Ripley's position, which was about three fourths of a mile to the right of the road we travelled to Mechanicsville, and about the same distance from the town, and near Beaver Dam Creek, some distance above its connection with the Chickahominy. The position of the enemy and the nature of the ground were unknown to me, for a knowledge of which I was dependent upon a short interview with General Ripley, who had occupied the position the evening before and that night until relieved by me. My brigade was placed in the position vacated by General Ripley's command, which was a ridge of woodland some six hundred yards in length, with an average breadth of some ten hundred yards, and entirely surrounded by an open field. My brigade got into position about three o'clock in the morning in the edge of the woodland fronting Beaver Dam Creek. Beaver Dam Creek was not more than from one to two hundred yards in front of this portion of my command in line of battle. From my position to the bank of the creek was a gradual declivity. After crossing the creek, immediately in my front the ground rose by a gradual ascent to a continuous ridge, the summit of which commanded the position occupied by me, as well as the open ground surrounding my position. Upon this summit the enemy had planted his artillery and thrown up breastworks, dug rifle pits, and extending down in the direction of the creek, General Pryor, with his brigade, was ordered to take position in my rear, to support me in case of an attack. He took position in the field not far in my rear, very soon after I did. The brigades of General Ripley, General Pender, and Colonel Colquitt, which had previously occupied the ground, were withdrawn as soon as my brigade and General Pryor's got into position. Between daylight and sunrise on the morning of the twenty-seventh, the enemy opened a very brisk fire of musketry on my brigade from the right to the left; we were anticipating the attack. Three companies of skirmishers had been thrown out to the front of my lines, and the entire brigade had been ordered to rest in line, with guns in hand. The brigade advanced in line of battle a few steps only, in the direction of the creek, and were halted in the edge of the woods, near the open field, and returned the enemy's fire. Here they remained in position about one hour, during which time the firing was rapid on both sides, and continuous. The enemy appeared to be in greatly superior numbers, judging from the firing and obstinate and determined purpose to drive us back, if possible. As soon as the sun arose, and I saw the nature of the ground in front, and the position of the enemy beyond the creek, I directed Captain Smith's battery, (Third Richmond howitzers,) attached to my brigade, to be placed in position two hundred yards from the left wing of my brigade, and return the fire of the enemy's artillery, which was then playing on us sharply. This was the most elevated and practicable position on the field for artillery. I then ordered my men to charge the enemy's lines. This order was promptly executed from right to left, the men moving forward in an unbroken line, and with great rapidity, driving the enemy before them until they reached Beaver Dam Creek. This creek could be crossed at only a few places — a fact unknown to me, but known to the enemy. Finding it impossible to cross the creek in line on account of its precipitous banks, the command was ordered to halt at the creek, where it was, to some extent, protected by the bank of the creek and its skirting. The impossibility of passing the creek in line, for the reason stated, and the consequent necessity of re-forming under the enemy's fire from his breastworks and rifle pits, now in easy range, would have involved a loss so heavy that I was induced to halt the men in this partially protected position. From my position in the creek, a very heavy fire on both sides was kept up for an hour or an hour and a half, when the enemy retired from his works and retreated rapidly in the direction of Gaines's farm, or Cold Harbor, down the Chickahominy. After my brigade had reached the banks of Beaver Dam Creek, I directed General Pryor to bring his brigade into action, who informed me that his brigade had been sent forward, and that he had sent to General Longstreet for reenforcements. On returning to my lines, I found one of his regiments on the hill, and directed into line on my right, to prevent a flank movement. General Pryor's battery (the Donaldsonville, Louisiana, artillery) was also placed in position near Smith's, of my brigade, when the two played very handsomely on the enemy's lines, keeping up a constant and well-directed fire. Both companies behaved with great gallantry and coolness, and displayed a skill in the use of their guns highly creditable to that arm of the service. After a protracted and heavy firing on the bank of the creek, some hour and a half, the enemy abandoned their works and retreated, as I have already stated. Here the firing of small arms ceased. About this time, General Wilcox's brigade came up as a reenforcement. The battery of Wilcox's brigade (Thomas's artillery) was also placed in position, and fired a few well-directed shots at the retreating foe. General Wilcox sent one of his regiments down Beaver Dam Creek, on our right, to find a place across which the brigades might pass. Some distance below, they found an old bridge, which had been torn up by the enemy, but was rebuilt in an hour or two; and the three brigades crossed Beaver Dam Creek, and continued the march in pursuit of the enemy in the following order, viz., General Wilcox in front, (who after his arrival was senior brigadier,) General Pryor next, and my brigade in the rear. I cannot close this report without expressing my admiration of the conduct of my entire brigade from the beginning to the close of the action. While holding this portion of the hill, which was never for a moment yielded, they were subjected to a very heavy and galling fire. The charge was made in excellent order, and a good line was preserved; and, continuing the fight from the bank of the creek under a very heavy fire of small arms, they were equally cool and
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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