Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/63

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The Battle at Bethesda Church. 59

their position and threw up earthworks lower down on the road, and parallel tojt. Orders came to Early' s old brigade (the fourth Virginia), composed of the Forty-ninth, Fifty-second, Fifty-eighth, Thirty-first and Thirteenth Regiments, to march down the road and make a reconnoissance preliminary to second Cold Harbor battle. Our regiment, the Forty-ninth, Virginia, having lost nine color bearers in the battles from Wilderness to Richmond, I went down the line to select another. I came to a tall, lanky, beardless boy, from Amherst, with a "red cap" on, so soon to die, but to die game. I said, "Orendorf, will you carry the colors?" He replied, "Yes, Colonel, I will carry them. They killed my brother the other day; now damn them let them kill me too." He took the flag, so soon to be his winding sheet, and the brigade was marched out and down the road, the Forty-ninth at his head, for some distance, and halted, General Ramseur "bossing the job."

I then heard a single piece of artillery firing at intervals in a strip of woods on the left, and being at the head of the column, I heard General Ramseur say to General Early: "General, let me take that gun out of the wet." General Early vigorously advised and protested against it. Ramseur insisting, General Early finally acquiesced in the move.


"The brigade was fronted to the left and the advance started. The gun immediately retired to the works as a decoy and no resist- ance was made to our advances then. Presently we came to a level, open field, one-half mile across, and could see on the opposite side at the edge of another strip of timber behind which artillery was massed heavier than I had ever seen, unless it was at Malvern Hill, although I had been in every battle of the war, from First Manassas down, fought by the Army of Northern Virginia; and bayonets bristling as thick as "leaves of Vallambrosa," supported by three distinct lines of battle, as will hereinafter appear.

They had evidently taken the exact range to the edge of the woods. As soon as the brigade was well into the open fields the enemy opened with the heaviest and most murderous fire I had ever seen with grape, canister and musketry. Our veterans of a hundred fights knew at a glance that they were marching up to die, rather than to waver. Our line melted away as if by magic