The Spaniards retreated in the utmost confusion to the battery; but were pursued so vigorously, that they were driven into the water, and took shelter in the half-galleys. All hands were now set to work to erect the batteries, whence a cannonade was made upon the town.
While my troops were still lying here, General Rosecrans, with a part of his staff and a few orderlies, rode out on the rearranged line to supervise its formation and encourage the men, and in prosecution of these objects moved around the front of my column of attack, within range of the batteries that were shelling us so viciously. As he passed to the open ground on my left, I joined him.
Little or no sleep did the troops get that night. The next day was very cold, and it was still raining. The batteries opened on the city for about two hours in the morning. On November 21st, the sun once more showed itself after a long absence, and the men were enabled to dry their clothes, build fires, cook and eat salt junk, pour down hot coffee, and once more felt in good spirits.
That which astonished D'Artagnan, when he turned his eyes from the coast batteries to the fortifications of the city, was to see that Belle-Isle was defended by an entirely new system, of which he had often heard the Comte de la Fere speak as a wonderful advance, but of which he had as yet never seen the application.
They were furious with these inventions of the evil one, with which they thought the unbelievers communicated with the Government of Madrid, and they smashed on the ground with the butt ends of their muskets, and trampled with their feet, all the gilt wheels of the apparatus, and all the discs and batteries of electricity.
On that frowning height the busy hands of Pemberton's soldiers had reared mighty batteries, that commanded the Mississippi for miles up and down stream. To think of carrying the works by assault, was madness. Sherman had tried, and was beaten back with terrible loss.
It was recognized that the gate of Tongres was not the most assailable, but rather the strongest portion of the defences, and Alexander therefore determined to shift his batteries to the gate of Bois-le-Duc. At the same time, the attempt upon that of Tongres was to be varied, but not abandoned.
Better ground upon which to be attacked could not be chosen. The long distance to be traversed under fire of any number of converging batteries, would have slaughtered men by the thousands. But again, if the Rebels were in force, why did they not attack us? Outflanking us was easy. With a superior force our retreat could easily be intercepted, and if we escaped at all, it would be with heavy loss.
On the eleventh day of September, early in the morning, the confederates, favoured by a thick fog, erected batteries on each wing and in the centre; and about eight o'clock, the weather clearing up, the attack began.
French left at 3.30 A.M. with one brigade and three batteries, the others to follow as they could with their worn-out animals. The enemy had a long start, but from Kitchener's message it was evident that their march would be steadily harassed and delayed by the frequent necessity of fighting, of resting at times, and by the slow movement of the ox-team.