previous next

[449] an instant nine hundred and fifty of the very men who had stampeded the brigades of Shaler and Seymour on Friday night in the Wilderness, and sending a scattering volley after a host of flying rebels. Twelve guns also came into our possession.

This, if I am correct, was the only material success accomplished in the attack of Tuesday evening. What Burnside did on the left I have not heard. The position thus gained by Upton not being supported, and being too far in advance of the general line to be occupied with safety, had to be abandoned. The guns were spiked as they stood. It is said that some soldiers of the Vermont brigade--one of the finest in the army — actually wept when the brigade was ordered to fall back from a post it had helped so brilliantly to gain, at the expense of so many comrades' lives.

Our losses in this battle were perhaps more severe than those of any previous day. The Sixth corps alone, in the battles up to that night, had lost over five thousand killed arid wounded. General Wright s old division, now commanded by General Russell, had lost nearly one thousand four hundred; the losses in General Neill's, now Colonel Bidwell's, brigade, were between eight hundred and nine hundred, and the Vermont brigade alone had suffered the loss of one thousand five hundred of its numbers.

These are specimen losses. It has been presumed, by those more competent to judge than I, that the enemy's average losses, during all the battles, must have been nearly, if not quite, as great as our own. If so, our artillery must have been a great executioner, for the rebels more than we had fought behind intrenchments, and we more than they had been the attacking party. They had attacked us at intervals, certainly; in the varying tide of battle, they took every opportunity to return our advance. They came down upon us in the old Wilderness too often. There, in the varying charges back and forth, where Hancock and Sedgwick fought, they got severely punished. But we were the invaders, and we it was who had advanced. Although they had often forced us from advanced positions, they had never driven us from those we first occupied. We had taken the most prisoners; we had gained the most ground. It was shown that we were strong enough to gradually force the enemy backward, by hard fighting, step by step. But this had been done at terrible cost, and at terrible cost must still continue.

The battle of Thursday, May 12.

Wednesday was a day of skirmishing; of minor engagements; of changes of position on both sides. In the afternoon it was discovered that the enemy had retired from our right in front of Hancock, and was shifting his lines to the left. An effort made at evening to blind us to this fact by pushing a strong column of troops, which were afterward marched back behind a wood in the rear, around toward our right, across an open space, did not deceive our commanders. Our lines were also shifted to.. ward the left, and more compactly joined. During the night Hancock's entire corps was removed from the right of our position and put in on the left of the Sixth, between that and Burnside, so that on Thursday morning the corps were disposed as follows: The Fifth corps on the right, the Sixth corps next, the Second corps next, and Burnside, as before, on the extreme left.

It was in front of Hancock's new position that the vital section of the enemy lay — a strong, salient angle of earthworks, ditched in front, defended by cannon at every point, and held by Johnson's division of Ewell's corps, Ewell's whole corps adjoining.

At half-past 4 o'clock Thursday morning, the attack upon this work was prepared. General Barlow's division — Neill's brigade leading — formed in column by battalion, doubled on the centre, and took the advance. The divisions of Birney, Mott, and Gibbon, in two lines of battle, supported the attack. A rain, which had been falling during the night, still continued, and a beneficent fog overspread the field. The storming column advanced silently, and without firing a shot, up to the angles of the breastworks, over which they rushed, taking the forces within in flank, surrounding them, capturing nearly the entire division of Johnson, with its commander, and also a brigade or two of other troops, Brigadier-General George H. Stuart in command. An unfortunate cheer from the second line of battle prevented the surprise from extending to other rebel troops, who were thus enabled to escape. Prisoners have declared that General Lee himself was within those works at the time, and narrowly escaped capture. Forty-two guns lying in the works, fell into our hands, of which eighteen were brought off with the prisoners.

The attacking column pursued the enemy some distance after this victory, engaging Early's command and beating it back. It then returned, and formed lines of battle in the intrenchments it had taken. From this time forth, a battle raged over those intrenchments. the intense fury and heroism and horror of which it is simply impossible to describe at all. Five distinct, savage, tremendous charges were made by the enemy to retake that position. Ewell's corps, driven from it in the morning, came down first en masse, and were repulsed. General Hill moved down from the right, joined Ewell and threw his divisions into the struggle. General Wright moved up from the right, supporting Hancock, to meet the surge. Longstreet came on from the extreme left of the rebel line. Warren sent in troops from the left of ours. The lines of both armies, thus contracted, met in a continual death-grapple in and to the right of the angle of death taken in the morning. To have looked down on that battle from a height would have been like gazing into the smoke and din of an earthquake. Column after column of the

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 12th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: