Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/290

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284 Southern Historical Society Papers.

close behind the Hne. Every one was at ease, though a few were not wanting in anxiety. Little Wilderness Church, near by, endeavored to stamp a peaceful air upon the warlike scene. The general feeling seemed to be that it was too late to get up much of a fight to-day.

Jackson, in three lines, Rodes in advance, Colston next and A. P. Hill still coming up, lay close by. He had caught Hooker's right flagrante delicta. At 6 P. M. the order was given, and twenty-two thousand of the best infantry in existence closed rapidly down upon the flank of ten thousand of the least hardened of the troops of the Army of the Potomac. No division in the Army of the Potomac, not the Old Guard, not Frederick's automata, could have changed front under the staggering blow. The fight was short, sharp, deadly, but partial only. But the force on the right was swept away like a cob- web by Jackson's mighty besom. Some of Schurz's regiments made a gallant show of resistance under the terrible ordeal of friends and foes breaking through their hastily formed lines ; some melted away without burning a cartridge. Buschbeck's brigade threw itself into some breastworks constructed across the road at Dovdall'sand made a desperate resistance. It was here that Howard had asked leave to place his line, but had been refused. A ridge made the hne well available for defence.

The whole situation was confusion worse confounded. The attack had been so sudden that the stampede of the regiments on the extreme right swept away many of those which were en- deavoring to form near the fork of the roads. The drove of beeves, the frightened teamsters and ambulance drivers, officers' servants, and hundreds of camp followers were rushing blindly to and fro, seeking an escape from the murderous hail of lead. The enemy came on with remorseless steadfastness. Never was an army more completely surprised, more absolutely overwhelmed. Few, even among the old soldiers, preserved their calmness, but many did their duty. The higher officers were in the thickest of the fray. An oc- casional stand would be made, only to be again broken. Everywhere appeared the evidence of unpreparedness.

It is small wonder that the corps made no resistance worthy the name. Rather wonder that, under the circumstances I have detailed, the onset of Jackson was actually checked by this surprised and over- matched, this telescoped force, considerably more than an hour, at a loss of one-third its effective strength. Could more have been ex- pected ?

The worthlessness of Hooker's dispositions now became apparent.