COLD HARBOR AND THE DEFENSE OF RICHMOND
WILLIAM MEADE DAME, D. D.
Private, First Company
The Bloodiest Fifteen Minutes of the War.
In our front, this artillery fire kept up for a while, then it stopped! The next moment, there was an awful rush! From every quarter their infantry came pouring on over the fields, and through the woods, yelling and firing, and coming at a run. Their columns seemed unending! Enough people to sweep our thin lines from the face of the earth! Up and down our battle line, the fierce musketry broke out. To right and left it ran, crashing and rolling like the sound of a heavy hail on a tin roof, magnified a thousand times, with the cannon pealing out in the midst of it like claps of thunder. Our line, far as the eye could reach, was ablaze with fire; and into that furious storm of death, the blue columns were swiftly urging their way.
Straight in our front one mass was advancing on us and we were hurling case-shot through their ranks,—when, suddenly! glancing to the right, we saw another column, which had rushed out of the woods on our right front, by the flank, almost upon us, not forty-five yards outside our line. Instantly we turned our guns upon them with double canister! Two or three shots doubled up the head of that column. It resolved itself into a formless crowd, that still stood stubbornly there, but could not get one step farther. And then, for three or four minutes, at short pistol range, the infantry and our Napoleon guns tore them to pieces. It was deadly, and bloody work! They were a helpless mob, now; a swarming multitude of confused men! They were falling by scores, hundreds! The mass was simply melting away under the fury of our fire. Then, they broke in panic, and headlong rout!
Many fearing to retreat under that deadly fire, dropped down behind the stumps near our line, and when the others had gone, we ordered them to come in. Several hundred prisoners were captured in this way. To show what our works were,—I saw one tall fellow jump up from behind a stump, run to our work, and with “a hop, skip, and a jump,” he leaped entirely over it, and landed inside our line. And a foolish looking fellow he was, when he picked himself up!
Just as the enemy broke, Ben Lambert, “No. 1” at “4th” gun, was severely wounded, in the right arm, just as he raised it to swab his gun. One of the boys took his place, and the fire kept on.
The great assault was over and had failed! Only ten or fifteen minutes was its fury raging! In that ten minutes, thirteen thousand Federal soldiers lay stricken, with death, or wounds. In those few moments, Grant lost nearly as many men as the whole British Army lost in the entire battle of Waterloo.