Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/295
Battle of Williamsburg.
and bearing, who was desperately wounded in the forefront of the charge at Williamsburg, and Major Richard L. [Launcelot] Maury, of Richmond, the writer.
The regiment served with increasing distinction from Manassas to Appomattox Courthouse. In the van at the former, it was also at the post of duty and honor at the latter, where its few ragged, battle scarred, limping survivors, heroes of a hundred victories, with hearts still as stout and courage as high as ever, with the writer, then their Colonel, laid down those bright muskets and gleaming bayonets which had been so eagerly seized just four years before to defend the rights and liberties of their dear Virginia, and with which so well had they done their devoir that even in submission the world admired and all brave hearts applauded their dauntless deeds.
At odd times, when the Army of Northern Virginia was inactive, the brigade of which this regiment formed—part and which, from its earliest engagements, seemed to have attracted the attention of its commanders and gained their special confidence—went to Suffolk, North Carolina and Drury's Bluff in successful quests of glory and renown. After it was reorganized in 1862, Kemper commanded it, and Pickett was its Major-General until the sad disaster at Five Forks 1865).
At Yorktown Early held the lines just outside the village. Out-numbered as the Confederates were, the incessant duty necessarily imposed upon them in picketing, skirmishing and constant watching by night and day without relief, was wearing and arduous in the extreme. The weather was wet, the troops without shelter, the trenches full of mud and water and the supplies but scant. This exposure and hardship, greater than they had ever borne and so different from their snug quarters at Manassas, was quickly followed by sickness and disease, so that during the three weeks in the Yorktown trenches the seven hundred muskets of the Twenty-fourth Virginia were reduced to something like five hundred effectives.
On the retreat to Williamsburg, commencing the night of May 3d, Early's brigade was the rear guard—and the Twenty-fourth, being the left regiment, brought up the rear of all—the most fatiguing place, as every soldier knows, of the whole line of march. All this was truly an ill preparation for the desperate charge to be set before them so soon; but let it not be forgotten in reckoning the glory of their deeds.