The reference, made without qualification in General Longstreet's report, to the failure of General Huger to make the attack expected of him, and the freedom with which others have criticised him, renders it proper that some explanation should be given of an apparent dilatoriness on the part of that veteran soldier, who, after long and faithful service, now fills an honored grave. It will be remembered that General Huger was to move by the Charles City Road, so as to turn the left of the enemy and attack him in flank. The extraordinary rain of the previous night had swollen every rivulet to the dimensions of a stream, and the route prescribed to General Huger was one especially affected by that heavy rain, as it led to the head of the White-Oak Swamp. The bridge over the stream flowing into that swamp had been carried away, and the alternatives presented to him were to rebuild the bridge or to leave his artillery. He chose the former, which involved the delay that has subjected him to criticism. If any should think an excuse necessary to justify this decision, they are reminded to the accepted maxim, that the march must never be so hurried as to arrive unfit for service; they must also be reminded that Huger's specialty was artillery, he being the officer who commanded the siege-guns with which General Scott marched from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico. To show that the obstacles encountered were not of such slight character as energy would readily overcome, I refer to the report of an officer commanding a brigade on that occasion, Brigadier General R. E. Rodes, whose great merit and dashing gallantry caused him to be admired throughout the army of the Confederacy. He said:
On the morning of the 31st the brigade was stationed on the Charles City road, three and a half miles from the point on the Williamsburg road from which it had been determined to start the columns of attack. . . . I received a verbal order from General Hill to conduct my command at once to the point at which the attack was to be made. . . . The progress of the brigade was considerably delayed by the washing away of a bridge near the head of White-Oak Swamp, by reason of which the men had to wade in water waist-deep, and a large number were entirely submerged. At this point the character of the crossing was such that it was absolutely necessary to proceed with great caution to prevent the loss of both ammunition and life. In consequence of this delay, and notwithstanding that the men were carried at double-quick time over very heavy ground for a considerable distance to make up for it, when the signal for attack was given, only my line of skirmishers, the Sixth Alabama and the Twelfth Mississippi Regiments, was in position. . . . The ground over which we were to move being covered with thick undergrowth, and the soil being marshy—so marshy that it was with great difficulty that either horses or men could get over it—and being guided only by the fire in front, I emerged from the woods from the Williamsburg road under a heavy fire of both artillery and musketry, with only five companies of the Fifth Alabama.