Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/130

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126 Southern Historical Society Papers.

they had penetrated the lines and fortifications of the enemy, but were too weak to hold the prize of positions gained against overpow- ering numbers of concentrated reinforcements. The dead and wounded marked the lines of the fierce combat. The exploded caissons, the dismounted cannon, the dead artillery horses, the scat- tered rifles, the earth soaked with human gore the contorted forms of wounded men, and the white, cold faces of the dead, made a mockery and sad contrast to the serene and smiling face of the skies.

From the teamsters to the general in chief it was known that the battle was yet undecided -that the fierce combat was to be renewed. All knew that victory won or defeat suffered, was to be at a fearful cost that the best blood of the land was to flow copiously as a priceless oblation to the god of battle. The intelligent soldiers of the South knew and profoundly felt that the hours were potential that on them possibly hung the success of their cause the peace and independence of the Confederacy. They knew that victory meant so much more to them than to the enemy. It meant to us uninvaded and peaceful homes under our own rule and under our own nationality. With us it was only to be let alone. With this end in view, all felt that victory was to be won at any cost. All were willing to die, if only their country could thereby triumph. And fatal defeat meant much to the enemy. It meant divided em- pirelost territory and severed population. Both sides felt that the hours were big with the fate of empire. The sense of the import- ance of the issue, and the responsibility of fully doing duty equal to the grand occasion, impressed on us alia deep solemnity and a seri- ousness of thought that left no play for gay moods or for sympathy with nature's smiling aspect, however gracious. Nor did we lightly consider the perils of our duty. From our position in line of battle, which we had taken early in the morning, we could see the frown- ing and cannon-crowned heights far off held by the enemy. In a group of officers, a number of whom did not survive that fatal day, I could not help expressing that it was to be another Malvern Hill, another costly day to Virginia and to Virginians. While all fully saw and appreciated the cost and the fearful magnitude of the as- sault, yet all were firmly resolved, if possible, to pluck victory from the very jaws of death itself. Never were men more conscious of the diffi- culty imposed on them by duty, or more determinedly resolved to