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[743] I must confess that I did feel considerable anxiety for the result of a night attack, if the enemy should have the enterprise to make it, yet the confident opinion expressed by the commanding general disarmed my fears. The firing .at the trenches continued, and while I was making arrangements to send off two despatches for General Ewell left with me by General Lee, Major Hale of my staff, who had been previously sent on foot across the river with messages for General Hays and Colonel Godwin, returned and informed me that when he left General Hays the enemy was advancing against him, that he had then gone to Colonel Godwin, and as he returned across the bridge he had seen some of Hays' men, who told him that Hays had been driven from the trenches; but he stated that he did not believe this statement, as he left Hays and his men in fine spirits, and I did not believe it myself, as the firing seen by us did not warrant any supposition. I, however, sent Major Daniel, of my staff, immediately to ascertain the state of things, and ordered Pegram to move up to the bridge with his brigade, and Dance and Graham to man their guns. I then started towards the bridge and met Major Daniel returning, with the information that he had just seen General Hays, who had made his escape, and received from him the information that the greater part of his brigade was captured, Hoke's brigade cut off, and the enemy in possession of the north end of the bridge. Pegram's brigade was hurried up and so disposed as to prevent a crossing of the bridge, and Gordon was sent for from the right, and a messenger sent to General Lee. I then went near the river to ascertain if anything could be done to retrieve the disaster, but found it would be a useless sacrifice of my men to attempt to throw any of them across the bridge, as the enemy were in line just beyond the opposite end, and were in possession of the trenches commanding it. I could not see the artillery by reason of the darkness, and I feared firing into my own men, who were prisoners in the hands of the enemy. Hoke's brigade had not at this time been captured, as I subsequently ascertained. Nor had the Fifth and Seventh Louisiana regiments of Hays' brigade, but they were hopelessly cut off from the bridge, without any means of escape and with no chance of being reinforced ; and while making the preparations for defending the bridge and preventing an increase of the disaster, I had the mortification to hear the final struggle of these devoted men, and to be made painfully aware of their capture, without the possibility of being able to go to their relief. I might have fired canister across the river, and, perhaps, done some damage to the enemy, but the chances were that more damage would have been done to my helpless men, and I felt that it would have been cruel and barbarous to have subjected them to this result for any amount of damage I could then inflict on the enemy. This contains as much of this affair as I am capable of describing from actual observation.

From the reports of General Hays, and Lieutenant-Colonel Tate, of Hoke's brigade, as well as from the statements of other officers,who were fortunate enough to make their escape, I learn that as soon as it became dark enough to conceal his movements, the enemy advanced in very heavy masses along the whole line, his troops being in some two or three lines preceded by a very heavy line of skirmishers, that the line of skirmishers was repulsed, many of them surrendering themselves prisoners. But this act was immediately followed by a rush to the front of some two or three lines of the enemy, and at the same time a heavy column, which had moved down the east side of the railroad under cover of the embankment, suddenly debouched through the passway (which has been mentioned), and made a rush upon the works, in which Green's guns were posted, and carried them. At the same time, an effort made by General Hays to retake the guns was defeated by the attack on the rifle-trenches, immediately on the left of the guns and in front of the bridge. This attack, though resisted to the last, was successful — the enemy coming in such numbers as actually, by mere brute force, to push our men out of the trenches. The enemy then poured over the trenches, and all further struggle was hopeless, as there was no point for our men to fall back upon, and the bridge was completely commanded by the enemy. Our men, however, continued to struggle until they became completely surrounded. Many of them effected their escape in the confusion — some by swimming the river, and others by making their way to the bridge amidst the enemy, and passing over under a shower of balls. General Hays owes his escape to the fact that after he was completely surrounded, and was a prisoner, his horse took fright and ran off; and as the enemy commenced firing on him, he concluded to make the effort to escape across the bridge, where he was exposed to no more danger, as he had to run the gauntlet any way; and he fortunately succeeded, without injury.

Godwin's position in the trenches was to the left of the bridge, and the Fifth and Seventh Louisiana regiments were to his left. The location of the trenches here was such as to cut off from Colonel Godwin all view of the columns advancing against General Hays. An attack of the enemy moving down the river, on Godwin's left, was repulsed by the Fifty-fourth North Carolina regiment, a few minutes before the attack on Hays; and when Colonel Godwin ascertained that Hays had been driven from the trenches, he made an effort to send a portion of his force to the relief of Hays, but this was prevented by the advance of the enemy immediately in his front. He then, discovering his own situation, and that he was cut off from the bridge, threw a portion of his line across the interval between the trenches and the river, and endeavored to form his men so as to cut his way to the bridge. The enemy, however, after getting possession of the trenches

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Harry T. Hays (14)
A. C. Godwin (6)
R. F. Hoke (3)
John Pegram (2)
R. E. Lee (2)
J. W. Daniel (2)
Frederick Tate (1)
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William Green (1)
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