Gen. Dana was indefatigable in his labors to get the troops off the transports, and through his exertions most of the men and horses were off the boats by nine o'clock, and preparations were being made to breakfast the men of this brigade, when the order was given for the Sixteenth, Thirty-first, and Thirty-second New-York, and the Ninety-fifth and Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania regiments to advance into the woods and drive off some of the rebel scouts who were firing occasional shots at our pickets, supposed to be supported by a force concealed in the woods. This proved correct, for no sooner had our men made an advance into the woods than they were received with a volley of musketry from the rebels, who were hidden in the dense undergrowth. Our men pressed on and gave them a volley, after which the enemy retreated further into the woods, with the Thirty-second New-York close at their heels; but they were too swift-footed for our boys — being more protected — and they soon left the Thirty-second struggling in the mud. While this scene had been going on on the right centre, another was transpiring on the centre where the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania had entered the woods. In a few moments after they entered they found themselves in a dense swamp, and, in their struggles to get across, became separated from each other. One of the companies managed to get to the other side, and was climbing the bank on the opposite side when they descried a party of soldiers lying in ambush. “Who comes there” cried the party in ambush. “Friends,” was the answer. “What are you?” was the next interrogation. “A company of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania.” No sooner was this answer returned than the party, whom the captain had mistaken for some of his own regiment, opened a terrible fire upon our men, who returned the fire and then returned to our reserves. In this affair Capt. Beates, of company B, was shot through the shoulder, but not dangerously wounded, and one or two privates, whose names I am as yet unable to learn, were killed, and carried off the field by their friends, who, before they quit the ground, revenged the fall of their brave comrades by giving the enemy a few well-directed volleys. But now the action became more general throughout the lines, and from every quarter of the woods came the sharp crack of musketry. I tried for a time to be ubiquitous, but after travelling from one point to another some fifty times, for the purpose of seeing how matters were going, I took my stand on the right, and calmly awaited the coming events. The sharp reports came nearer and nearer, and at length a ball lodged in a tree at my side. I was about to move from my dangerous quarters, when my attention was attracted to that portion of the woods where the Thirty-first and Thirty-second New-York State militia had entered. Four men were carrying the body of a man, which, upon inquiry, I understood to be that of Capt. Young, of company G, of the Thirty-second regiment, who was shot in the throat and died instantly. The fight had now been going on for three hours here without intermission, and a number of men were killed and wounded. At this juncture our men were withdrawn from the wood, where they were evidently getting the worst of it, and the Second United States artillery, under Capt. Arnold, was ordered into position on the right, and Capt. Porter's First Massachusetts battery took up a position upon the left, and in a few minutes the shell were flying through the air at the rate of about ten a minute. This soon compelled the rebels to make a move more on our left, where the shells flew less thick than upon the ground they were then occupying. But there evidently is no rest for the wicked: for no sooner had the rebels moved their forces upon our left, than our gunboats, which up to that time had been unable to have a hand in the affair, opened their batteries upon the foe with so much effect that, when I commenced to write, they had completely driven the enemy out of sight and hearing. I am inclined to think that this move upon our left was an expensive one to the rebels, who, ere this reaches the readers of the Herald, will have learned that near our gunboats is not one of the safest places that can be found. As soon as the guns of Capt. Porter commenced to fire among them, accompanied by those from the river, the rebels undertook to move one of their batteries which they had got into position. The New-Jersey regiment received orders to charge upon this battery, and at it they went, with cheers that made the very forests ring; but the rebels were again too fleet-footed. Before the Jersey boys got through the woods, the enemy had made tall travelling, and got out of sight in the woods. Everybody has done well, and the troops have acted nobly. They have been under arms all day thus far, and standing in the broiling sun without anything whatever to eat, except that which they may have had in their haversacks. I have yet to hear a word of complaint from any quarter. The idea of having an opportunity to have a fight with the rebels seems to have absorbed all their other faculties. More troops are constantly arriving, and just now Capt. Saunders's company of Massachusetts sharp-shooters pass by me on their road to the front. These are the men who are able to teach the rebels that two parties can lie concealed in the woods. The artillery has now ceased firing, and I hear nothing except the occasional discharge of a musket; it seems to be far off towards Williamsburgh. I think we have got into their rear, and if we have, we intend halting them for a few hours until General McClellan can come up to carry them back to their deserted quarters at Yorktown. At the close of the action in the afternoon the Fifth Maine regiment won encomiums from all the staff for their bravery in heading an advance into the woods upon the left. The gunboats are still throwing shell into the woods, to keep the enemy from erecting batteries. We expect to have an attack or make an
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