men to rally, and they, answering the rebel yells with Union cheers, formed as best they could in the horrible darkness and confusion, when a hand-to-hand contest followed. The assailants and the assailed fell in heaps together. The enemy at last, outnumbering the gallant Heckman's forces five to one, enveloped the remnant of the brigade, and ordered them to the rear. Resistance, on their part, was no longer possible. All this occurred in less time than the reader can glance over what is written. Meanwhile the firing has dispelled sleep from every eye. The most tired man along the line is now thoroughly awake, and ready to do his share in battle. In the rear of Heckman's brigade, as a reserve, are two regiments of the Tenth corps, the Eighth Maine, and One Hundred and Twelfth New York, temporarily detached for duty under Weitzel. They are led by Colonel Drake, who brings them up from the woods in the rear to the relief of General Heckman. They make a splendid charge upon the enemy and drive him outside the line of earthworks. The immediate effect of this is to release from three to four hundred of Heckman's men, who are prisoners. Heckman himself, however,is carried off. Again the enemy charge with fresh troops, but are repulsed and slaughtered by our men, only to rush up once more over the dead and dying with the fury of demons, with still another line of fresh troops, to be again dashed back in confusion. So the battle raged on the extreme right — the Eighth Maine and One Hundred and Twelfth New York having received aid from the fragments of Heckman's crippled force. The attack was not confined to the extreme right, although it was there most determined. It was simultaneously undertaken along our entire line of two miles and a half in length. On the left, however, it was scarcely more than a feint, compared with the fury which characterized it on the other end. Wistar's and Burnham's brigades, also of Weitzel's division, were set upon with the same impetuosity exhibited toward Heckman. The rebel plan of massing brigade after brigade in line of battle, and hurling them in rotation against us, was here tried with very bad result. General Smith, with that forethought which is characteristic of him, anticipating some such movement on the part of the enemy, had ordered a large quantity of telegraph wire to be intertwisted among the trees and undergrowth which lay in front of our position. Wistar and Burnham received the order and obeyed it. Heckman failed, unfortunately, to get it. When, therefore, the rebels charged upon our intrenchments in the “dull light,” hundreds of them were tripped down and unable to tell the cause. As they lay upon the ground our musketry fire kept many of them from ever rising more. As with the first line so with the second. They met the same fate. The third line fared no better, and this simple agency of a telegraphic wire interlaced among the trees played more havoc in the rebel ranks than anything else. The dead lay like autumn leaves before the front of Wistar and Burnham. At eight o'clock there was a cessation of the fighting; at least there was comparative quietness. The centre of our line of battle, resting on the turnpike, had been comparatively weakened by moving forces toward the right, and General Gillmore, on the left, was ordered by General Butler to close up the gap. Here there seems to have been a misapprehension of orders. General Gillmore understood that he was commanded to retire, instead of moving to the weakened point. This he accordingly did, and the rebels on the extreme right, having gained a temporary advantage by again flanking our position, the whole line moved slowly back, and reformed about half or three quarters of a mile in the rear. After resting for a while, although the skirmishing in front was still quite heavy, the command to advance was again given, and the movement forward was splendidly made en echelon. There was not the slightest wavering, and the enemy retired before us. The line of battle was once more formed within a few hundred yards of the position held by us at the commencement of the fight, and when the dead and wounded had been cared for, the order to retire was given. The Eighteenth corps moved back first, and the Tenth brought up the rear. The route back to our intrenchments was by different roads, but everything was conducted in an orderly manner, and there was no molestation on the part of the enemy. Among our losses in the fight were four guns. Three of these pieces belonged to Ashby's battery. They were twenty-pounder Parrotts. This battery supported Heckman, and thirty of the horses were killed in the first impetuous attack of the rebels. Ashby was wounded slightly in the head, and not one of his officers escaped a wound, though none were seriously hurt. Fifteen of the gunners were killed. By great efforts the artillerists brought off the limbers and caissons. Belge's First Rhode Island battery, famous all along the coast, for the first time lost a gun — a twelve-pounder brass field piece. Captain Belge is reported wounded in the leg, and a prisoner. The loss of the battery was heavy. Hawley's and Barton's brigades, of Terry's division, Tenth corps, did the hardest fighting on the left of our line. Both organizations suffered severely. We took in all about two hundred rebels prisoners. Among them were several high officers, a colonel, a major, and a score or more of captains and lieutenants. Prisoners tell us that on Sunday night they were reinforced by three. brigades from Richmond, but whether from Lee's army or not we could not determine. Bragg and Jeff. Davis are positively asserted to have come from Richmond to be near Beauregard during the fight. Major Brooks, Chief Engineer of General Gillmore's staff, slightly wounded in right arm.
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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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