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A GALLANT CHARGE.
tiously down on the enemy's flank, on the further side. More or less skirmishing followed, but the firing ceased at dark, when Hooker found himself, breast to breast, with the hostile lines. The autumn night fell peacefully along the heights, but it was evident that the morning's dawn would witness the most fearful battle, thus far, of the war, and, in all human probability, settle the fate of Washington. It was clear, too, that the heaviest fighting was to be where Hooker coinmanded. Porter, holding the centre with Sykes, massed his troops, in a hollow, so as to be used as the exigencies of the battle might require, while his batteries above, played on the enemy
. The morning of the 17th broke somber and slow, over the heights, behind which slumbered the two great armies; for dull, heavy clouds wrapped the sky, giving a deeper gloom to the still forests around. But, in the early ligit, Hooker with his accustomed energy moved boldly on the foe. The men had scarcely swallowed their hasty breakfast, when the rapid shots of the Pennsylvania skirmishers announced that the fight had begun.
The whole corps was soon engaged, and for half an hour it stormed and thundered miles away to the right, as though the main battle was being fought there at the outset. The contest was in an open space, made by a plowed field and a cornfield, and both armies stood up resolutely to their work. But at length, the enemy began to give way, when, “Forward !" ran along the line, and it
sprang forward with a ringing cheer. Though at first retiring slowly, the rebels at this wild rush, fled precipitately, and were borne furiously back over the field, across the road beyond, and still back, till a piece of thick woods received them. Meade and his Pennsylvanians, whose blood was now up, followed fiercely after, and with a wild hurrah, dashed full on the cover. The next moment, those dark woods became a sheet of flame, bursting on those brave men. 72:
Rent, shattered and torn before it, they reeled and staggered back. The next moment, like successive waves of the sea, the hostile lines swept out into view, cheering as they came, and carried the field like a storm. Hooker, seeing the danger, threw a brigade in the path of the foe, but it went down like frostwork, before the on-sweeping mass. “Give me,” said he to Doubleday, “your best brigade.'' Down, on the run, came the best brigade, and reckless of shot and shell, moved straight up to the crest of the hill that crowned the cornfield, and forming in full view of the enemy, began to pour in their rapid, deadly volleys. Hartsuff, commanding, fell severely wounded; but that noble brigade held its own for half an hour, and then, finding no support coming up, dashed alone into the cornfield, and swept it with one gallant rush. Ricketts, holding the left of the line, was hard pressed, and Mansfield was ordered to his relief, but the gallant white-haired General fell in the onset. For a mile and a half, the battle raged furiously, all along Hooker's front; but at length, getting his two flanks safe, which the rebels had made almost superhuman efforts to turn, he determined to advance and end the struggle. To the right of the cornfield, was a piece of woods running out to a point which commanded the field, and he determined to take and hold it. Advancing to an eminence to reconnoiter the ground, he was struck in the foot with a bullet, and compelled to leave the field. Sumner immediately took command, and the advance commenced, the gallant Sedgwick leading; Crawford and Gordon stoutly battling in the woods; but the former, however, was compelled to give way, and his disordered troops poured like a torrent through Sedgwick's brigade, hurling it back broken and confused. The enemy, seeing his advantage, pressed fiercely on, with shouts that rose over the crash of artillery. Sedgwick; vainly striving to rally his troops under the rebel fire, was three times
wounded, but refused to leave the field, till he saw the attempt was hopeless. His Adjutant-General, Major Sedgwick, threw himself among the broken ranks in vain, and fell mortally wounded. Howard now assumed command, but his efforts were equally fruitless.
Sumner undertook to reform the line, but to no purpose, and the division fell back, leaving the cornfield to the enemy. It was now noon, and at this crisis, Franklin came up and was sent to the right. He at once ordered Slocum and Smith, commanding the two divisions, to sweep the field. The latter, moving with the rapidity and resistlessness of a whirlwind, in ten minutes, cleared it of all but the rebel dead. The enemy now gave it ap, and a lull in the conflict followed.
Hooker's attack had not been as successful as McClellan had anticipated. The bulk of our army had been massed on that flank, and yet the most it had been able to do, was to fix itself on the left of the enemy, while the heavy loss in officers and men, and the protracted, exhausting fighting, had left it unable to make any further forward movement.
The advance of Burnside on the left, over the bridge, which was designed to be simultaneous with that on the right, had been weak and undecided—thus allowing the enemy, with his shorter lines, to throw the weight of his force against Hooker. This delay was faial to the success of Mo Clellan's plan. At eight o'clock he sent an order to Burnside to carry the bridge, gain the heights beyond, and move along their crest to the enemy's rear. He himself occupied an eminence about midway between the two wings, and anxiously swept the field with his glass. Although the earthquake crash of artillery on the extreme right, showed that the heroic Hooker was throwing himself with terrible force on the enemy there, the firing on the left indicated that Burnside had not closed resolutely with the foe, and
McClellan, becoming filled with anxiety, hurried off another aid to Burnside, who dashed up to him, with the order to carry the bridge in his front, at all hazards. The aid returning with the report that the enemy still held the bridge, McClellan, now thoroughly aroused to the danger that threatened him, sent his Inspector-General, Col. Sackett, with the peremptory order to Burnside, to push forward without a moment's delay, and carry the bridge at the point of the bayonet. If he hesitated, Sackett himself was directed to stay and see it done. At last, at one o'clock, the Fiftyfirst regiments of the New-York and Pennsylvania volunteers, in a gallant burst, carried it with triumphant shouts. Burnside then moved across, other troops, and the enemy fell back to the heights. Hours, golden hours, big with the fate of the army and the nation, had been allowed to slip by; yet, even now, a vigorous and daring advance might save the day. Instead of this, however, Burnside, acting on his judgment, ordered a halt, and began to plant his artillery. Hearing of this, McClellan dispatched Col. Key, with orders to him to push on and carry the heights--that success was impossible unless he did—that he must not stop to calculate losses. Three o'clock came, and still the heights were not carried. Again McClellan hurried off Key, with orders to storm the heights at all hazards. At last the order was obeyed—the enemy were driven from their guns by our gallant troops, that now pushed forward with loud hurrahs, some of them even reaching the outskirts of Sharpsburg. But the advantage came too late, for heavy rebel reinforcements, that had been hurrying forward all day from, Harper's Ferry, arriving at this critical moment on the field, turned the scale against Burnside, and compelled him to fall back. Seeing himself suddenly threatened with overthrow, he sent to McClellan for help. “McClellan's glass, for the last half-hour, has seldom been turned
SLOSE OF THE CONFLICT,
away from the left. He sees clearly
He sees clearly enough that Burnside is pressed-needs no messenger to tell him that. His face grows dark with anxious thought.
Looking down into the valley, where fifteen thousand men are lying, he turns a half-questioning look on Fitz John Porter, who stands by his side, gravely scanning the field. They are Porter's troops below; are fresh, and only impatient to share in the fight. But Porter slowly shakes his head, and one may believe that the same thought is passing through the minds of both generals. McClellan remounts his horse, and, with Porter and a dozen of his Staff, rides away to the left, in Burnside's direction. Sykes meets them on the road—& good soldier, whose opinion is worth taking. The three soldiers talk briefly together. It is easy to see that the moment has come, when everything may turn on an order given or withheld—when the history of the battle is only to be written in thoughts, and płırposes, and words, of the General.” " Burnside's messenger rides
up. His message is, “I wani guns.
do not send them, I cannot noia my position a half an hour.' McClellan's only answer is a glance at the western sky. Then he turns and speaks, very slowly: Tell General Burnside, this is the battle of the
He must hold his ground till dark, at any cost. I will send him Miller's battery. I can do nothing more.
1 have 110 infantry.' Then, as the messenger was riding away, he called him back :- Tell him if he cannot hold his ground, then the bridge, to the last man---always the üridge. If the bridge is lost, all is lost.""* The bridge was held darkness soon covered the field, and the great battle was over. If Burnside had commenced his movement two hours sooner, there is scarcely a doubt, that night would have seen the rebel array fleeing across the Potomac. As it was, the two tired hosts lay down, front to front, along the slug.
• George N. Smalley, correspondent of the Tribune.