Never again came there to that band of New Orleans boys such an hour of glory as this at Champion’s Hill. For two years more, by the waning light of a doomed cause, they fought on, won fame and honor; but for blazing splendor—of daring, skill, fortitude, loss and achievement which this purblind world still sees plainest in fraternal slaughter—that was the mightiest hour, the mightiest ten minutes, ever spent, from ’Sixty-one to ’Sixty-five, by Kincaid’s Battery.
Right into the face of death’s hurricane sprang the ladies’ man, swept the ladies’ men. “Battery, trot, walk. Forward into battery! Action front!” It was at that word that Kincaid’s horse went down; but while the pieces trotted round and unlimbered and the Federal guns vomited their fire point-blank and blue skirmishers crackled and the gray line crackled back, and while lead and iron whined and whistled, and chips, sand and splinters flew, and a dozen boys dropped, the steady voice of Bartleson gave directions to each piece by number, for “solid shot,” or “case” or “double canister.” Only one great blast the foe’s artillery got in while their opponents loaded, and then, with roar and smoke as if the earth had burst, Kincaid’s Battery answered like the sweep of a scythe. Ah, what a harvest! Instantly the guns were wrapped in their own white cloud, but, as at Shiloh, they were pointed again, again and again by the ruts of their recoil, Kincaid and Bartleson each pointing one as its nine men dwindled to five and to four, and in ten minutes nothing more was to be done but let the gray line through with fixed bayonets while Charlie, using one of Hilary’s worn-out quips, stood on Roaring Betsy’s trunnion-plates and cursed out to the shattered foe, “Bricks, lime and sand always on hand!—,—,—!”
Yet this was but a small part of the day’s fight, and Champion’s Hill was a lost battle. Next day the carnage was on Baker’s Creek and at Big Black Bridge, and on the next Vicksburg was invested.
Behold, “Vicksburg and the Bends.”
In one of those damp June-hot caves galleried into the sheer yellow-clay sides of her deep-sunken streets, desolate streets where Porter’s great soaring, howling, burrowing “lamp-posts” blew up like steamboats and flew forty ways in search of women and children, dwelt the Callenders. Out among Pemberton’s trenches and redans, where the woods were dense on the crowns and faces of the landside bluffs, and the undergrowth was thick in the dark ravines, the minie-ball forever buzzed and pattered, and every now and then dabbed mortally into some head or breast. There ever closer and closer the blue boys dug and crept while they and the gray tossed back and forth the hellish hand-grenade, the heavenly hard-tack and tobacco, gay jokes and lighted bombs. There, mining and countermining, they blew one another to atoms, or under shrieking shells that tore limbs from the trees and made missiles of them hurled themselves to the assault and were hurled back. There, in a ruined villa whose shrubberies Kincaid named “Carrollton Gardens,” quartered old Brodnax, dining on the fare we promised him from the first, and there the nephew sang an ancient song from which, to please his listeners, he had dropped “old Ireland” and made it run: