Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 40.djvu/302
298 SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS.
in vain. * * * It was* as if the sickle of Death had passed along the line and mown down the noblest and the bravest. Major Goldsborough fell (as we supposed), mortally wounded. That brave officer and noble gentleman, Captain Murray, fell dead. Friends dropped all around me, and lay writhing on the ground. * * * It was more than men could endure, and reluctantly they commenced falling back. Then our task was to prevent a rout, for the brigade was terribly cut up and the men much demoralized. Behind some rocks we rallied the scattered regiments and made a stand. Finally we took our old position behind the breastworks, supported by Daniel's brigade. Here we lay for about an hour under the most furious infantry and artillery fire I have ever experienced, but without much loss." (Extract from a letter describ- ing the battle.) I give it just as I find it, adding that if the tattered battle-flag of the Third North Carolina was followed by only a hand- ful, was because they had already suffered more heavily than any other regiment.
"The end soon came. We were beaten back to the line from which we had advanced with terrible loss in much confusion, but the enemy did not make a counter charge. By the strenuous efforts of the officers of the line and of the staff order was restored, and we reformed in the breastworks from which we had emerged, there to be again exposed to an artillery fire exceeding in violence that of the early morning. It remains only to say that, like Pickett's men later in the day, this single brigade was hurled unsupported against the enemy's works. Daniel's brigade remained in the breastworks during and after the charge, and neither from that command nor from any other had we any sup- port. Of course it is to be presumed that General Daniel acted in obedience to orders. We remained in this breastwork after the charge about an hour before we finally abandoned the Federal entrenchments and retired to the foot of the hill. The Federal historians say we were driven from our position. Thus Swinton affirms that "it was carried by a charge of Geary's division." This statement I deny as an eye- witness and sharer in the conflict to the close, and as one of the staff who assisted in carrying out the order withdrawing the troops to the base of the hill. It was down a steep hill in the face of the enemy, and I have a vivid recollection of our apprehensions of the result of such a movement. But it was done, not before a charge of the enemy, but in obedience to orders, and we were not pursued, nor were the works occupied by the Federals until we reached Rock Creek, at the base of the hill.
A few of our men on our left, rather than incur the danger of retiring down the hill under that very heavy fire, remained behind in the entrenchments and gave themselves up. The base of the hill reached, skirmishers were thrown out. and we remained on the west side of Rock Creek till 11:30 P. M., when we retired silently and unmolested. I find the following record in my diary, referring to the time when we retired to the foot of the hill : "New troops were brought on, and fighting continued until now (5 P. M.)." This must refer to picket fighting.
Bates, the Federal historian, thus describes the scene on Gulp's Hill :
"What a field was this! For three hours of the previous evening, and seven of the morning, had the most terrible elements of destruc- tion known to modern warfare been wielded with a might and dex- terity rarely if ever paralleled. The woods in which the battle had been fought was torn and rent with shells -and solid shot, and pierced with