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On August 18 of that year our brigade, composed of the First, Seventh, Eleventh and Seventeenth Virginia Infantry, set its faces northward from Gordonsville. Every knapsack and all camp equipage were left behind, and in light marching order, with 60 rounds of ammunition, a blanket over our shoulders and five days’ rations in our haversacks, we headed for the Rapidan river. Those five days’ rations, which lasted us two days, were the last we drew until September 21.

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The forced marches of August 28 and 29 to aid Jackson were a fearful ordeal, made as they were in the intense heat, with the roads deep in dust, but we reached Thoroughfare Gap in time, and the next day we fought the second battle of Manassas. Our men were so hungry that they gathered the crackers and meat from the haversacks of the dead Federals and ate as they fought. The next day we kept on to Chantilly and fought there; then, swinging to Leesburg, we struck for the Potomac. In all these weeks we had no change of clothing and we were literally devoured by vermin. We had no tents and slept on the ground, and slept soundly even though the rain was pouring in torrents. A prize fighter trains about two months to get himself in perfect condition, but we had been training in a more vigorous manner for nearly two years, and the men were skin, bone and muscle.

We lived on apples and green corn all of the time, and the soldiers began to drop out of the ranks at every halt. Then an order came for the barefooted men to remain behind and report in Winchester, and some thousands threw away their shoes. Every step our army made northward it became weaker. At last we stood on the long-dreamed-of banks of the Potomac. It was near Shepherdstown, and Maryland, my Maryland, met our gaze at last, which shone—

Fair as the gardens of the Lord

To the famished eyes of the rebel horde.

Alexander Hunter, “Battle of Antietam,” Southern Historical Society Papers (Richmond, Virginia: Southern Historical Society, 1903)

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