Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 21.djvu/79
Last Days of the Ann;/ <>t' \>,rf /></ T//V/////V/. 71
cross-fire of artillery and small arms to which they could not effectually reply. The situation of the troops who had entered the Union lines was now desperate. General Lee, who watched the battle near Cemetery Heights, concurred with Gordon that the troops must be speedily withdrawn, and the latter dispatched a staff officer to the different commanders to direct their men to run back in squads and get into the Confederate lines as best they could. This was effected without any counter attack in front of Steadman. The Confederate loss in this battle was nearly 3,500, and the enemy's a little over 1,000. General Gordon captured and brought back 560 men, including Brigadier General McLaughlin, and two Coehorn mortars. Thus failed a brilliant stroke which promised great results. The troops had fought with vigor and determination, and the failure of the attack was due to untoward circumstances or chance, which cannot always be guarded against in war.
THE BEHAVIOR OF THE TROOPS.
A Northern and a Southern writer both take a different view of the conduct of the troops here and assert that it demonstrated a loss of their old time fire and vigor, and that they could no longer be de- pended upon for vigorous offensive movement.* These opinions are
fire. Hartranft's division which lay in reserve, the greater portion not being more than a mile and a half in rear of Steadman, was promptly marched to the rescue, and General Hartranft, using the first troops which came up, made at great sacrifice two attacks on our troops outside the fort, to delay their deployment He was repulsed in these with heavy loss, but the effort was worth all it cost. It was Tidball's fire, Hartranft's attacks and the cross-fire of Haskell and McGilery, which prevented the timely deployment of the Confederate troops, after Fort Steadman fell, and not any lack of spirit of our men.
- Such an assertion would never have been made by any one who wit-
nessed the bearing of the men while under fire or the conduct of the large portion of the troops on that bleak March night, as they tramped after mid- night through the tombstones and graves of " the cemetery " to take posi- tion and await the order of assault. The darkness was little relieved by moon or stars. The hum of voices in this city of the dead was low, and the movement of armed bodies through it almost as noiseless and shadowy as the flitting of ghosts, while the strokes of the neighboring clocks sounded on the still night air like the tolling of funeral bells. Here were seen men tying or pinning large strips of white cloth over their breasts and shoulders, much resembling the sashes pall-hearers sometimes wear, to enable the as-