Backward, Ever Backward
The attack came that same day, and it seemed to me that, of all we had suffered in a short while, each one was worse than the one before. Hiram somehow found a drum, and when we were attempting to advance against an overwhelming number of troops, he stood in front of us, beating out the call to attack. Certainly, he retired to the rear when we moved forward, but for the time he was there, he put himself in grave danger since he had no weapon save his slingshot. I admired his courage and prayed for him as he stood his ground. He might not believe in prayer, but I did, and so I prayed as hard as I could for his safety.
We were overwhelmed with this attack, and fell back enough that we felt we were out of range of pistols and rifles. Artillery was a different matter, and they continued to throw shot and shell into our ranks, creating carnage with every ball that landed.
Adolphus, Andrew and I took refuge behind a small hill to rest. We knew we would have to continue our retreat soon, but for the moment, we had a desperate need to catch our breath and gather our wits, which were greatly disturbed by what we had been through.
“I do declare I believe this is the worst assault on their part yet.” Adolphus wiped his face, which was blackened by the powder we used in the rifles.
“I must agree,” I said. “We think each one is the worst, and then one comes along that is even more horrible.”
“What do you say we keep running until we reach Lynchburg? Then we will be in place to surrender.” Andrew looked pensive.
“I doubt our captains would think much of that plan.”
Adolphus stood up. “It is time to continue. Be careful and luck to all of us!”
During the long day, we fell back a mile or so, moving in increments until we felt we were safely out of range of all but the biggest cannons. There we took a moment to eat a cold supper—we had had no lunch, and were marvelously hungry.
As we sat and ate, Adolphus asked, “Have you any word from Laurel?”
“None since the last letter. I fear that all lines of communication are cut, and I may not see her until we are reunited, which is a consummation I devoutly wish.”
Adolphus nodded. “Well, I shall pray that you receive a letter soon, or, even better, that you are reunited before not too much longer with your dear Laurel.”
“She is that to me, and I thank you for the prayers.”
We sat in silence for a moment, thinking of what lay behind us, and speculating on what was to be our lot.
Adolphus stood up. “There’s no putting it off—it’s time for us to dig ourselves in.”
Andrew and I groaned, even though we knew that doing so was a necessity. And so we fell to our task, feeling every bit of fatigue and discouragement we could muster.