Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/34

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

his division, was assigned to that important position, and Barksdale was given the post of honor for the division.

During the night of Dec. 10, the enemy began to lay his pontoons. We could distinctly hear the noise of launching the boats and laying down the planks. The work was prosecuted with wonderful skill and energy, and by 3 o'clock a. m. of the 11th, we could hear them talking in undertones. General Barksdale directed us to remain quiet, and offer no resistance until the bridge approached our shore. About 4 o'clock a battery posted on the ridge back of the town fired a few shots at the bridge, then the Mississippians poured a concentrated fire on it. The bridge was doubtless crowded with engineers and workmen who suffered severely. The pickets immediately along the river, under the gallant Fiser, from their rifle pits maintained such a destructive fire that the enemy was compelled to abandon the work. Very soon, however, they returned and made repeated efforts to complete one bridge, but the fire of the Mississippi boys was too deadly, and the enemy was forced to withdraw.

When daylight dawned a heavy fog hung over the scene, and the vision was obscured as much as it had been during the night. About 10 o'clock of the nth, Burnside, annoyed because a few skirmishers were able to prevent the completion of his bridges, and, therefore, delay his passage of the river, ordered his chief of artillery to batter down the city. His purpose was to drive the Mississippians from their rifle pits and hiding places.

Assuredly General Burnside knew the wide destruction which would follow his order. Several thousand women and children sat in their homes, exposed to that storm of iron. Looking back upon the event of nearly forty-six years ago, it seems that the necessities did not warrant the destruction of that city, and we now regard it as a savage act, unworthy of civilized war. But Burnside concentrated 200 cannon on the city. Suddenly, as it was unexpected, the flash of these guns, followed by the explosions, hurled at the same instant 10,000 pounds of iron into the city. The shells exploded in and over the town, creating the greatest consternation among the people. The bombardment was kept up for over an hour, and no tongue or pen can describe the dreadful scene. Thousands of tons of iron were hurled against the place, and nothing in war can exceed the horror of