Two of my companies--company A, Captain Hance, and company E, Lieutenant Wright--were sent forward, according to directions, as skirmishers, and remained detached from the regiment during the rest of the day. Nothing of special interest occurred in the advance, so far as my command was concerned, until about four P. M., when I was ordered to follow Colonel Kennedy, Second South Carolina regiment, moving by the left flank, and, under cover, take position, on his left, in a wood, obliquely to the left of some intrenchments this side of Savage's farm, and, in conjunction with Colonel Kennedy, to charge the enemy in his works, drive him out, and capture his battery. The approach to this position was difficult; and, although we arrived at it, and made our disposition for the charge as soon as possible, we had barely completed our arrangements when we received official notice from the front that the enemy had retired. We then rejoined the brigade, and resumed the advance march. We had not advanced much farther before we came up with the enemy, near Savage's Station, and were halted. My regiment, when halted, held a position in a slight hollow in an open field, with its right flank resting on a wood of thick underbrush and forest timber, and its left resting on the right of Colonel Kennedy's regiment, whose left rested on the York River Railroad. The ground gradually ascended in our front for about sixty yards, where began a wood, whose line ran nearly parallel to our line of battle. This woods had a depth of about four hundred yards. The first part, though of heavy timber, was rather open, and not filled or obstructed by the thick underbrush, which alone was found in the last part of the wood. These bushes were of dense thickness, and continued to an open field four hundred yards in front of our line of battle. The ground of these woods was slightly undulating. In the position I held, my men were so well protected from the fire and shells of the enemy, that they effected no injury to my command before the advance was made. After some firing between the skirmishers and artillery of the contending parties, we received the command, Forward; and, immediately thereafter, the command to charge. The commands were obeyed with alacrity and great enthusiasm. My regiment dashed up the ascent in front, through the woods, yelling as they went, and into the thick undergrowth, in which it was impossible to discover either friend or foe over twenty yards. We were not aware of the exact position of the enemy until we received his galling fire, at a distance of twenty-five or thirty yards, after we had proceeded some distance in the thick undergrowth already described. The fire checked us for a moment, but we pressed on slowly, returning the enemy's fire, and making him yield gradually, when I ordered a charge, and pushed him out of the wood and some distance across the open field beyond. We had scarcely emerged from the woods before I heard, to my surprise, the command, Cease firing. I immediately went to the regiment where I heard an officer giving this command, of whom I inquired by what authority he spoke. He replied that it came from the right, and that he understood we were firing on our friends. Remembering the caution that had been given early in the day, for all “line officers to repeat the commands,” and knowing the impossibility of otherwise hearing the commands, and recollecting that the Brigadier-General was on our right as we entered the woods, and thinking a body of troops, moving on our right, whose character I could not, with certainty, determine on account of the approaching darkness and smoke of battle, might be our people moving on the enemy's flank, I ordered the regiment to “cease firing.” We had scarcely ceased to fire before the enemy, either reinforced or encouraged by the example of some of their men, who fired upon us as they retreated, rallied on a hill opposite us, and renewed the attack with great vigor. Suspecting the command to cease firing was either a ruse or an error, I withdrew a short distance in the underbrush, and re-formed my line as best I could, under an extremely severe fire. By the time this was accomplished, the enemy had almost traversed the field, and reached the edge of the undergrowth from which we had driven them. As they advanced, they poured a deadly and incessant fire into my line. I met them again, pushing my line almost to the edge of the undergrowth, when, besides the fire in my front, I was subjected to a threatening fire upon my right flank. In this emergency, without, so far as I could discover, supports, either on my right or left flanks, I deemed it prudent to retire, which I did. Moving by the right flank, I carried the men to the rear of our original position, collected the scattered, re-formed the line, and took position, by order of General Kershaw, on the edge of the woods in front of our first position, where, after throwing out pickets, we slept on our arms without fires until morning. Early in the morning, we recovered and buried the dead, and also brought in all the wounded. A list of casualties is herewith submitted. It will be perceived that my loss was heavy, both in officers and privates. Among the mortally wounded were Lieutenant Ray and Captain S. M. Lanford, both of whom, especially the latter, were officers of promise. Among the killed was Lieutenant-Colonel B. C. Garlington, who fell while urging the men to the charge. He was an officer of fine judgment, cool courage, and commendable energy. We deplore his loss both as a gentleman and soldier. The conduct of the whole regiment, privates and officers alike, was satisfactory and praise-worthy. The heavy loss sustained in the fight — of about two hours duration — sufficiently attests the gallantry and fortitude of the command in withstanding such a severe fire. Conspicuous for gallantry was Captain D. M. H. Langston, who, though severely wounded, continued with the regiment throughout the fight. It is proper to state that Major W. D. Rutherford, who had been assigned, early in the day, to the command of a portion of the skirmishers,
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Foreign accounts of the fight.
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