Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/337

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Battle near Spotsylvania Courthouse. 333

as Ewell had, in open day, over such a distance. Every one on the Confederate side felt that such an attack was reckless, and hopeless in the extreme. So when it was found that a real assault was to be made, it was welcomed by the Confederates as an opportunity to pay off old scores. The Confederate artillerymen were ordered to take their places at the guns and to fire on those troops first with solid shot through the woods and with shells through the cleared openings. Soon the enemy's guns opened on ours, but scarcely a response was made to them from us on this front, his purpose with the masses of Federal infantry in view showing clearly where our fire should be concentrated. This infantry in the coloumn forma- tions as they are described in the reports, stepped out rapidly, with their muskets at a "right shoulder shift," in successive lines, ap- parently several brigades deep, well aligned and steady, without bands, but with flags flying, a most magnificent and thrilling sight, covering Ewell's whole front as far as could be seen. As this host got well under way orders were given to change fire to case shot (shrapnel) and shells. By this time the assaulting columns in- creased their gait to a double quick, and on they came, shells and case (shrapnel) shot tearing great gaps in their ranks, the roaring guns and wavering lines of Federal infantry still advancing, the scene was wonderfully inspiring to the Confederates.

Orders were given to be ready with canister, the enemy still ad- vancing, but shaky. Soon his front columns came within canister range, and under this fire of combined canister and case (shrap- nel), he could not stand, and broke in confusion, leaving the field in disorder and his dead in front of our works. As soon as the Federal infantry had been driven from the field, orders were given to "cease firing," to save ammunition, not knowing if this or other Federal infantry would repeat the assault. The enemy's artillery still continued firing at our lines as they had done throughout the assault. As the Confederate guns had repulsed the Federal in- fantry, it was unnecessary to waste ammunition at long range in practice of artillery against artillery. Probably this is why some of the reports speak of silencing the Confederate guns. Not a gun was struck or even temporarily disabled during this action.

It is impossible to conceive that any such dramatic scenes took place in this assault of infantry lines standing in front of the slash- ings and abatis delivering volleys into our works, as some of these