Two of the Mississippi Brigade’s regiments, the 18th and the 21st, were charged with driving in the Union pickets the night before the dawn assault on Fort Sanders by the 17th and 13th regiments.
After the war, 18th regiment Captain Wiley Gart Johnson, who had commanded the Confederate Guards, Company C, of Madison County, Mississippi, recalled their work for Confederate Veteran Magazine:
“Our orders were for each captain to select a man to carry the picks and spades of the company with which to hide ourselves in the ground when we got near enough to the fort….
“The stars shone brightly and the ground was freezing rapidly. My only lieutenant was sick in camp, but I walked along the line and told the boys to meet me on the other side of those yankee picket lines under that fort, and it would be all right. I am thus particular, because it was the only real night charge we ever made.
“At the command we moved forward through brush, briers, and thorns, in the face of the picket firing, capturing or driving all the pickets into the fort, and getting pretty close to the fort itself….
“Then you ought to have seen the fire fly out of those rocks. The enemy in the fort, only a few rods off, tried to depress their guns so as to shell us, but every shell went over our heads, and served only to add increased zest to the work. We had to get into that ground before day, and we did….
“…being so close to the fort,” Johnson concluded, “we could aid our assaulting friends from the rear, till they passed over us, by picking off the gunners in the fort…”