Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/213

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

History of Lane's North Carolina Brigade. 201

tide of the enemy surged back, and breaking in confusion, passed out of sight. * * * * The three brigades of my division actively engaged did not number over two thousand men, and these, -with the help of my splendid batteries, drove back Burn- side's corps of fifteen thousand men.

The Confederacy has to mourn the loss of a gallant soldier and accomplished gentleman, who fell in this battle, at the head of his brigade Brigadier- General L. O'B. Branch, of North Carolina. He was my senior Brigadier, and one to whom I could have entrusted the command of the division with all confidence.

We lay upon the field of battle that night, and until the next night at one o'clock, when my division was silently withdrawn, and, as directed by General Lee, covered the retirement of our army. My divisi en crossed the Potomac into, Virginia about ten A. M. the next morning every wagon and piece of artillery having been safely put on the Virginia shore. I bivouacked that night, the 19th, about five miles from Shepherdstown,

Shepherdstoum Arriving opposite Boteler's ford, and about half- mile therefrom, I formed my line of battle in two lines the first, the brigades of Fender, Gregg and Thomas, under command of General Gregg, and the second, Lane (Branch's brigade), Archer and Brockenbrough, under the command of General Archer.

The enemy had lined the opposite hill with some seventy pieces of artillery, and the infantry, who had crossed, lined the crest of the high banks on the Virginia shore. My lines advanced simul- taneously, and soon encountered the enemy. This advance wa& made in the face of the most tremendous fire of artillery I ever saw, and too much praise cannot be awarded my regiments for their stead}', unwavering step. It wao as if each man felt that the fate of th-e army was centred in himself. The infantry oppo- sition in front of Gregg's centre and right was but trifling, and soon brushed away. The enemy, however, massed in front of Fender and extending, endeavored to turn his left. General Fender became hotly engaged, and informing Archer of his danger, he (Archer) moved by the left flank, and forming on Fender's left, a. simultaneous, daring charge was made, and the enemy driven pell- mell into the river. Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale. By their own account they lost three thousand men- killed and drowned from one brigade alone. Some two hundred.