a letter which you had addressed to General Kearny, requesting him to attack at once with his whole force, as the rebel General Longstreet, who was expected to reenforce the enemy during the day, had not yet arrived on the battle-field, and we might hope to gain decisive advantages before his arrival. I then ordered a general advance of my whole line, which was executed with great gallantry, the enemy yielding every where before us. In this charge the Twenty-ninth New-York distinguished itself by its firmness and intrepidity. Its commander, Col. Soest, while setting a noble example to his men, was wounded and compelled to leave the field. On my right, however, where Gen. Kearny had taken position, all remained quiet, and it became clear to me, that he had not followed your request to attack simultaneously with me. I am persuaded, if Gen. Kearny had done at that moment, what he did so gallantly late in the afternoon, that is to say, if he had thrown his column upon the enemy's left flank, enveloping the latter by a change of direction to the left, we might have succeeded in destroying the enemy's left wing and thus gained decisive results before Gen. Longstreet's arrival. As it was, I advanced and attacked alone. The fight came to a stand on my left at an old railroad embankment, running through the woods in a direction almost parallel to our front. From behind this cover the enemy poured a rapid and destructive fire into our infantry, who returned volley for volley. Col. Schimmelfennig's brigade on the right gained possession of this embankment, and advanced even beyond it, but found itself obliged by a very severe artillery and infantry fire to fall back, but the embankment remained in its possession. While this was going on, the battery of the First brigade, under Capt. Hampton, was ordered to march along the outer edge of the woods, in which Col. Schimmelfennig was engaged, and to take position there, in order to protect and facilitate the advance of my right. But the cross-fire of two of the enemy's batteries was so severe that Capt. Hampton's battery failed in two successive attempts to establish itself, until I sent Captain Rohmer's battery to its support, the place of the latter being filled by a battery brought from the reserve of Gen. Steinwehr. At this juncture you put two pieces of the mountain-howitzer battery at my disposal. I ordered Major Koenig of the Sixty-eighth New-York, temporarily attached to my staff, to bring them forward, and he succeeded in placing them in the line of skirmishers of Colonel Krzyzanowsky's brigade in so advantageous a position, that a few discharges sufficed to cause a backward movement of the enemy in front of my left. Now the whole line advanced with great alacrity, and we succeeded in driving the enemy away from his strong position behind the embankment, which then fell into our hands on my left also. While this was going on, I heard from time to time very heavy firing on my left, where General Milroy stood. The sound of the musketry was swaying forward and backward, indicating that the fight was carried on with alternate success The connection of my left with General Milroy's right was lost, and I found my left uncovered. However, we succeeded in holding the position of the railroad embankment along my whole front until two o'clock P. M., when my troops, who had started at five o'clock in the morning, mostly without breakfast, had been under fire for about eight hours, had been decimated by enormous losses, and had exhausted nearly all their ammunition, were relieved by a number of regiments, kindly sent by General Hooker for that purpose. These reenforcements arrived in my front between one and two o'clock. According to your orders I withdrew my regiments, one after another, as their places were filled by those of Gen. Hooker. Thus the possession of that portion of the woods which my division had taken and held was in good order delivered to the troops that relieved me. I called my two brigades behind the hill on which the battery of the Second brigade had been in position. Here the men took a new supply of ammunition, and for the first time on that day they received something to eat. From there you ordered me to take position in the woods on the right of the open ground, where we encamped for the night. The two mountain-howitzers which had done such excellent service in the contest in the woods I had left in position to cooperate with the troops who relieved me, and I am sorry to report that one of them was lost when these troops were temporarily driven back from the ground the possession of which we had delivered to them. Exhausted and worn down as my men were, my division was unable to take part in the action after two o'clock P. M.; nor was I called upon to do so. Heavy reenforcements were constantly arriving and led to the front. If all these forces, instead of being frittered away in isolated efforts, had cooperated with each other at any one moment, after a common plan, the result of the day would have been far greater than the mere retaking and occupation of the ground we had already taken and occupied in the morning, and which in the afternoon was, for a short time at least, lost again. My men, with but very few exceptions, behaved well. The line my weak regiments had to take and to hold was so extensive, that double the number of troops would, under ordinary circumstances, be hardly considered sufficient to perform the task. That they did perform it during many hours, without flinching, until the arrival of ample reenforcements made their relief possible, speaks well for their courage and intrepidity. Of those who especially distinguished themselves, I have to mention the two Colonels commanding brigades. Colonel Schimmelfennig commanded my right wing with that cool and daring courage, and that admirable judgment, which he had displayed already on former occasions, and which eminently fit him for commands of great responsibility; while the gallantry with which Col. Krzyzanowski, on the left wing, withstood
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.