle of Antfetam. 41

I told him it was a fact; there was not a solitary Confederate soldier in sight. He clenched his teeth like a bulldog, and as the news ran along the line each man knew we had to stay there and, if needs be, die there.

As we lay there waiting for the attack that all knew must come, every man in the ranks wondered why it was delayed; I had seen from my perch in the town, that there was a great force of Federals near Burnside bridge, and that our thin line could not stand long against a determined attack. Our attention was given to the fight- ing on our left, which had broken out with redoubled fury. About 3 P. M. we received a shock, for the remains of Toombs' Georgians came tearing down the hill, and then all the batteries across the bridge opened and swept the hill where we were lying. Every one of our batteries limbered up and returned, leaving the single line of infantry to brave the storm.

In about half an hour it came. Then the artillery was silent, and the infantrymen, who had lain there face downward, exposed to the iron hail, now arose, placed their cartridge boxes in position, rested their muskets on the lower rail, and with clenched teeth, fast beating hearts and hurried breath, braced themselves for the shock. The fence was not built on the top of the hill, but some fifty feet from the crest; consequently we could not see the attacking force until they were within pistol shot of us. We could hear the rat-a- plan of their drums, the stern commands of their officers, the muf- fled sound of marching feet.

Colonel Corse gave but one order " Don't fire, men, until I give the word. ' ' As we lay there with our eyes ranging along the musket barrels, our fingers on the triggers, we saw the gilt eagles of the flagpoles emerge above the top of the hill, followed by the flags drooping on the staffs, then the tops of the blue caps appeared, and next a line of the fiercest eyes man ever looked upon. The shouts of their officers were heard, urging their men forward. Less brave, less seasoned troops would have faltered before the array of deadly tubes leveled at them, and at the recumbent line, silent, motionless and terrible, but if there was any giving away we did not see it. They fired at us before we pulled trigger and came on with vibrant shouts. Not until they were well up in view did Colonel Corse break the silence, and his voice was a shriek as he ordered:

"Fire!"

All the guns went off at once, and the whole brigade fire seemed to follow our volley, and the enemy's line, sadly thinned, broke and