Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/373

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General Joseph E. Johnston. 367

dark plume and bright courage of Walthall, who commanded all that was left of Folk's corps. Hardee led the charge of the right wing. With an annihilating fury the hurricane of war swept Sher- man from his first and second line, and on the igth of March, night fell upon Johnston's victory. Had there been no other column to reckon with, or had not the discrepancy existed between the map and the facts, the blow which staggered would have prostrated. The victor would then have turned to throw his whole army upon Schofield. As it was, on the 2Oth the right wing of the enemy came up. On the 2ist Sherman's united army was in position on three sides of Johnston. To oppose the increasing coil the line of the latter was bent into a horse-shoe shape, the heel being the point of the one bridge left, the bridge at Bentonville over Mill Creek.

The time had come for the man of resource to make his exit. It was essential to make the road over that bridge as secure as a turn- pike in time of peace. He knew well how to do it, not with fear but with confidence. Once more he looked to Hardee to deal the blow he wanted. That intrepid man, first kissing the pale lips of his dying boy borne by him on the field, turned to the nearest cavalry command, and assuring them he had been Captain of Dragoons himself and knew how to handle cavalry, ordered a charge. On his magnificent black steed he led them and poured their torrent on the opposing front, running back the skirmish line on the line of battle, and the first line on the second. Victory made the isthmus of con- tention safe. The nettle had been rifled of its danger. Then, with forces vastly more confident than when the fight began, Johnston withdrew with the loss of a single caisson from between the jaws of death by the one opening left. Like a whirlwind he came, and like an apparition departed. Under arduous conditions he had set upon a hill that most admired faculty of man the faculty to seize and to use opportunity. At his side hung the weapon drawn from a great general's arsenal the energy to fuse the fickle conditions of an instant into the bolt of victory.

One may be permitted to believe that with a natural sense of vin- dication, he had in this warrior fashion and with a warlike grace, inscribed upon the record of the time the quality of his arm, and with it the reasonable proof that if the Johnston at Atlanta had not been removed history would have engraved for him the epitaph :

"Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem."