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[210] the entire force brought into the field, should be explained. This is essential to the complete understanding of the part taken by and the disposition made of the various commands in the action.

According to this plan, the division of General Stevens was to form the assaulting column against the enemy's works at Secessionville, and being formed in the utmost silence at his outer pickets, was to move forward at the first break of day upon the enemy's batteries, while the remainder of the troops, comprising Willliams's brigade and a part of my division, moving together from the camp at Grimball's, were to act as a support to Gen. Stevens, protecting his left and rear from an attack of the enemy's forces from that direction. So important was the duty assigned to this covering force deemed, and so convinced was Gen. Benham of the probability of an attack in that direction, that he ordered in the event of the repulse of Stevens, that the covering troops should not resume the assault.

The parts to be performed by the two columns were therefore well defined and distinctly understood. That of Gen. Stevens was to assault and carry the works at Secessionville: that composed of the troops of Gen. Williams's brigade and my division were to cover the assault, and protect it from attack on the left and rear. The organization of the left column having been left to me, I added to the brigade of Williams the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania regiment and one section of Hamilton's battery, and arranged the force as follows:

Acting Brig.-Gen. Williams's brigade.--1--Third Rhode Island, five companies; 2--Third New-Hampshire, ten companies; 3--Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania, six companies; 4--company E, Third artillery, one section.

Col. Chatfield's brigade.--5--Sixth Connecticut, two companies; 7--Forty-seventh New-York, eight companies.

Col. Welsh's brigade.--8--Forty-fifth Pennsylvania, six companies; 9--First New--York volunteer engineers, three companies; 10--artillery, two sections; 11--cavalry, two squadrons.

The remaining troops were left in camp and on picket duty, from which they could not be withdrawn without compromising the safety of the camps and depot.

Orders were issued to call the men at two A. M., and to have them in line for marching at three A. M.

All this was accomplished, and at the appointed time the column was in motion, and proceeded to and formed under cover of the woods about one mile in advance of our camp, to await information of the advance of Gen. Stevens's column, as had been agreed upon.

Prior to receiving such intelligence, however, a few stray shots on our right and to our front indicated that Gen. Stevens's command was advancing, and without waiting farther, the column was at once pushed forward.

By this time daylight was upon us, but as the morning was dark and cloudy, objects could not be clearly discovered to any considerable distance. I should remark here that just after or about the time I gave the order for the advance from camp, I was joined by General Benham, who assumed the command of the column, and who retained it during the action, leaving me responsible for my division only.

Moving rapidly to the front, I formed my command partly behind a hedge-row parallel to the front of the enemy's works, partly a little in rear, and brought up two pieces of artillery to open upon the enemy, and then proceeded to the front, to ascertain exactly the condition of affairs there.

I should have stated that soon after the column was put in motion from the wood where it had been halted, a messenger came from General Stevens to say that he was advancing; and before we had reached our position, a message from Gen. Stevens asking immediate support was answered by an order from Gen. Benham to Acting Brig.-Gen. Williams to report to General Stevens with his command. This was a change in the original programme, by taking from the covering column the brigade under Williams, and adding it to the assaulting column. On reaching the front, I found that the command of Gen. Stevens was falling back; that a portion had been formed behind the advance hedge-row; that the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania was behind the same hedge on the left of Gen. Stevens, and that the Third New-Hampshire and Third Rhode Island, which had been pushed well up to our left of the enemy's works and on the left of the marsh, were hotly engaged, and under a cross fire from the works and from a force of the enemy's artillery and infantry on our left, in a low growth of bushes which covered them from view. The performances of these regiments and their gallant bearing under a most destructive fire, will be detailed by their immediate commander, Gen. Williams, and I refer to them at all only with a view to their connection with the movements of the rest.

To silence the fire on our left, just referred to, and to be able to resist more promptly any attack from that point, a section of Hamilton's battery was brought into the field to the left of the marsh, and opened on the enemy; and the Forty-seventh regiment, of Col. Chatfield's brigade, was also brought forward, and formed in line of battle to the left, in face of the low growth of bushes to which I have alluded — a measure which was executed with the most admirable coolness and in perfect order. The fire of our battery soon silenced that of the enemy, which was not resumed. The other troops of my command maintained their original position through the entire engagement, except the volunteer engineers, who, by my direction, changed front forward to the left, to cover the approach in that direction.

Although not actually engaged with the enemy, the troops of my command were constantly under the fire of the enemy's artillery, which was at times very warm, and which was borne most unflinchingly by officers and men, who were anxious to be brought up face to face with the enemy.


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