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[233] brigade mustered about four thousand men for duty.

At a little before eight A. M., the word was given, and these two brigades moved forward. Sickles's line was formed across the Williamsburgh road, and he advanced in the direction of that thoroughfare, his second regiment on his right, the fourth next to it, and both these regiments on the right of the Williamsburgh road. To the left of the road, in the order in which they are named, the Fifth, First and Third were formed. Sickles's left stretched about three hundred yards to the left of the road. Grover's line joined on to Sickles's left, and was formed of the First Massachusetts on the right and the Eleventh Massachusetts on the left. His other regiments were at hand, ready for use anywhere. Both brigades advanced in line of battle, with skirmishers out in front.

In a few moments the whole line disappeared in the woods, Sickles's part of it more slowly than the other; for the left of his line had to move through an abattis that was very difficult, and was thus detained. Through this means, also, the regularity of his line was broken, and it did not get into action so soon. Only a few moments had elapsed after the disappearance of Grover when the scattered “pop,” “pop,” “pop,” told that he had reached the enemy's pickets. This little fire continued for only a few moments — rattled rapidly once, twice, thrice up and down the line, and was over — and Grover went on. The enemy's outer line was driven in. Slowly and cautiously the advance was continued.

When the pickets were driven in, they formed on the picket-reserve some distance in their rear, and after some little delay, with difficult ground and necessary caution, Grover's skirmishers came upon their second line. They disputed the ground tenaciously. Nearly all their front appeared to be held by North--Carolina troops, whom we have found to be by far, the best and bravest troops of the Southern Confederacy. These gallant fellows stood to their post and kept up a rapid and accurate fire that galled our line severely, until they were fairly driven back in rout by Grover's steady advance.

The stout resistance of these pickets gave ample time for the formation of Hill's division, to which they belonged, and which is made up in great part of North-Carolina troops. This division, supported by the division of Gen. Huger, now advanced to meet our line, and in a little while the ball was fairly opened. So rapid was the rattle of the fire at this time, that the sound seemed to be without cessation — without pause or interval--one continuous rattle of rifles. This fire was very severe, and wounded men now began to find their way to the rear — some on stretchers, others leaning on the shoulders of a comrade, and others again, with a brave pride, determined to help themselves and “go it alone.”

Gen. Sickles, for the reasons we have given, did not become engaged as soon as Gen. Grover, and when the very heavy fire was heard on the latter's front the Excelsior brigade was still only under the irregular picket-fire of the enemy's outer line. By degrees, as they advanced, this fire became hotter, until it broke into the rattle of several thousands of rifles — a fire fully as intense and severe as that on the left. On Sickles's front it was straightforward work. He had only to keep his men up to it and push on; and this was well and gallantly done.

When Grover advanced his line it was understood that Kearney's line, which joined Hooker's at that point, was to have been advanced also; but, as it did not keep up, Grover's position became dangerous just in proportion to his apparent success; for his flank was left exposed to the attack of the rebels, who filled the woods in front of Kearney. To guard against mishaps in that quarter, and to establish the connection with Kearney, he threw out on his left five companies of the Massachusetts Sixteenth, which regiment was held in reserve. At about the same time, as the fire continued terribly severe in front, he placed a battalion of the New-Hampshire Second on his extreme right, to strengthen his connection with Sickles's left, and placed the remainder of the same regiment between the Massachusetts First and Eleventh, where there was some appearance of weakness. Thus strengthened in front, and provided against attack on his flank, he went on.

Berry's brigade soon began, however, to push forward on Grover's left, drove the enemy rapidly and easily before it, and advanced until they completed the line from Grover's left. Robinson's brigade (late Jameson's) was subsequently pushed in between Berry's and Grover's, and continued the movement. But the enemy was not at any time in great force beyond Grover's left, so that the fight in that direction was not severe.

At half-past 9 our line was brought to a stand-still. It was evident that the enemy was in great force along the whole line. Near that hour the Fifth New-Jersey was sent out as a reserve to Sickles, the Second New-York to reenforce his advance, and a regiment of Sedgwick's division. The Nineteenth Massachusetts was pushed in on his right, so as to extend his line to the railroad. Still, with occasional intermissions of comparative quiet, the fire raged along the whole front of the two devoted brigades, and seemed even to rage with intenser fury, as it approached the road on which the Excelsior brigade had advanced.

When the rebels found that our boys were not going to give way under any circumstances, they concluded to give way themselves. Their disposition to do so first appeared in front of Grover. It was hailed with a hearty cheer by our boys, who pushed ahead, and, now that the machine was fairly started, went on with a rush. In a few minutes they broke out into the open field, and the object was so far gained at that point. A battery was sent down to Kearney to play on the enemy's flank and shell the masses in retreat.

Grover was not, however, permitted to hold the ground he had gained in quiet. An attempt

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J. A. Grover (14)
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