and, leaving the field, we continued slowly to advance through a dense wood, met by a perfect sheet of fire, under which the killed and wounded were falling fast in our ranks. Still the brave fellows pressed on, followed by a Virginia and a Texas regiment, who took an active part in the engagement. General Ewell being on that part of the ground directing the movements and encouraging the men with conspicuous bravery, his presence alone held the men in position for over an hour and a half, under this terrific fire. I returned to bring up the Sixteenth Mississippi and the Twenty-first North Carolina regiments, with Major Wharton's battery. I met General Whiting near the Cold Harbor house, who had just rode up, and asked me where he had better carry in his division. Convinced that our efforts were too much concentrated in the previous direction, causing much confusion, in a dense wood, with the risk of firing on our own men, (as I am sure had been done,) I strongly advised him to meet the enemy half a mile to our right, (north,) so as to flank the force in our front, or encounter a second body of the foe. After results showed that General Whiting's selection of the point of attack, as indicated, was highly judicious, as he met a reserved body of the enemy, defeated them and captured their battery. A few moments after the brief interview with General Whiting, Brigadier-General Winder met me, and said his brigade was coming up, and asked where he should enter the field. I directed him to march well to the left, which he did, and brought a timely support in a perilous crisis to General Elzey, and other brigades, who had been terribly cut up by the terrible fire of the musketry, and the well-served batteries at McGee's house, afterward captured. These brief meetings over, I sought the two regiments who were awaiting orders, uncertain what to do. I decided to enlarge the front of attack, as I had suggested to Generals Whiting and Winder, and led these regiments across the road into the pines, one third of a mile to the right (north) of the first point of attack. Here we met two regiments coming out of the field in confusion, who cried out, “You need not go in; we are whipped; you can't do anything!” Some of our men cried, “Get out of our way; we will show you how to do it.” I formed my force, increased on the left by the fragments of other regiments who had been rallied, as nearly parallel with the line opposed to us as I could judge by their fire through the woods, and then rode along the line, distinctly telling the men, in the hearing of all, that “they were now to make a charge with the bayonet, and not to stop one moment to fire or reload, by doing which they remained longer under the enemy's fire, and gave him the advantage over us, posted as he was, in a good position, and. strengthened by fallen timber to obstruct our advance, and that the quicker the charge was made, the less would be our loss” --leading them on with perfect confidence in their pluck. The regiment advanced firmly and gallantly, receiving heavy volleys of the enemy's fire from the opposite height, without returning it, pushed on down the hill and over the trees felled in the swampy ground to impede our progress, all the time under torrents of musketry fire, and bravely and rapidly ascended the hill, cheered on by the continuous shouting of the command, “Charge, men, charge!” It would have required older and braver troops, and those engaged in a better cause, to have stood firm against an onset so rapid, so resolute, so defiant. The enemy were swept from the hill, and retreated rapidly from his strong position, and it was not until his flying forces presented a strong temptation, that a destructive fire was opened upon them. Pursued to his camp, the enemy perceiving some of our forces on his flank, one regiment surrendered in a body; the others fled down a ravine to the Chickahominy. Reaching the plateau which the Federal General had judiciously selected, and so well defended by artificial aids, I found a battery of seven guns, the First Pennsylvania artillery, Captain Cater, which had been captured a few minutes before by parts of several regiments, who had, with determined courage, pressed forward at the first point of attack, with fearful losses. Parts of these companies of the Eighteenth Alabama, and fragments of several companies of the Twenty-first Georgia regiments, were the first at the guns followed by the Fifth Texas and Eighteenth Georgia. Placing the Twenty-first North Carolina in charge of the captured battery, my brigade slept on the field from which the enemy had fled. A careful examination of the ground the day after the battle showed as strong a position as could have been selected for defence. It is an elevated ridge on the south-east of the Chickahominy River, mostly cleared land on its summit, surrounded by several more elevated points admirably adapted for artillery, and from which an incessant fire could be maintained against an advancing foe, over the heads of its own infantry, which was secured from harm by the abrupt acclivity of the hill under which they had been posted. So that our men had, the day before, been exposed for over ten hours to the combined fire of shot, shell, grape, and musketry, to which Yankee ingenuity had added a sort of repeating gun, called a telescopic cannon, discharging sixty balls per minute. Several of these were captured. The natural defences of the position were strengthened by felling timber on the hill-side and in the marshy ground of the rivulet at its fork, to make the progress of an attacking force slow and longer held under fire. Many parts of the brow of the hill were provided with rude breastworks of logs, &c. There is good reason to believe that fresh forces of the enemy were successively brought into action, for several hours, to replace those who had become fatigued or defeated. To repulse a force double our own, thus advantageously posted, free from a fatiguing march, and liberally supplied with whiskey, (as the canteens of dead, wounded, and prisoners proved,) required much more than the ordinary exhibition of skill and daring; that it was done everywhere along the
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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