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[543]

The very hill reeled beneath us like a drunken man. As I darted through the men fell on both sides of me. The Fifty-second New-York volunteers, a conscript regiment, chanced from our position to be in front. They wavered, and were falling back on the old regiments, when Colonel Frank, who commanded the Third brigade, rode in their front and rallied them, crying: “Stand boys! Follow me.” Behind them was the Second brigade--or Irish brigade--who coolly stood to their guns. Colonel Myles, too, rallied the lines. In a moment the panic subsided, and the men stood colly in their lines, though the shot and shell of the enemy were knocking them over pretty fast.

The lines now fell back behind the crest of the hill, and Rickett's battery, having taken position, returned the enemy's killing compliments with interest, shelling the woods and ravine in which they were concealed.

All this time the rebels were shouting their demoniacal yell all round, and the sharp metallic sound of musketry ran along our picket and skirmish lines. The enemy's battery soon became silent; but the firing increased along our skirmishing lines.

The corps now wheeled round its head in the direction of Catlett's Station. It was evident that the enemy meant to contest every inch of ground, and to cut us off from forming a junction with the other corps. The troops had to move in fighting order, every now and then taking up lines of defence.

As there was little intermission from fighting all day, I could not ascertain ours or the rebel loss. I saw one rebel colonel mortally wounded. Gregg's cavalry suffered heavily, chiefly the Tenth New-York, which is severely cut up.

The Second corps nobly covered the retreat of the army, being successively engaged with the enemy at several different points throughout the day, and most desperately throughout the afternoon and evening. They stood like a wall of iron against the repeated and thundering assaults of the enemy, until our whole army, with all its transportation, was secure, and in a position to meet every attack.

The battle of Bristoe Station.

The entire army left the line of the Rapidan, on its retrograde movement on Saturday night, marching along the line of railroad until Wednesday morning, encountering the enemy at times, and skirmishing occasionally, avoiding a general engagement. A general action might have been brought on at any time between the Rappahannock and our present position; but it was reserved for Wednesday to witness a renewed trial of the capabilities of our brave men in the field.

The Second corps had been assigned the arduous duty of guarding the rear of the army, and on the morning of Wednesday, at daylight, took up its line of march in the following order: General Hayes's Third division leading, followed by the First division, General Caldwell, the rear being brought up by General Webb's Second division.

On reaching a point near the railroad, some three miles west of Bristoe, the Second division took the lead, followed by the Third, leaving the first at the rear. In this order they marched to Bristoe, on the south side of the track of the Orange and Alexandria railroad, with flankers well out on both sides and skirmishers deployed.

In order to understand fully the character of the fight, it is necessary to give the topography of the country in the vicinity of Bristoe. The Orange and Alexandria railroad here runs in a north-easterly and south-westerly direction over a broken and woody country: The town of Bristoe is non est. But a few old chimneys point out the place where the village once was, just at the west of Broad Run, about three miles west of Manassas Junction, and half a mile west of the station. There is a skirt of dense woods, undergrown with thick brush, through which, on either side of the railroad track, a tolerable road has been cut, both of which were used by our army on its march. On the west side of Broad Run the country is hilly up to the woods, and somewhat overgrown with brush. The run crosses the railroad at right angles under a high bridge, at the eastern end of which a dilapidated windmill stands, formerly used for pumping water for the use of the road.

About three fourths of a mile west of Bristoe is Cedar Run, a small stream; but, from its depth of mud and water, difficult to ford. On the north side of the track, about thirty rods west of the bridge, is a solitary house, or rather shanty, which, though insignificant of itself, figures somewhat extensively in the fight. There are here, also, just back of the shanty, three quite prominent hillocks or humps, upon which the rebels had planted batteries. Also there were several like elevations on the south side of the track, upon which the batteries of our own forces were located. West of Broad Run, extending for a few rods, is low ground, rocky and brushy, affording excellent opportunities for sharp-shooters. On the east side of Broad Run, for a hundred rods, is an open plain, with a little point of timber jutting out perhaps twenty rods, and having its north border about eight rods south of the railroad. The roads from the west run across Broad Run as follows: The one on the north side of the track branches about forty rods west of the run, one fork crossing the run about a hundred rods north of the bridge, and goes to Centreville; the other fork crossing the track about twenty rods west of the bridge, and leading to the fork on the south side of the bridge. The road on the south side of the track runs parallel with the railroad; but a branch makes off to the right at Cedar Run, and crosses Broad Run about thirty rods south of the bridge. East of Broad Run, about a hundred rods distant, is a belt of timber perhaps a quarter of a mile wide, east of which the country on the south side of the track is open to Manassas.

About half-past 12 o'clock the advance of


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