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

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History of Lane's North Carolina Brigade.

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 Burnside'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We lay upon the field of battle that night, and until the next night at one o'clock, when my division was silently withdrawn, and, as directed by General Lee, covered the retirement of our army.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 division 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.

Shepherdstown—Arriving opposite Boteler's ford, and about half-mile therefrom, I formed my line of battle in two lines—the first, the brigades of Pender, 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 simultaneously, and soon encountered the enemy. This advance was 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 steady, unwavering step. It was as if each man felt that the fate of the army was centred in himself. The infantry opposition in front of Gregg's centre and right was but trifling, and soon brushed away. The enemy, however, massed in front of Pender and extending, endeavored to turn his left. General Pender became hotly engaged, and informing Archer of his danger, he (Archer) moved by the left flank, and forming on Pender'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