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[245] point, until they were glad to cease attack. The warrior was advised by Gen. McClellan to retire quietly to our main body; but the old man, game as a king-eagle, begged to be permitted to drive the rebels home. Said a General to me: “Old Bull Sumner didn't want to quit. The game old fellow had to be choked off.” Hereafter, ye carping critics, when military faults are censured, bring not Williamsburgh up in judgment against heroic Sumner. Nobly has he redeemed his name.

That battle in the forests was a contest of desperation. A haughty and revengeful foe, confident in victory and numbers, pressed us to the wall, and that spirit of resistance which should inflame every army of the North against those who war upon constitutional liberty, met them hand to hand, steel to steel, and drove them to their dens. It was a Sunday battle.

That night there was another strange meteorological phenomenon. I suppose it was about midnight. The lights at headquarters were still blazing. The Commander was yet working with unyielding devotion; aids were still riding fast, but all else was silent. I had just fallen into slumber — the first during two weary nights — when I was startled by what we all thought was the terrific uproar of battle. Again and again it thundered, and rolled sublimely away off on the borders of Chickahominy. For some moments we feared the enemy had crossed the river behind our rear-guard, and was destroying our right wing in the darkness. Many who suspected they might be victims of a delusion — most natural in that critical period, when nothing but the sound of cannon and musketry had been the most familiar sound of our camps for months — criticised their senses sharply, but still the uproar was so wonderfully like battle, that we could not shake the opinion from our minds that a night-fight was going on. Five minutes elapsed, I suppose, before the ragged crown of a black cloud in the distance reared itself above the forests, and dispelled the gloomy deception.

Morning beamed upon us again brilliantly but hotly. We thanked Heaven that it had not rained. The enemy had not yet appeared in our front. Sumner had brought off his splendid command, Franklin was posted strongly on the south bank of White Oak Creek; Heintzelman was on his left; Keyes's corps was moving swiftly to James River, down the Charles City and Quaker road; Porter and part of Sumner's corps were following rapidly.

Moving to the rear to learn the fate of friends, the history of yesterday's bitter conflict was sketched for me in the haggard features of the weary men who had fallen exhausted into their forest bivouac. Brave old Sumner's face bore traces of the excoriating fire of battle, but his features were radiant with smiles. He was eloquent in his praises of his command. “Burns had borne the brunt of the fight, and he did it magnificently, sir.” Sedgwick, who had been sick for days, had stemmed the torrent grimly. His first words were: “B., that was Burns's fight. He showed himself a splendid soldier. Let the world know his merits. He deserves all you can say.” Sedgwick seldom praises men. But he is a gallant soldier himself, and he appreciates merit. I found General Burns stretched under a lofty pine, and his warriors were slumbering around him painfully. His eyes were hollow and bloodshot, his handsome features pale and thin, his beard and his clothing were clotted with blood, his face was bandaged, concealing a ragged and painful wound in his nether jaw — it was enough to make a Sphynx weep to look upon the work of an awful day upon such a man. His voice was husky from his exhortations and battle-cries, and tremulous with emotion, when, grasping my hand, he said with exquisite pathos: “My friend, many of my poor fellows lie in those forests. It is terrible to leave them there. Blakeney is wounded, McGonigle is gone, and many will see us no more. We are hungry and exhausted, and the enemy — the forest is full of people — are thundering at our heels. It is an awful affliction. We will fight them, feeble as we are — but with what hope!” To know such a man; to feel how keenly he realized the situation; to watch his quivering lips and sad play of features, usually so joyous — O friends! it was anguish itself. And there was a townsman of yours there, who won imperishable honor — William G. Jones, Lieutenant-Colonel, who but one short week ago took command of the First California regiment. He handled it like a veteran, and behaved like a Bayard. His new command, fired by his enthusiasm and daring even beyond their old prowess, did deeds which General Sumner himself said entitled them to the glory of heroes. So hot was the fight and so hot the work, that Jones once fell headlong from his horse, from exhaustion, but recovering soon, he resumed his sword and again led his gallant fellows to the charge. General Burns speaks so warmly of the devotion and heroism of George Hicks, of Camblos, and Blakeney, and Griffiths, his staff and his Colonels, Morehead, Baxter, and Owens, their countrymen should know their worth. So Sedgwick speaks of his Adjutant, Captain Sedgwick, and of Howe, his aid. So Sumner speaks of Clark, and of Kipp, and of Tompkins, and of all in his command. In that fray Sedgwick's division lost six hundred men, and four hundred more of various corps are not among their comrades. General Brooks also was wounded in the right leg, but not seriously. The enemy first attacked at Orchard station, near Fair Oaks, in the morning, but were soon driven off. At about noon they returned in heavy force from the front of Richmond, while a strong column was thrown across Chickahominy, at Alexander's bridge, near the railway-crossing. They first appeared in the edge of the woods south of Trent's, and opened upon our column on the Williamsburgh road with shell. At the same time they trained a heavy gun upon our line from the bridge they had just crossed. They still seemed deluded with the belief that General McClellan intended to retreat to the Pamunkey, and all day long they had marched heavy columns


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