Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/297

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The Battle of Fisher's HilL


front but on our left flank. General Ramseur, who, as I have men- tioned, was in command on that part of the line, did not anticipate any flank movement of the enemy. He had ordered his skirmishers to the front and placed them in position on a hill about half a mile in front of the line of battle. They made temporary fortification by piling up some fence-rails fifteen or twenty yards apart. This was all in plain sight of the line of battle, as the country in front of us was open. This line of skirmishers was composed of men selected by General Rodes for that purpose and never required to do any other duty. Braver men and better marksmen could not be found in the army, and bravely did they sustain their reputation that day.


The enemy saluted us with his three-inch rifle guns pretty early in the day from a distance too great for us to reply to with our twelve- pounder Napoleons, and continued to pay his respects to us in that way until 12 or i o'clock, when he showed a heavy body of infantry in our front. A line of battle was sent forward at a double-quick to dislodge our skirmishers behind the rail-piles, whom we, of course, expected to see swept away without any trouble.


But to our surprise and admiration, and amid the cheers of the whole line of battle half a mile behind them, they manfully held their ground, although a storm of bullets was rapidly thinning out this little band of tried and true men. Each little puff of white smoke that arose from behind the rail-piles told the tale almost surely of the fate of one advancing foeman. Nearly every shot must have told, for the line of battle halted, wavered, and fell back in disorder. Then the wild yell that went up from our lines must have made that little band of Spartans feel good. I felt like I could have hugged every one of them. But well they knew, as did every soldier who saw the situation, that this could not last. The enemy's artillery had gotten their range and was tearing up the piles of rails. Another heavy line of battle was thrown against them and the poor fellows had to give way and run half a mile to get inside our lines. To run that distance in an open field under fire is a fearful thing to do. Many of them never lived to reach the line, and many of those who did, not a few were wounded. One poor fellow fell over the breast- works by me with the blood spurting from a bullet-wound in his head. The above was a little battle in itself. This is the un-