previous next

[85] the enemy I could see no point of pressure likely to yield to the repeated assaults of our brave soldiers, and so I returned to my command to wait patiently for the hour when we might be called to share in the duty and danger of our brave brethren engaged in the contest. By stepping forward to the brow of the hill which covered us, a distance of ten yards, we were in full view of the rebel stronghold — the batteries along the crest of the ridge called Stansbury Hill and skirting Hazel Run. For three fourths of an hour before we were ordered into action, I stood in front of my regiment on the brow of the hill and watched the fire of the rebel batteries as they poured shot and shell from sixteen different points upon our devoted men on the plains below. It was a sight magnificently terrible. Every discharge of enemy's artillery and every explosion of his shells were visible in the dusky twilight of that smoke-crowned hill. There his direct and enfilading batteries, with the vividness, intensity, and almost the rapidity of lightning, hurled the messengers of death in the midst of our brave ranks, vainly struggling through the murderous fire to gain the hills and the guns of the enemy. Nor was it any straggling or ill-directed fire. The arrangement of the enemy's guns was such that they could pour their concentrated and incessant fire upon any point occupied by our assailing troops, and all of them were plied with the greatest skill and animation. During all this time the rattle of musketry was incessant.

About sunset there was a pause in the cannonading and musketry, and orders came for our brigade to fall in. Silently but unflinchingly the men moved out from under their cover, and when they reached the ground, quickened their pace to a run. As the head of the column came in sight of the enemy, at a distance of about three fourths of a mile from their batteries, when close to Slaughter's house, it was saluted with a shower of shell from the enemy's guns on the crest of the hill. It moved on by the flank down the hill into the plain beyond, crossing a small stream which passes through the city, and empties into Hazel Run, then over another hill to the line of railroad. We moved at so rapid a pace, that many of the men relieved themselves of their blankets and haversacks, and in some instances of their great-coats, which in most cases were lost. By countermarch, we extended our line along the railroad, the right resting toward the city, and the left near Hazel Run. In the formation of the column, the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey had preceded my regiment, and at this point their line covered my front. As we passed the brow of the hill, and moved down on to the line of the railroad, the enemy opened fire upon us from his batteries with renewed vigor. At the same time our batteries in the rear were answering his, and the heavens were illuminated with exploding shells from front and rear. Having extended our lines along the line of the railroad, the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey took the shelter afforded by the right embankment of the railroad, and my men the partial cover afforded by the left embankment. It was for a moment only. The words, Forward! Charge! ran along the lines. The men sprang forward, and moved at a run, crossed the railroad into a low muddy swamp on the left, which reaches down to Hazel Run, the right moving over higher and less muddy ground, all the time the batteries of the enemy concentrating their terrible fire and pouring it upon the advancing lines. Suddenly the cannonading and musketry of the enemy ceased. The shouts of our men also were hushed, and nothing was heard along the line save the command: Forward, men — steady — close up. In this manner we continued to advance in the direction of the enemy's batteries. I moved on the right of the regiment, Lieut.-Col. Bowers in the centre, and Major Storer on the left. From some cause the left wing of the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey separated from the right, and the left of my line passed forward and took the advance, the right of the Twenty-fifth still having the advance of my right.

In this way we moved forward, until within about twenty yards of the celebrated “stone wall” at the foot of the hill, on the crest of which, according to rebel accounts, was placed the well-known “Washington batteries.”

I do not speak at random of our position. I verified it by subsequent observation, and by the report of a brave and intelligent soldier, sent by myself on the Thursday following the battle, with our burial party, and who assisted in performing the last rite upon some of our dead who lay there. I am proud to say that the regiment which I had the honor to command, in connection with the right wing of the Twenty-fifth New-Jersey, gained a point much nearer the “stone wall” and the rebel guns than any of our forces during that unfortunate day, and that the officers and men advanced firmly though rapidly to the attack, and were withdrawn only in the face of a fire which, during the whole day, had successfully repulsed the desperate bravery of chosen and veteran troops.

Before we reached the point of which I have been speaking, we came to an irregular ravine or gully, into which, in the darkness of the night, the lines plunged, but immediately gained the opposite side, and were advancing along the level ground toward the stone wall. Behind that wall, and in rifle-pits on its flanks, were posted the enemy's infantry — according to their statements--four ranks deep, and on the hill, a few yards above, lay in ominous silence their death-dealing artillery. It was while we were moving steadily forward that, with one startling crash, with one simultaneous sheet of fire and flame, they hurled on our advancing lines the whole terrible force of their infantry and artillery. The powder from their musketry burned in our very faces, and the breath of their artillery was hot upon our cheeks. The “leaden rain and iron hail” in an instant forced back the advancing lines upon those who were close to them in the rear; and before the men could be rallied to renew the charge, the lines had been hurled back by the irresistible fire


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Hazel Run (West Virginia, United States) (4)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Storer (1)
Philip A. Bowers (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: