in front of his intrenchments with a strong battery. It was altogether probable the enemy would attempt to drive him back. The afternoon was wearing away wearily without serious demonstrations, and we had begun to suspect the enemy of some sinister design in remaining so undemonstrative. It was probably four or five o'clock, however, when, without premonition, a strong force pressed strongly upon Gen. Burns's picket-line. He sent word instantly to Hancock to prepare for action. The latter was vigilant, but he had hardly received the message, before a rebel battery of heavy guns opened a furious storm of shell upon him. A moment later a strong brigade pounced upon his pickets, pressed them in irresistibly, and dashed at his battery. Burns was also at work. His pickets had fallen back to their strong supports, and a warm battle was in progress in the woods. The bullets rattled briskly among our camps, but the combatants generally remained invisible, from the main line of battle. The scene was now exciting in the highest degree. Burns was working a dozen Napoleons and Parrotts; Smith's batteries were hurling shells fast and furious, and the rebel guns were bowling away as merrily. The air was filled with bursting shells and suffused with sulphurous smoke, while the forests were obscured with musket-mist. Our picket-reserves, however, held their ground manfully, and the enemy was briskly driven back, our lads yelling at them triumphantly. Hancock was victorious after a bitter fight, in which two Georgia regiments were almost cut to pieces. Our loss, though not half so great as that of the enemy, was not trifling. Among the prisoners captured by Hancock, was one of the smartest and most mischievous of Southern politicians, Col. J. Q. C. Lamar, of the First Georgia regiment, once member of Congress. His Lieutenant-Colonel was also captured. But apprehensions about Porter's battle had distressed officers all along. It seemed apparent that if the enemy defeated him, ruin threatened us from the rear. An attack in front indicated a disposition on the part of the rebels to force the issue we now deprecated. It was a grateful relief to drive them back in front so easily. All our supports had been sent to Porter. We had no more than men enough to hold the front. It would have been madness to have contended with an equal force of disciplined troops in front and rear. There would have been no alternative but hasty retreat at the sacrifice of most of our equipage and the siege-train, with the butchery of thousands of our troops. By this time, sunset, tidings of a gloomy character had been received from Porter. Not much later the extent of our misfortunes was partially comprehended by officers. For the first time we heard a whisper of a serious determination on the part of Gen. McClellan to “change his base of operations (? ) to James River.” It was considered a most critical movement — especially under compulsion. You have already heard some, and you will hear many more explanations of this calamitous but necessitous plan, but I sincerely believe it never would have been attempted but for the attack on our right wing. This question, however, will be the subject of controversy; I shall, therefore, withhold consideration of it in detail until more favorable conditions offer. Even before Porter had been driven back, I was struck with the singular operations at general headquarters. I discovered that they were being removed to Savage's station, and a competent officer explained gravely that it was thought advisable to go there, although it was in the rear of our left wing. After dark there were other ominous symptoms; general officers confided to their staffs their fears of coming disaster. Even with the best disciplined troops, and under favorable auspices, to change a plan of operations in the face of an enemy, is regarded by military authorities as one of the most dangerous enterprises. In our situation it was a case of desperation. With our force, we could not hold our positions against an enemy in front and rear longer than supplies on hand would last. An attempt to cut through lines of intrenchments and powerful redoubts, defended by a numerous and desperate enemy, would have been madness. We had no hope of reenforcements. Besides, it was now too late for them to form a junction with us, either by the Rappahannock route or by York River, since they would be cut off inevitably. There was but one extremely perilous alternative. The army must fall back on James River. A hope was entertained that the enemy would be deceived into the belief that we designed to fall back to the White House. Preparations were accordingly begun. Porter s command crossed the river without opposition. During the night, our bridges were blown up and the crossings were barricaded and defended. Keyes's line, which was on the extreme left resting upon White Oak Swamp, was prolonged, and our artillery and transportation trains were ordered to prepare to move forward. That night, Gen. Casey was also directed to destroy all public property at the White House that could not be removed, and to transport the sick and wounded to a place of safety, to retire himself, and rejoin the army on James River. Friday night was thus actively and mournfully passed. The troops were ignorant of the status, and it was desirable to conceal the truth from them. It was feared the enemy might attack on Saturday, and every preparation was made to resist successfully. Our defeated right was disposed on Trent's bluffs, where the enemy's crossing might be successfully opposed, and by daylight our main body of supports, after a severe night, resumed their original position. The night of Friday, June twenty-seventh, was gloomy, but it was felicity itself, compared with those of Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Saturday morning loomed upon us hotly and cheerlessly. Until nine o'clock not the sound of a hostile gun disturbed the dread silence. The profound stillness of morning became so oppressive that the dull report of a musket on the borders
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