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Cowan's battery about to advance on May 4, 1862: the next day it lost its first men killed in action, at the battle of Williamsburg Lieutenant Andrew Cowan, commanding, and First-Lieutenant William F. Wright, sit their horses on the farther side of the Warwick River, awaiting the order to advance. After the evacuation of Yorktown by the Confederates on the previous night, Lee's Mills became the Federal left and the Confederate right. The Confederate earthworks are visible in front of the battery. This spot had already been the scene of a bloody engagement. The First Vermont Brigade of General W. F. Smith's division, Fourth Corps, had charged along the top of the dam and below it on April 16th and had gained the foremost earthwork, called the “Water Battery.” But General Smith received orders not to bring on a general engagement. The Vermonters were withdrawn, suffering heavily from the Confederate fire. Their dead were recovered, under a flag of truce, a few days later. The “slashing” in the foreground of this photograph was in front of earthworks erected by Smith's division after the withdrawal of the Vermonters. The earthworks themselves were about two hundred yards to the rear of this “slashing,” and were occupied by the First New York Battery in the center, and strong bodies of infantry to its left and right. The battery is seen halted where a road ran, leading to the Williamsburg road. Loaded shells had been planted inside the Confederate works, so that the feet of the horses or the wheels of the guns passing over them would cause them to explode. The battle of Williamsburg or “Fort Magruder” was fought on May 5th. In that battle the battery lost its first men killed in action.

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