the brigade of General Branch having been directed to move to the bridge some seven miles above, where the Brooke turnpike crosses the Chickahominy; the batteries of Braxton, Andrews, Pegram, Crenshaw, McIntosh, Bachman, and Johnson, with five extra horses to each gun,--Johnson's battery accompanied Branch,--in all, about fourteen thousand men. The brigades and batteries were entirely concealed from the view of the enemy. My orders were, that General Jackson, moving down from Ashland, would inform General Branch of his near approach. As soon as Jackson crossed the Central Railroad, Branch was to cross the Chickahominy, and, taking the river road, push on and clear the Meadow Bridge. This done, I was to cross at Meadow Bridge, and, sweeping down to Mechanicsville, to open the way for General Longstreet. It was expected that General Jackson would be in the position assigned him at “early dawn,” and all my preparations were made with a view of moving early. General Branch did not, however, receive intelligence from General Jackson until about ten o'clock, when he immediately crossed and proceeeded to carry out his instructions. He was delayed by the enemy's skirmishers, and advanced but slowly. Three o'clock having arrived, and no intelligence from Jackson or Branch, I determined to cross at once, rather than hazard the failure of the whole plan by longer deferring it. General Field, already selected for the advance, being in readiness, seized the bridge, and the fortieth Virginia, Colonel Brockenbrough, leading, his brigade passed over, meeting but slight opposition, the enemy falling back to Mechanicsville. The division being safely over, Anderson and Archer followed. Field, Gregg, and Pender turned short to the right, and moved through the fields, to cooperate on the right of the first column. Beaver Dam Creek curves around Mechanicsville, the high banks being on the north side, and in possession of the enemy. This naturally strong line of defence had been made very much stronger by rifle pits and earthen epaulements for guns. The enemy opened a concentrated fire of artillery on the head of Field's column, who, throwing his brigade into line of battle, with Pegram in the centre, steadily advancing, drove the enemy from Mechanicsville. Anderson was ordered to make a flank movement to the left, and take in reverse a battery which was spiteful in its activity, while McIntosh was sent forward to attract its attention, and keep it employed. Archer was moved up to the support of Field, and formed in line on his (Field's) left, with his own left resting on the turnpike — Braxton being sent to the assistance of McIntosh. Gregg and Pender approached the village in line of battle, over the hills and open fields, from the direction of the road. Field having driven the enemy from the village and its surroundings, across Beaver Dam Creek to his stronghold, Pender was ordered to support those brigades already engaged, and to take position on the right of Field. This was gallantly done in the face of a murderous fire. Andrews galloped up to the assistance of Pegram. The battle now raged furiously along my whole line. The artillery fire from the enemy was terrific. Their position along Beaver Dam Creek was too strong to be carried by a direct attack, without heavy loss; and expecting every moment to hear Jackson's guns on my left and in rear of the enemy, I forbore to order the storming of their lines. General Branch, having come up, was ordered forward as a support to the brigades already engaged, and Johnson's battery took position near McIntosh and Braxton. Gregg was held in reserve near Mechanicsville. The thirty-eighth North Carolina, Colonel Hoke, and the thirty-fourth North Carolina, Colonel Riddick, of Pender's brigade, made a gallant but abortive attempt to force a crossing. Meeting General Ripley, who had crossed his brigade at the Mechanicsville Bridge, I requested him to turn the enemy's left lower down the creek. This was gallantly attempted, but failed, and with heavy loss. Anderson, with the Thirty-fifth Georgia, Colonel E. L. Thomas, leading, had moved as heretofore directed, and encountering the enemy, drove them back; and Colonel Thomas, with his regiment, crossed the creek, and gained an admirable position for charging the enemy's batteries. The Fourteenth Georgia, Lieutenant-Colonel Folsom, pushed forward to his support; but Lieutenant-Colonel Folsom being stricken down, the regiment lost his gallant leading, and but few crossed. Colonel Thomas held his own until the battle closed, when he withdrew, and joined his brigade, on the south side of the creek. The battle ceased about nine o'clock, my brigade resting along the creek, the object of this attack, my clearing the way for Longstreet, having been justly accomplished. It was never contemplated that my division alone should have sustained the shock of this battle; but such was the case, and the only assistance received was from Ripley. Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, commanding Nineteenth Georgia, and Major Bronaugh, Park battalion, were killed, and Colonels Starke, Connor, Hoke, Thomas, A. J. Lane, and Lieutenant-Colonel Folsom and Captain Vandigraff, commanding Fifth Alabama battalion, wounded. Cold Harbor. The morning of the twenty-seventh, before dawn, the enemy again opened a rapid fire of artillery, it being directed principally to the village of Mechanicsville. My division was directly under arms. This shelling having continued some hour or more, I was directed by General Lee to take the route to Gaines's Mill. Gregg's brigade was put in advance. It was soon found that the enemy had retired from his lines along Beaver Dam Creek, two companies from Gregg's brigade having handsomely dashed across and cleared the pits of the few men left as a blind. The evidences of precipitate retreat were palpable all along the route. Arriving at the creek, upon which Gaines's Mill is located, half a mile from Cold Harbor, the enemy were discovered upon the opposite bank.
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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