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[448] honored the battle; let the battle do him this honor!


The battle of Tuesday, May 10.

Hancock had so pushed out his right that on the morning of this day one division, under Barlow, had crossed the Po, and was disposed almost at right angles with the general line, practically turning the enemy's flank. This position, had the river not intervened, would have been a very advantageous one, but the river weakened it. General Burnside on the left, had pushed out beyond the line of the Sixth corps, with which he was supposed to connect. It was afterward discovered by our engineers that he had, unknown to himself, unknown to our commanders, and certainly unknown to the enemy, got into a position — entirely disconnected with the left of the Sixth corps--which flanked the enemy's right, and which might have been used with victorious and overwhelming effect in subsequent engagements. On the contrary, I have been told that had the enemy been informed of the exact position in which that command stood relative to the rest of our army, it would have been in great danger of being cut off.

The right of our line, then, commanded the Brock road near Todd's Tavern, the centre faced Spottsylvania Court-house, the left was disposed across the road leading from Spottsylvania Court-house to Fredericksburg, to which latter place our wounded had been sent. A reconnoissance on the left in the morning developed no strong force of the enemy in that direction. General Mott's brigade of Carr's division, Second corps, was detached from the right and sent out on the left of the Sixth corps (now commanded by General Wright) to take and hold a strong position thus weakened. Fighting began in the early morning, and continued with more or less fierceness all day. The roar of artillery was constant; the forest in some places got on fire, discomfited our troops, and made a holocaust in some places, where the wounded could not be brought off. I do not pretend to have known or correctly ascertained what was accomplished or lost in this day's fighting until the afternoon. The dead and wounded were many on both sides.

In the afternoon a general attack was ordered, to be made at five o'clock. About four o'clock, the enemy, having discovered the weakness of General Barlow's position on the right, sent a heavy force in that direction, which pounced so suddenly and fiercely upon the division of that brave young commander, as to force it back from the flanking position it held, and produce a momentary confusion. Soldiers who got across the stream behind sooner than they ought, exaggerated the misfortune, and the report, flying to army headquarters, which were in an open field near the right, caused a pulling up of tent stakes, and a mounting of horses, which appeared very panic-stricken indeed.

General Barlow's division still pressed by superior numbers, fought its way slowly backward, and, still fighting, retreated across the river and joined the Second corps, against the right of which the enemy continued to exert his strength until after nightfall, when he was repulsed.

This episode delayed the proposed attack of our army until half-past 6 o'clock in the evening. For, an hour previous to that time our batteries in position played with destructive effect upon the enemy's lines. It was growing dark, and the general attack was about commencing, when Generals Grant and Meade, with their respective staffs, took position on the crest of an elevated plateau near where Griffin first met Longstreet's forces on Sunday, to see what could be seen of the battle.

It opened at last at half-past 6 o'clock, growing gradually from a skirmish fire into the ripe, rolling clangor of a general engagement; far enough off to drown the shouts of command, the cries of wounded, but not to drown a faint echo of the cheer with which the troops on some portions of the line started into the charge. Across the open fields, through reaches of wood, through depths of swamp and mire, the dark lines of our battalions struggled forward against a fearful fire, poured down upon them from works that only our artillery could reach effectively. The divisions of the Fifth corps, subjected to an enfilading volley of great guns from right and left, went down in that advance like deer before the hunters. The work set for these men, under such a fire, was not accomplished when darkness closed the fighting. The day closed in front of the Second corps with the repulse of the enemy on the right.

The soldiers of the Sixth, meanwhile, did a brilliant thing. About three hundred yards in front, the enemy occupied a work very strongly constructed, as high as a man's head, and loop-holed at the top. The party organized to attack this work was disposed by General Russell and led by Colonel Upton. It consisted of a portion of the First division, the Vermont brigade of the Second division, and some picked troops of General Neill's command, who were massed, on the eve of the attack, to the left and front of three batteries — Cowan's, McCartney's, and Rhodes'. Some companies of the Forty-ninth New York regiment had occupied during the afternoon a work in advance of the general line, and just to the left of the line of march of the column of attack. As the column pressed forward, these companies moved by the left flank, engaging a battery of the enemy on the right of his work. The batteries of McCartney, Cowan, and Rhodes opened on the work, over the heads of the attacking column, which moved steadily on in the face of a terrific blaze of musketry, with arms a-port, and without firing a shot, up to the very face of the enemy's position. It poured, a flood of savage faces and plunging bayonets, over the crest of the work and into the midst of the enemy, capturing in

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Todd's Tavern (Virginia, United States) (1)
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Farmville Barlow (3)
Rhodes (2)
McCartney (2)
Cowan (2)
H. G. Wright (1)
E. Upton (1)
William Russell (1)
E. M. Neill (1)
Mott (1)
George G. Meade (1)
Longstreet (1)
John L. Hancock (1)
Charles Griffin (1)
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May 10th (1)
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