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" I suppose
He was now returning, and was met by an aide on full gallop to inform him of the state of affairs. Soon after, he met Gen. C. F. Smith, and decided that the rebels had probably massed almost their whole force for the attack against McClernand and Wallace. The battle was thought to be lost. So it was at Marengo. the battle is lost,” said Dessaix to Napoleon as he arrived on the field.
I no more than secure your retreat.” — “ By no means," replied Napoleon : “ the battle is gained. Charge with your columns. The disabled troops will rally in your rear."
Grant immediately ordered Gen. Smith on our left, who had not been engaged, to hold himself ready to advance with his whole force against the rebel right. He also sent back the following note to Foote, who had advised him to fortify, and wait until the fleet could be repaired and return: “A terrible conflict ensued in my absence, which has demoralized a portion of my command. I think the enemy is much more so. If the gunboats do not appear, it will re-assure the enemy, and still further demoralize our troops. Must order a charge to save appearances. I do not expect the gunboats to go into action.”
The men were getting weary and exhausted with the fatigue and prodigious efforts of the last few days and nights. Grant always had a theory, that there comes a time like this in every hard-fought battle, when tired nature begins to yield, and that whichever party rallies and attacks at this time wins. But for two or three days to look over a field of a hundred thousand men, and amid the din, roar, and confusion of a battle, to weigh as in the hollow of the hand the rising and falling
enthusiasm of the contending hosts, and then, with unerring judgment, to select the one auspicious moment which leads to victory, — this is given only to the few great soldiers in the world's history. And then the fixed purpose, the unconquerable will to do or die, to scorn the weakness of the flesh, must always be there; and they were there.
It was noticed that the rebels had put on their knapsacks and haversacks, instead of leaving them in the fort; and some of our troops near Grant spoke of this, and said, “ They have come out to stay for a battle of several days."
“ Are the haversacks filled, or empty ? ” said Grant. No one could answer. “ Examine some of the prisoners,” said he.
They are filled ; they have three days' rations,” was the report.
Nothing is little in the world,” said Dr. Johnson, " to him who properly understands it.”
As soon as the report was made, Grant said, “ Then they are trying to cut their way out: they do not mean to stay and fight. Whoever attacks now wins. They'll be quick if they beat me.'
And, dashing his spurs into his horse's flanks, he galloped off to Smith's division on the left, occasionally explaining to the officers and men as he passed, “ They are whipped; they are fighting to be allowed to retreat.” He explained briefly, that he wished to attack them on their weakened right. It was thus Napoleon on the morning of Austerlitz, in almost the only instance in his life, explained to the French soldiers his plan of attacking the Russian centre on the Heights of Prutzen.
Grant knew well that his bayonets reasoned ; that American soldiers could think as well as fight, and would understand and appreciate this confidence. He knew the war was a war of ideas; and that the serious, intelligent convictions of men would carry them through a forlorn hope, or into a deadly breach spouting with fire, where the mere martial ardor of a military machine would quail to follow. Hamlet said, “Conscience makes cowards of us all;" but conscience also makes heroes of us all." *
Grant now ordered Smith to advance, at the same time sending word to McClernand and Wallace to close up and be ready to attack. The men rallied; the weary and the laggard in the rear came forward ; wounds were forgotten; all caught the spirit of their leader.
Gen. Smith was a veteran soldier: he had followed the stars and stripes through the battles of Mexico to 66 the halls of the Montezumas.' He was a man sixty years old, his hair white as the snow on the ground. As he rode down his line, forming his division for the attack, he was a fine target for the rebel rifles; but the bullets showered unnoticed about him. His column was formed of Lauman's brigade ; the Second Iowa infantry having the front, followed by the Seventh, Fourteenth, and Twenty-fifth Indiana. He also told the soldiers what was to be done. This reciprocal confidence between the general and his soldiers was like that of a father and his sons; and the enthusiasm of the soldiers was unbounded. As he took his place to lead the advance, his colors by his side, years seemed to drop from him like a mantle. Those near him said his countenance
Llazed with the fire of youth: he was young again. Putting his cap on the point of his sword, he flung it toward the rebel intrenchments, and dashed forward into the thickest of the fight. So Marlborough, with a soldier's ardor, flung his marshal's bâton over the French lines, sure of recovering it again.
Nothing could withstand the onset. Without firing a gun, they charged directly on the intrenchments, carried them at the point of the bayonet, and forced their way to the summit of a hill, where artillery could be planted, and which was the key to the fort.* Wallace, too, had
, regained his lost ground, and driven Buckner back to within a hundred and fifty yards of his intrenchments.
Night now settled down on the field, with a battle undecided. Smith, maintaining his commanding position, in vain protested that one half-hour more of daylight would give us the victory.
How many men, on how many battle-fields, have coveted the power of Joshua of old, - to stay the sun
in the heavens!
Both parties had now been nearly four days and nights under arms, and with almost continuous fighting.
. Some even had slept as they stood in line of battle, as McDowell, completely overcome, had dropped to sleep while writing in the telegraph-office his despatch to Washington after the first battle of Bull Run.
And now the living lay down with the wounded, the dying, and the dead. Smith, wrapped in his cloak, rested among his men on the frozen ground.
Grant found shelter in a negro hut. Here, during the night, a fugitive slave who had escaped through the rebel lines made his way to him to tell him that the enemy were retreating across the river, and desired to give him an account of their condition and the position of their forces. Grant was still under Halleck. Orders No. 3 and No. 13 were his military law : “ Unauthorized persons must not be admitted within our lines.” Should Grant admit the man, and talk with him, or read Order No. 3, call the guard, and have him arrested and sent back to his owner ? One thing was not then, and is not now, generally known. When the war opened, Mrs. Grant, through her father, owned three slaves in Missouri. Grant privately, without talk, in his own right, issued three “emancipation proclamations,” - one to each slave, telling them to go free. This man was unauthorized by Order No. 3 to go to headquarters; but he was authorized to go by a “higher law," and that was his hatred of slavery and the love of freedom which God has planted in the soul of every human being. When Nelson, in the battle of Copenhagen, was told that his commander had signalled for him to take his ship out of action, he put his spyglass to his blind eye, and said, “I don't see it : fire away!” Then, turning to an officer, he said, “I have a right to be blind sometimes.” So Grant did not read or obey Order No. 3, but acted like a man of common sense, and received the fugitive, listened to his story, and questioned him carefully. One officer suggested that perhaps the fellow was lying, and had been sent to entrap Grant in some manner; but the man said,
* McPherson's Report.