Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 20.djvu/79

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73
The Battle of the Wilderness.

with the colors; but we followed him." I have always remembered him as one of the bravest of Confederate soldiers. The Twelfth Virginia did splendid service that day, and the regiment and myself became great friends. Till the end of the war, whenever in marches or elsewhere, I met it, I was always honored with its friendly greetings. As our troops reached the plank-road, you will recollect that a volley was given to the enemy who were trying to rally on the opposite side. By this volley General Wadsworth and his horse (while trying to rally his men), were both killed, and his soldiers could make no stand against us. Our rapid movement through the woods had disordered our line, as you correctly describe it. Leaving them for a moment, while recovering good order, I hastened to General Longstreet with a view to bringing up supports to follow up our splendid success. I met the general near by, Jenkins brigade immediately behind him. He had heard the sound of our rifles, and, with the quick instinct of the general that he was, was following us up with a strong and powerful support to pursue his victory. I had scarcely taken more than a few steps with him when a sudden and unexpected fire, at first scattering, then heavier, broke out from our men. The general was shot down by my side, and at the same time, General Jenkins, one or two staff officers and several couriers. I have never known accurately who started this fire; there is yet some confusion about it, but it was fatal, and had the effect, by disabling the general, of putting a stop to the heavy blow he was about inflicting on the disordered enemy. Later in the day, you will remember, we made another attack rather more direct, with a strong force, on the enemy who had got behind some intrenchments; but we there sustained a repulse, and that about closed the principal features of the Battle of the Wilderness, on the 6th of May.

"The importance of our flank attack, which I have described here so briefly, was not underestimated by the enemy in his subsequent reports. The official report of the battle by General Grant, or his immediate subordinate, describes the tremendous attack of these three brigades, which turned his own left flank and nearly brought about a wide-spread disaster to the Federal army. I cannot but think it would have so ended, had not General Longstreet, in the flush of his success, and with ardent, fresh troops in hand, been struck down in the very act of delivering this blow,

a thousand Confederate throats, the men in the finest spirits as they pressed on—all of this always comes vividly back to me at the mention of the Wilderness.