previous next

[98] thought that an attack was impossible, or at least impracticable, either from friend or foe, owing to the. flood of rain which fell; but on Saturday morning early, our scouts reported that during the previous night the enemy had conveyed very heavy bodies of men across, or in the swamp, and that their retreat or extraction was almost a matter of impossibility. Towards nine A. M., on Saturday, we observed large bodies of troops of Longstreet's division moving towards and on the Williamsburgh road, with bands in full blast, colors flying, and men hilarious with delight, supposing, as was the case, that the enemy were to retreat or surrender.

Hastily proceeding down the road indicated, we found it almost impossible to pass, owing to the immense bodies of water lying along the route, together with an unlimited supply of mud. From Magruder's farm, and several miles further upon the turnpike, all seemed to be an impassable swamp. How regiment after regiment traversed the ground seems even now almost a problem. Yet onward, onward passed Longstreet's division toward the point of attack; and although everything appeared unusually quiet, there was a peculiar stir and rumbling in the woods and on the road, (some six miles, and in the woods fronting Barker's plantation,) which denoted that the enemy were unusually active, and anticipated our advance.

Between nine and ten A. M. a part of Hill's division was deployed as skirmishers on the right and left of the road, which was soon replaced by the arrival of Longstreet's veterans. Between eleven and twelve A. M. the Twenty-eighth Georgia and Second Mississippi were employed as skirmishers fronting the woods, and began the advance without much opposition; but as they proceeded along the turnpike, and in the woods, the enemy, concealed behind a fence and in force, opened a furious rifle fire, which, for a moment, caused our brave boys to wink and stagger. Yet, recovering themselves in an instant, they delivered a murderous volley in reply, and, with hearty cheers, dashed through the woods after their discomfited and frightened foe, driving them helter-skelter before them, and making many bite the cold, wet, and muddy ground.

Observing the strength of the enemy's line in front, our commander ordered up the Fourth North-Carolina, who, advancing in force, broke through the Second Mississippi battalion, in their hurried progress, and divided the latter corps in such a manner that, subsequently, their whole force could not be again collected. Brilliant in conception and execution, the finely drilled North-Carolinians flanked the enemy's dense line of skirmishers, and did such sad havoc by their flanking fire that the enemy precipitately fell back upon their unfinished breastwork in, and commanding the entrance to, the grounds of Barker's farm. This breastwork, however, is one of a chain of similar earthworks, which the invaders have erected this side of the Chickahominy stream, and, running parallel with it, are nearer to our forces from the north-west than north-cast; particularly so to those of ours stationed on the Mechanicsville road.

Having arrived in open ground, our forces commenced to howl in a fearful manner, terrifying the enemy with their indescribable sounds. The Fourth North-Carolina, regardless of consequences, shut their eyes to the chances, and attacked the work in gallant style, being supported by other regiments to the right and left. They gained their object, but it is said were unable to retain it, for the enemy's large brass howitzers dealt destruction among them, and it is reported they fell back in admirable order, until fresh troops could be brought to bear upon the hordes of Pennsylvania, who, in thousands, were pouring volleys upon them. At about this time (one P. M.) some other reenforcements of Longstreet's corps arriving, turned the tide of battle for a time, but not permanently. Among others, St. Paul's (Louisiana) battalion, (three companies) appeared upon the scene, and looking to where the fire was hottest, dashed into the enemy in French style with the bayonet, and with their watchword, “Butler,” upon their lips, drove everything before them, attacking odds in every instance, and not satisfying their vengeance until almost decimated.

Our artillery at this juncture came into play, and although the mud baffled human industry, patience and perseverance, some pieces of the Lynchburgh (Latham's we believe) battery got into position, at the entrance to Barker's farm, and played such havoc that the foe deserted their four large brass howitzers, unable to reply. But as the enemy's whole brigade camp (tents and all) were yet standing — as Barker's house, outhouse, etc., lay parallel to the road — and as a very large wood-pile was at right angles with it, the enemy, reenforced, crowded their breastworks, and from all these points kept up such a terrific fire that our men, appearing from the wood and on the road, were cut down as fast as discovered. Nothing daunted at the immense show and numbers of the foe, notwithstanding our artillery, from the nature of the roads and ground, was incapable of advancing, our infantry appeared upon their flanks, regiment after regiment, drove them from their hiding-places, capturing their guns, fortifications, and entire camp, with great supplies, and drove the foe two miles from their encampment of the morning.

The greatest and hottest fire was about four P. M., when Latham's and Carter's batteries got into action, supported by the Fourth and Fifth South-Carolina, First Virginia, Twelfth Mississippi, and other regiments. Having many valuables in camp, and it being well provided with tents, provisions, (including one hundred barrels of whisky,) they made a terrific effort to retrieve the day, and Gen. Casey, their commander, moved up every available man to support or cover his flying columns. Tents, provisions, guns, ambulances, wagons, spare horses, and, in fact, everything stationed on the Williamsburgh road, fell into our hands, and regiment after regiment of the enemy retreated to the Chickahominy faster

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
James Longstreet (4)
Israel Barker (3)
Matthew A. Latham (2)
Magruder (1)
D. H. Hill (1)
Silas Casey (1)
Hill Carter (1)
Benjamin F. Butler (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: