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[340] ridge on the left of the Centreville road, about six hundred yards in advance of the ford, with two 6-pounder (smooth) guns. At first the firing of the enemy was at random, but by half past 12 P. M. he had obtained the range of our position, and poured into the brigade a shower of shot, but without injury to us in men, horses, or guns. From the distance, however, our guns could not reply with effect, and we did not attempt it, patiently awaiting a more opportune moment.

Meanwhile a light battery was pushed forward by the enemy, whereupon Kemper threw only six solid shot, with the effect of driving back both the battery and its supporting force. This is understood to have been Ayres' battery, and the damage must have been considerable to have obliged such a retrograde movement on the part of that officer.

The purposes of Kemper's position having now been fully served, his pieces and support were withdrawn across Mitchell's Ford, to a point previously designated, and which commanded the direct approaches to the ford.

About half-past 11 o'clock A. M., the enemy was also discovered by the pickets of Longstreet's brigade advancing in strong columns of infantry, with artillery and cavalry, on Blackburn's Ford.

At meridian the pickets fell back silently before the advancing fire across the ford, which — as well as the entire southern bank of the stream, for the whole front of Longstreet's brigade — was covered at the water's edge by an extended line of skirmishers, while two 6-pounders of Walton's battery, under Lieut. Garnett, were advantageously placed to command the direct approach to the ford, but with orders to retire to the rear as soon as commanded by the enemy.

The northern bank of the stream, in front of Longstreet's position, rises with a steep slope at least fifty feet above the level of the water, leaving a narrow berme in front of the ford of some 20 yards. This ridge formed for them an admirable natural parapet, behind which they could, and did approch, under shelter, in heavy force, within less than 100 yards of our skirmishers; the southern shore was almost a plain, raised but a few feet above the water for several hundred yards, then rising with a very gradual, gentle slope, and undulations, back to Manassas. On the immediate bank there was a fringe of trees, but with little, if any, undergrowth or shelter, while on the other shore there were timber and much thick brush and covering. The ground in the rear of our skirmishers, and occupied by our artillery, was an old field extending along the stream about one mile, and immediately back for about half a mile to a border or skirting of dense, second-growth pines. The whole of this ground was commanded at all points by the ridge occupied by the enemy's musketry, as was also the country to the rear, for a distance much beyond the range of 20-pounder rifle guns, by the range of hills on which their batteries were planted, and which, it may be further noted, commanded also all our approaches from this direction to the three threatened fords.

Before advancing his infantry the enemy maintained a fire of rifle artillery from the batteries just mentioned for half an hour, then he pushed forward a column of over 3,000 infantry to the assault, with such a weight of numbers as to be repelled with difficulty by the comparatively small force at not more than twelve hundred bayonets, with which Brigadier-General Longstreet met him with characteristic vigor and intrepidity. Our troops engaged at this time were the First and Seventeenth, and four companies of the Eleventh regiment Virginia volunteers; their resistance was resolute, and maintained with a steadiness worthy of all praise; it was successful, and the enemy was repulsed. In a short time, however, he returned to the contest with increased force and determination, but was again foiled and driven back by our skirmishers and Longstreet's reserve companies, which were brought up and employed at the most vigorously assailed points at the critical moment.

It was now that Brigadier-General Longstreet sent for reenforcements from Early's brigade, which I had anticipated by directing the advance of Gen. Early, with two regiments of infantry and two pieces of artillery. As these came upon the field the enemy had advanced a third time with heavy numbers to force Longstreet's position. Hay's regiment, 7th Louisiana volunteers, which was in advance, was placed on the bank of the stream, under some cover, to the immediate right and left of the ford, relieving Corse's regiment, 17th Virginia volunteers; this was done under a heavy fire of musketry, with promising steadiness. The 7th Virginia, under Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, was then formed to the right, also under heavy fire, and pushed forward to the stream, relieving the 1st regiment Virginia volunteers. At the same time, two rifle guns, brought up with Early's brigade, were moved down in the field to the right of the road, so as to be concealed from the enemy's artillery by the girth of timber on the immediate bank of the stream, and there opened fire, directed only by the sound of the enemy's musketry. Unable to effect a passage, the enemy kept up a scattering fire for some time. Some of our troops had pushed across the stream, and several small parties of Corse's regiment, under command of Capt. Mayre, met and drove the enemy with the bayonet; but as the roadway from the ford was too narrow for a combined movement in force, Gen. Longstreet recalled them to the south bank. Meanwhile, the remainder of Early's infantry and artillery had been called up — that is, six companies of the 24th regiment Virginia volunteers, under Lieut-Col. Hairston, and five pieces of artillery, one rifle gun and four six-pounder brass guns, including two 6-pounder guns under Lieut. Garnett, which had

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Longstreet (8)
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