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[53] evidently taken by surprise. The suddenness of our appearance on the crest, the volley, the yell and the impetuous advance caused them to forget their guns. They returned only a scattering fire and immediately gave way.

While descending the slope, and just before the occurrence mentioned, I became aware, from the direction of the balls which passed, that a force of the enemy had crossed the morass, ascended the heights and occupied a body of woods at the farther limit of the open ground, two hundred yards or more beyond my extreme left. I immediately sent an order to Colonel Oates, commanding the Fifteenth regiment, the largest and one of the best in the brigade, “to change direction in marching” --that is, to wheel his battalion to the left while advancing, so as to face the woods — and to attack furiously. No farther attention was given to the matter until the main line had encountered and routed the enemy, and was crossing the swamp. Feeling then that the utmost importance attached to the success of Colonel Oates' movement, and that the safety of the brigade might be compromised by an advance far to the front, while a force of the enemy — I knew not how large — was upon my flank and rear, I hastened, almost at full speed, to that part of the field, and came in sight just in time to witness the successful execution of one of the most brilliant movements I have ever seen on a battlefield. The order had been received amidst the indescribable clangor of battle. The attention of a line of men over two hundred yards long had been gained; they had been wheeled through an arc of at least sixty degrees, had traversed the intervening open ground, had entered the woods at a charge and were driving its occupants — more than twice their number — in the wildest confusion before them; and but little more than five minutes had elapsed since the giving of the order!

Colonel Oates says, in writing to me: “I learned from prisoners taken that the force I encountered was the Fifteenth New York regiment, that had been stationed at Washington City, and used as heavy siege artillerymen during the greater part of the war, and that they numbered between one thousand and twelve hundred men. I had in the engagement not over four hundred and fifty officers and men. I lost two men killed and eleven wounded. I never did understand how it was that I lost so few. I always attributed it to two things: first, that the troops of the enemy were not veterans — they were unused to battle; and, secondly, the rapidity and boldness of my movement, and the accuracy of the fire of my men.”

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