Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 21.djvu/80
72 Southern Historical Society Papers.
superficial, and based upon the erroneous accounts which at first ap- peared and were generally accepted as true, because the latter and better information was not gathered, but actually lost sight of in the succession of disasters of greater magnitude during the next fort- night.
Gordon carried into the enemy's lines not over 8,000 troops. Those ordered from Longstreet did not arrive, the cavalry remained in its position near the old gas works, and a portion of Gordon's men re- mained in his lines to await the time when, their fronts being un- covered, they could move to the attack. The troops engaged lost over 1,000 in killed and wounded more than one-ninth their num- bers. They were more than " decimated," a term often used before our late war to describe fearful losses. True, nearly 2,000 unwounded men surrendered in the trenches, when retaken in the final counter- charge, made about three hours after the Confederates took Fort Steadman. The space actually captured from the enemy at this point did not give sufficient room for the deployment of all the troops who entered the enemy's works, to avail themselves of the expected suc- cess of three assaulting columns. While waiting the result of the attacks on Fort Haskell and Fort McGilvry, and after these were re- pulsed, as well as during the several assaults made by the enemy to retake the captured lines held by the Confederates, the greater por- tion of Gordon's men were confined in a restricted space, and to escape the pitiless enfilading fire of cannon, mortars and small arms which swept, not only the flanks, but both sides of the captured works, had often to seek cover in the rear of these works, or the side nearest the enemy, because the original front or side nearest the Con- federate lines was literally torn up by the enemy's shot and shell. During the greater part of the three hours elapsing between the cap- ture and recapture of Steadman, these troops had been under this heavy fire, from which they could not find shelter and to which they could not effectively reply, and were all the while obedient to orders
saulting columns to distinguish friend from foe when the enemy's works were entered. Those who thus arrayed themselves at midnight, in a grave- yard, to prepare for assault, could not fail to be reminded by the solemn and wierd scene of death. The surroundings were indeed befitting a plunge into black death itself; yet none faltered or left the ranks, and the men were as cheerful as if waiting to return to their warm winter quarters. They never lost heart or courage, and were always equal to the offensive, and were still capable of anything.