Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/382

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

master for his regiment. This he would accept only on condition that he should be permitted to participate in all the dangers to which his command might be exposed. Thus it came about that the quartermaster of the Forty-ninth Regiment was frequently placed in command of detachments, both of infantry and cavalry, which required cool courage and skillful leadership. Young, handsome, and lovable, he was popular with the men. A few weeks later he gave his life to the cause near Drewry's Bluff, and rarely has a braver spirit ascended from a battlefield than was that of Captain Durham, of the Forty-ninth.

The information that Captain Durham would command inspired us with the faith that we would be well led. 'But there were long hours of waiting. The disposition of the forces was completed by 9 o'clock. The moon was at her full, and not a cloud obscured her light. We had not more than fairly taken position before the enemy turned its batteries upon us. All night long its shells hurled above and around us, and sometimes exploded in our very midst. But no response did we make; dead silence reigned throughout our lines. Action under such circumstances enhances the courage of men; inaction weakens it. Then it is that thoughtful men engage in introspection and sit in judgment upon their past lives. They realize fully the force of Hamlet's conclusion that

"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action."

But the longest night, no matter what its horrors, must have an end. At the first appearance of light in the Fast the quiet, but firm, command of Durham, "Forward, men!" was given. Instantly every man of the skirmishers was upon his feet and began to press forward.

The ground over which we were to move was a level plane several hundred yards in extent. All obstructions had been removed, and it had been used by the enemy as a parade-ground and a place for target practice.