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[550] in the general direction of the stream, and but from one to three miles south of it. Even if Lee should feel that he would eventually be compelled to sacrifice this important line of communications, he would still, it was reasonably argued, attempt to hold it till all the rebel detachments that have been in the valley should be drawn in. In this anticipation we were not disappointed, and not only did he contest the passage but he made one of his fiercest assaults, with the view of crushing that portion of our army that had succeeded in crossing.

The lines on which the army had been advancing brought our columns to the North Anna near the point at which the Fredericksburg and Richmond railroad crosses that stream. Hancock's column, which had the left, struck it less than one mile to the west of the railroad crossing. Warren's column, which had the right, struck it at Jericho Ford, about four miles higher up. By an opposite fortune Warren was able to effect the passage without any resistance, but was savagely assailed on the other side, while Hancock had to fight on the north side for a passage, but once over, has thus far found little to bar his progress.

The head of the column of the Fifth corps, Griffin's division leading, reached the North Anna at one P. M., on Monday, and within ten minutes after the time of its arrival began to cross. The river at this point is fordable, but has a very rocky bed, with precipitous banks, and the men had to wade it waist deep. The rebels appear not to have expected that the passage would be made so high up the stream, and hence had no great force in the immediate vicinity. In fact they had no time to bring up much force, as the rear of Hill's corps was arriving almost at the same time with the head of Warren's column. Immediately on crossing, Griffin's division was formed in line of battle, the Second brigade (Sweitzer's), having the advance, while Ayres took position on his left, and Bartlett was held in reserve in the centre of the line. Cutler's division formed on the right of Griffin, and Crawford's (Pennsylvania Reserves), on his left. Moving rapidly up across an open space of six or eight hundred yards, Griffin took position in the woods, where a heavy skirmish line was soon met. At first the only rebel troops in the neighborhood consisted of McGowan's brigade, of Wilcox's division (Hill's corps), under command of Colonel Brown, of the Fourteenth South Carolina. But he was presently reinforced by the other three brigades of Wilcox's division — namely, those of Scales, Gordon and Thomas; while Heath's division joined on to the right of Wilcox, and prisoners say that Breckinridge's division afterward came up.

The skirmish line which was all our advance at first met, had been easily driven back, and the command had taken up its position in the woods, and had just received orders to intrench, the first preparations for which it was just taking, when Griffin's division, at five fifteen P. M., was furiously assailed by the rebel force above enumerated, which suddenly developed in two lines of battle, with a heavy skirmish line in front. Volley after volley, fierce and sharp, was poured in, and the enemy opened from three batteries a very heavy cannonade. Griffin's division, however, without works, successfully resisted the attack, and repulsed it with great slaughter. Our men, in fact, served them with the same treatment they had themselves received in the numerous attacks they had been compelled to make, and illustrated afresh the enormous advantage the defensive has in such a country as this: that is, they lay low, covered themselves well, allowed the rebels to approach and when the whites of their eyes were visible, raked their line with a withering volley. Finding that he was gaining nothing and losing very heavily, it appears that the rebel commander, while continuing to hold three of his brigades on Griffin's front, detached Colonel Brown's South Carolina brigade to effect a detour and make an assault in flank. The mode in which he made this I have from Colonel Brown himself, who, not half an hour afterward, was a prisoner in our hands. Marching by column up the railroad for some distance, he wheeled by right into line of battle, and fell upon Cutler, who, as we have seen, was formed on the right of Griffin. Cutler's division had not yet gotten into position when Brown attacked with much vigor: its left gave way, and the whole command was considerably broken and thrown into much confusion. This, of course, uncovered the right of Griffin's line, held, as we have seen, by Ayer's brigade, and exposed him to imminent danger of having his flank turned. To avoid this the right was refused somewhat, and General Griffin threw forward three regiments of Bartlett's brigade, which arrived just in time to save the exposed flank from being turned, and reestablished the line. In the execution of this manoeuvre, occurred one of those odd rencounters which occasionally happen in the complicated actions of battle. One of Bartlett's regiments, the Eighty-third Pennsylvania, Lieutenant-Colonel McCoy commanding, in marching up by the flank (that is, in column, not in line of battle), ran plump against Brown's line, which was moving to follow up its success against our right. It was one of those critical situations which a moment will decide, the decision, in fact, depending on who should gain the advantage of the first volley. Rapid as a flash McCoy flung his forward companies into line, and got the first fire. One of McCoy's men seized the rebel commander by the collar and dragged him in; the Eighty-third poured in a volley on the enemy's flank and rear, and the whole rebel brigade made off in disorder. The repulse of the rebels was most complete, and during the engagement and the following morning, not less than one thousand prisoners were taken. In addition to this the rebel loss in killed and wounded was very heavy, though its precise extent could not be ascertained, as during the night the enemy made a forcible attack


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Charles Griffin (20)
Charles J. Brown (10)
Wilcox (6)
G. K. Warren (6)
C. B. McCoy (6)
Cutler (6)
I. R. Bartlett (6)
Ross S. Hill (4)
John L. Hancock (4)
St Thomas (2)
Sweitzer (2)
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Fitz Hugh Lee (2)
Heath (2)
Gordon (2)
Holmes Crawford (2)
Breckinridge (2)
Ayres (2)
E. W. Ayer (2)
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