Armistead, when his artillery fire had broken the enemy's lines, as it probably would do, to “charge with a yell,” and directing me to do the same. [See paper filed, marked No. 5.] I again gave orders to hasten the movements of the troops, and superintended them in person, as far as it was possible. The enemy's fire by this time became intense. I then received an order from General Lee, through Captain Dickinson, Assistant Adjutant-General, “to advance rapidly, press forward my whole line, and follow Armistead's successes, as the enemy were reported to be getting off.” （General Armistead had repulsed, driven back, and followed up a heavy body of the enemy's skirmishers.) [See paper marked No. 6.] Captain Dickinson informed me by note, at the same time, that Mahone's and Ransom's brigades, of Huger's division, would be ordered up immediately. Having completed the necessary arrangements for my three divisions, and not feeling myself at liberty to hesitate, under the stringency of my instructions, I galloped to the front, and, at the request of General Wright, again reconnoitred the enemy, in company with himself and General Armistead, from the meadow on the right and the hill in front, and arranged with them a simultaneous attack from that portion of the line under my command. Soon after, Mahone's brigade having arrived, and the hour growing late, I gave the order that Wright's brigade, supported by Mahone's, should advance and attack the enemy's batteries on the right; that Jones's division, expected momentarily, should advance on the front; and Ransom's brigade should attack on the left,--my plan being to hurl about fifteen thousand men against the enemy's batteries and supporting infantry, to follow up any successes they might obtain, and if unable to drive the enemy from his strong position, to continue the fight in front, by pouring in fresh troops, and in case they were repulsed, to hold strongly the line of battle where I stood, to prevent serious disaster to our own arms. This plan was substantially carried out, producing the favorable results which followed. Proceeding to execute it, I sent my principal Adjutant-General, Major Henry Bryan, to put in motion the brigade of General Wright. This was about half past 5 o'clock P. M. Having given Major Bryan ample time to execute this order, and finding Jones's division not yet up, owing to the extreme difficulty of the ground over which he had to pass, and having sent off all my staff officers on urgent errands, I proceeded to address a few words to Mahone's brigade, and ordered it forward. Returning rapidly to the centre, I directed General Armistead to advance with the remainder of his brigade. Being informed by him that his best troops were already in front, those in hand being raw, I directed the three regiments of Cobb's brigade, then on the spot, instead of Armistead's force, to advance in line and attack the enemy in front; and they moved forward accordingly, without delay. At this moment I sent an order to General Ransom, on my left, to advance; and I proceeded in person to Colonel Barksdale's brigade, of my own division, superintended its formation, and directed him to advance to the support of the troops who had already preceded him on the right. Here the fire of the enemy's grape, shrapnell, and round shot was terrific, stripping the limbs from the trees, and ploughing up the ground under our feet. This gallant brigade, not quailing for an instant, advanced steadily into the fight. On my return to the position I had selected, and to which I directed my staff officers to report, I learned by note from General Ransom, that neither he nor General Huger knew where the battery was, and that all orders coming to him must come through General Huger. [See paper filed, No. 7.] I sent several staff officers successively, urging him to advance to the front and attack on the left, and in support of those who, by this time, were hotly engaged; but this gallant officer felt himself constrained to obey his instructions, and withheld the desired support. He, nevertheless, afterward sent me one regiment, which was ordered into action on the left of those already engaged. The fire of musketry and artillery now raged with terrific fury. The battle-field was enveloped in smoke, relieved only by flashes from the lines of the contending troops. Round shot and grape crashed through the woods; and shells of enormous size, which reached far beyond the headquarters of our gallant Commander-in-Chief, burst amidst the artillery parked in the rear. Belgian missiles and minie balls lent their aid to this scene of surpassing grandeur and sublimity. Amidst all, our gallant troops in front pressed on to victory, now cheered by the rapid fire of friends on their left, as they had been encouraged in their advance by the gallant brigades on the right, commanded by Generals Wright and Mahone. Nevertheless, the enemy, from his strong position and great numbers, resisted stoutly the onset of our heroic bands, and, bringing into action his heavy reserves, some of our men were compelled to fall back. They were easily rallied, however, and led again, with fury, to the attack. The noble, accomplished, and gallant Harrison, commander of the “Charles City troop,” uniting his exertions with my own, rallied regiment after regiment, and leading one of them to the front, fell, pierced with seven wounds, near the enemy's batteries. Holding the strong position of the wood and ravine with one regiment of Armistead's brigade, I ordered the remainder of his brigade to the support of those in front; and about this time that skilful and devoted officer, General Ransom, led his brigade forward, having obtained the requisite authority, and gave further support to the left of our line, whilst General Jones, having overcome the great difficulties of the ground over which he had to pass, gallantly supported the troops on our right with Colonel Anderson's brigade of his division; the other, General Toombs's brigade, having obliqued to the left, where it was formed in the road, and lent its support to some of the reserve troops which were brought into action. Toward the close of the action, I received another order from
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Foreign accounts of the fight.
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.