voices of an Eastern jungle.
The woods are alive with cries and explosions, and the shrill anvil-clatter of musketry.
One cannon, pitched afar, times the wild tumult like a tolling bell.
The smoke is a shroud about our heroes; there is not wind enough to lift it into a canopy.
And now, out of the concealed and awful scenery where the fight goes on, there come the ruins it has wrought, in shapes borne in blankets and on litters — maimed, tortured, writhing; with eyes dull with the stupor of coming death, or bright with delirious fire.
Listen to the hell raging beyond and below; behold this silent, piteous procession, that emerges ceaselessly, and passes on. Into and out of the ordeal of fire; from the pride of the ranks to the suffering of the hospital, these forms have been, and come, and are of no more avail.
Who stands at gaze between a battle and these ghastly effects, and keeps not the banner of the future his mental vision, had better let his thought be still.
For else he does, that cry of the human always evoked by human suffering cannot be kept down in a presence like this.
Two o'clock. In the momentary calm that sinks upon the forest in front we can hear a louder conflict gathering and growing on the left.
has been driven back; there the enemy are pressing in hordes down the turnpike, to gain the junction of the Brock
has advanced and met them.
has come up at last, and Birney
is going in on Getty
are forming on the left of the line, and Gibbon
's division is coming up as a reserve.
The enemy are checked, but their concentration continues.
Troops are sent to the left from the Fifth corps, and by four o'clock General Hancock
is in command of half the army in action.
And now, from left to right the sound of the shock of battle arises anew.
is advancing, Sedgwick
is advancing, Warren
is in partial wait.
Along the left a guttural, oceanic roar prevails, without an interval of rest.
Like a great engine, dealing death, the Second corps and its supports move forward, taking equal death in return.
Companies fall, regiments are thinned, brigades melt away.
Stricken in the head by a bullet, General Alexander Hayes
, commanding the Second brigade of Birney
's division, has rolled from his horse, dead.
is wounded; Colonel Carroll
, commanding the Third brigade of the Second division, is wounded; a host of line officers are stricken low; the enemy fights like a demon, but the fight moves on.
moves on, breaking the enemy's line for a moment, and taking four or five hundred prisoners. There are ripples of disaster on all the line, but they are quickly repaired.
Slowly, for the enemy is stubborn ; slower yet on the extreme right, toward the river, for the enemy there has massed another force, and strives to break our flank.
He finds a rock, and though he checks our advance, though hundreds of soldiers make the obeisance of death before him, he does not come on.
And as the day dies, and the darkness creeps up from the west, although no cheer of victory swells through the Wilderness
from either side, we have accomplished this much at least, with much sore loss: the concentration of our army, the holding of the junction of the Orange Court-house
roads; the turning back of the enemy's right flank from our path toward Richmond
, and the average gain of a half mile of ground.
Battle of Friday, May six.
It will be seen that the battle just partially sketched was a forced battle, consisting for the most part of a series of assaults for the purpose of defending the position obtained Thursday morning, and effecting the junction of the army.
The uncertainty of the situation had prevented the full and combined exertion of our strength, and as Longstreet
had not yet been heard of, it was surmised that the enemy would prove himself in stronger force on the morrow.
During the night the sound of axes and falling trees in our front showed that the foe intended to contest his position on the morrow behind new defences.
Our lines were consolidated and freshly posted, the three corps retaining their respective positions — Warren
in the centre, Sedgwick
on the right, Hancock
on the left, the latter still having the lion's share of troops, gathered from all the corps.
An attack was ordered to be made by the whole army at five o'clock Friday morning, until which time, save slight skirmishing in the night, fighting was suspended, and the troops slept upon their arms, disposed as follows:
On the right of General Sedgwick
's line, nearest the river, were three regiments of General Shaler
's brigade — the Sixty-fifth New York Chasseurs, One Hundred and Twenty-second New York, and Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania; General Seymour
's brigade, of Ricketts
' division, connected on the left.
Next came General Neill
's brigade, composed of the Forty-third, Forty-ninth, and Seventy-seventh New York, the Seventh Maine, and the Sixty-first Pennsylvania volunteers.
Next came Upton
's and Russell
's brigades of the First divison; and last the Second brigade, of the Third division, commanded by Colonel Smith
A second and third line of battle, supporting the centre, was formed of the New Jersey brigade and the Fourth New York heavy artillery.
The other brigades, of Ricketts
' and Getty
's division, were still detached, and acting with the Fifth and Second corps.
's command was still reduced to the two divisions of Crawford
and a brigade of Robinson
's, General Wadsworth
being under command of Hancock
The lines formed by the two commands of Generals Warren
stretched from near the river, through the forest, across the road