order of battle on the left of the Second division, of the Fourth corps. The day was spent by my division in very brilliant and successful manoeuvring, to determine the exact position of the enemy's intrenched line. To accomplish this, it was necessary to drive in his light troops, who formed a screen to his position. The ground was in some parts difficult to manoeuvre on, and a deep spring had to be bridged, but the whole work was satisfactorily accomplished. The operations of the twenty-sixth having satisfactorily defined the position of the enemy's intrenched line, it was determined, on Friday morning, the twenty-seventh, that it should be assaulted, and my division was selected for this arduous and dangerous task. A minute and critical examination of the enemy's intrenchments rendered it evident that a direct front attack would be of most doubtful success, and certainly cost a great sacrifice of life. Hence, it was determined to attempt to find the extreme right of the enemy's position, turn it, and attack him in flank. In conformity with this determination, my division was moved entirely to the left of our line, and formed, by order of Major-General Howard, commanding the corps, in six parallel lines, each brigade being formed in two lines. The order of the brigades in this grand column of attack was, first, the Second brigade, Brigadier-General Hazen, commanding; second, the First brigade, Colonel Gibson, Forty-ninth Ohio, commanding; third, the Third brigade, Colonel Knefler, Seventy-ninth Indiana volunteers, commanding. When all the dispositions were completed (and these required but a short space of time), the magnificent array moved forward. For a mile the march was nearly due southward through dense forests and the thickest jungle, a country whose surface was scarred by deep ravines and intersected by difficult ridges. But the movement of the column through all these difficulties was steadily onward. Having moved a mile southward, and not having discovered any indications of the enemy, it was supposed we had passed entirely to the east of his extreme right. On this hypothesis, the column was wheeled to the right, and advanced on nearly a westerly course for about a mile and a half. The nature of the country passed over in this movement was similar in all respects to that already described. After the westerly movement had progressed about a mile and a half the flankers discovered that the column, in wheeling to the right, had swung inside of the enemy's line. It was necessary, to gain the goal, to face to the left, file left, and by a flank movement. conduct the column eastward and southward around the enemy's right flank. When all these movements, so well calculated to try the physical strength of the men, were concluded, and the point gained from which it was believed the column could move directly on the enemy's flank, the day was well spent — it was nearly four P. M. The men had been on their feet since early daylight, and, of course, were much worn. The column was halted a few moments, to read-just the lines, to give the men a brief breathing space, and to give the division which was to protect and cover the left flank of the column, time to come up and take position. At 4:30 o'clock P. M. precisely, the order was given to attack, and with its front well covered with skirmishers, the column moved forward. And never have troops marched to a deadly assault, under the most adverse circumstances, with more firmness, with more truly soldierly bearing, and more distinguished gallantry. On, on, through the thickest jungle, over exceedingly rough and broken ground, and exposed to the sharpest direct and cross-fire of musketry and artillery on both flanks, the leading brigade, the Second, moved (followed in close supporting distance by the other brigades), right up to the enemy's main line of works. Under the unwavering steadiness of the advance the fire from the enemy's line of works began to slacken, and the troops behind those works first began perceptibly to waver and then give way; and I have.no hesitation in saying that, so far as any opposition directly in front was concerned, though that was terrible enough, the enemy's strongly-fortified position would have been forced. But the fire, particularly on the left flank of the column, which at first was only en scharpe, became, as the column advanced, enfilading, and finally took the first line of the column partially in reverse. It was from this fire that the supporting and reversing division should have protected the assaulting column, but it failed to do so. Under such a fire no troops could maintain the vantage-ground which had been gained, and the leading brigade, which had driven everything in its front, was compelled to fall back a short distance to screen its flanks (which were crumbling away under the the severe fire), by the irregularities of the ground. (It is proper to observe here that the brigade of the Twenty-third corps which was ordered to take post so as to cover the right flank of the assaulting column, by some mistake failed to get into a position to accomplish this purpose.) From the position taken by Hazen's brigade when it retired a short distance from the enemy's works, it kept up a deadly fire, which was evidently very galling to the foe. The brigade was engaged about fifty minutes. It had expended the sixty rounds of ammunition taken into action on the men's persons; it had suffered terribly in killed and wounded, and the men were much exhausted by the furiousness of the assault Consequently, I ordered this brigade to be relieved by the First brigade, Colonel William H. Gibson, Forty-ninth Ohio, commanding. So boon as the First brigade bad relieved the Second brigade, I ordered Colonel Gibson to renew the attack. I hoped that, with the shorter distance the brigade would have to move after beginning the assault to reach the enemy's works, and with the assistance of the knowledge of the ground which had been gained, a second effort might
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Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
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