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[124] from the boxes of our fallen heroes, while our most advanced regiments were drawn back to a position whence they could guard our left, yet form a portion of our front.

Gen. Longstreet's division of the Rebel main army — which army, under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston as commander-in-chief, had hastened ere this to the defense of Richmond from the side of the Peninsula — had passed through Williamsburg on the retreat, when it was recalled to aid in the defense.1 Having now arrived on the field, a fresh attempt was made to drive in our left, which, after a protracted struggle, was repulsed with mutual slaughter; but a simultaneous attack on our front, from the direction of Fort Magruder, was successful to the extent of capturing 4 of our guns and making 200 or 300 prisoners.

Thus, for nine hours,--from 7:30 A. M. to 4:30 P. M.,--Hooker's single division was pitted against substantially the whole Rebel army, with every advantage of a chosen and skillfully fortified position on their side. No division ever fought better; and, though its General estimates the Rebel killed as double his own, he is doubtless mistaken.

Gen. Heintzelman and staff, but no troops, had arrived early in the afternoon. At 4:30 P. M., Gen. Kearny arrived, with his division, and pressed to the front; allowing Hooker's thinned regiments to withdraw from the fight and be held as a reserve. Kearny, under Gen. Heintzelman's orders, at once deployed Berry's brigade to the left of the Williamsburg road, and Birney's to the right, leading forward two companies of the 2d Michigan to beat back the enemy's skirmishers, now annoying our batteries; while Maj. Wainwright, Hooker's chief of artillery, collected his gunners and reopened a fire from his remaining pieces; whereupon the 5th New Jersey, though fearfully cut up, rallied promptly to their support. Our musketry fire was renewed along the whole line, and our regiments began to gain ground.

Finding that the heavy timber in his front defied all direct approach, Gen. Kearny ordered Col. Hobart Ward, with the 38th New York, to charge down the road and take the rifle-pits on the center of the abatis by their flank; which was gallantly done, the regiment losing 9 of its 19 officers during the brief hour of its engagement. The success of its charge not being perfect, the left wing of Col. Riley's 40th New York (Mozart) charged up to the open space, and, taking the rifle-pits in reverse, drove out their occupants and held the ground. By this time, Gen. Jameson had brought up the rear brigade of the division; whereby, under a severe fire, a second line was established, and two columns of regiments made disposable for further operations, when thick darkness closed in, and our soldiers rested, in rain and mire, on the field they had barely won.

Gen. Heintzelman, who had at Yorktown been charged by Gen.

1 Gen. McClellan, in his report, says:

It is my opinion that the enemy opposed us here with only a portion of his army. When our cavalry first appeared, there was nothing but the enemy's rear-guard in Williamsburg: although troops were brought back during the night and the next day, to bold the works as long as possible, in order to gain time for the trains, etc, already well on their way to Richmond, to make their escape.

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