New-York, Col. Senter, constituting the left; the Fifteenth Massachusetts, Lieut.-Colonel Kimball commanding, supporting Kirby's battery, which was posted at the right of the line, and trained at a point of woods a little to the left of the railway station, this being the field to which the enemy had driven Gen. Abercrombie. Two of his regiments were still stubbornly contesting the field. Col. Cochrane's First United States Chasseurs, (New-York,) and Col. Neill's Pennsylvania regiments, and a Pennsylvania battery were in line of battle at Gorman's right, forming an obtuse angle projecting toward the battery, and facing in a north-westerly direction. Gen. Burns formed his brigade in line of battalions in mass, forming the second line in support of Gorman. But one of the regiments had not formed, when the enemy opened a furious enfilading fire of musketry on our right, in a direction from which fire was not expected, indicating an effort to turn our right flank. Gen. Sedgwick immediately directed General Burns to deploy to the right, perpendicular to the line of battle, with the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-second Pennsylvania, to protect our flank and prevent the enemy from getting into our rear, while the Seventy-first and One Hundred and Sixth Pennsylvania were held by Sedgwick in support of Gorman. The moment, however, was most critical. The fury of the attack, the dangerous proximity of the enemy, his great force and perfect knowledge of the ground, startled our gallant fellows. Gen. Sumner and his staff were directly in front of the battery, looking for the enemy, rather to the left, when the balls flew around them like hail. Several of their horses and two or three battery-teams stampeded, and for a moment the line of battle seemed to waver. At that instant, Gen. Burns, with quick judgment comprehending the critical situation, shoutted in a cool, determined tone: “Steady, men, steady!” It operated like magic. The Zouaves burst into a loud, long series of hearty yells, which possibly were heard at Richmond. One after another the regiments were infected with enthusiasm, and before there was time to think of danger again, Gorman's gallant line had dressed up compactly, and were delivering rapid and murderous discharges at the approaching foe. The enemy advanced firmly, and were charging upon Kirby's battery, when he poured into them a fearful discharge of canister. Unable to support such a fire, the enemy gave way and retired precipitately to cover. Prisoners captured during the fight assert that Jeff. Davis was in the rear, urging his myrmidons forward; and Magruder, who was with him, swore a fearful oath, “That's my old battery, and I'm going to have it,” alluding to Kirby's, which he, Magruder, formerly commanded. Meantime part of Dana's brigade had come up. His Nineteenth Massachusetts and Forty-second New-York had been detached for picket duty and artillery guards. His Seventh Michigan and Twentieth Massachusetts deployed into line on Gorman's left, and the line of battle commenced moving to the right, delivering terrific volleys at the enemy, who were sweeping in force to their left. Again and again they pushed forward. Masses of them gathered in the forest, attempting to dash at the battery, but were as often swept back by murderous hurricanes of lead and canister. The battle raged for two hours with unremitting fury. The rebels found it impossible to break our inflexible lines, and we found it difficult to shake him off. Dana's wing was finally swung round almost on the hypothenuse of an angle to the original line of battle, his gallant Michiganders and Bay-State lads sweeping the perimeter of the circle they were describing, with irresistible fury. Gorman's line had extended itself on the right, until his left rested in front and in advance of the first position of his right, his line being swung round at right angles with the crest of the hill, and Burns's two regiments, executing the order of Sedgwick, found themselves lapping over Gorman's extreme right; the enemy was fighting perpendicular to our old front. The officers were all in their places, animating and encouraging the men by their example, and the men moving unflinchingly towards their foe. Dana, on the left, narrowly escaped death. His dashing gray received a bullet in his crest, which he cast off with a snort of despair. The next instant three balls struck him in the body. Rearing and plunging with convulsive agony, he dismounted his rider, fled frantically up the field, and fell dead in front of Kirby's battery. Gorman was moving up and down his glorious line, exhibiting fiery enthusiasm, and enjoying the proudest hours of his life. The men were delivering their fire with admirable coolness and regularity, and with a quick, nervous energy, which indicated their determination to decide the conflict. The enemy, too, fought rapidly and well. Sedgwick was gallantly moving to the right and left, reckless of personal hazard; and Burns held his forces firmly in hand on the right, waiting the decisive moment. The sun had set grimly, flinging his last rays feebly through the thick smoke which hovered over field and forest. Darkness had enveloped the fearful spectacle, only to add gloom to its horrors. The enemy still clung in masses to the thick woods, now and then dashing out at the battery, only to be driven back with cruel punishment. Thousands of muskets in streaming volleys, with the sonorous roar of cannon and the hoarse screams of the combatants created an uproar as if fiends had been unleashed to prey upon each other. Storms of bullets and canister tore wide passages through the trees and mangled the bodies of men. Baleful fires gleamed among the foliage, as if myriads of huge fire-flies were flitting among the boughs, and there was a fringe of flame blazing on the skirts of the thickets, while outside, another and a fiercer flame girdling the centre, seemed burning into the hedge which screened our enemy. It was past eight o'clock before the carnage ceased. Knowing that the foe was in superior force, and menacing our flank, we were compelled to meet his point of attack without attempting to envelop
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