intrenched. Across the opening General Smith ordered a charge, which was brilliantly executed by Devin's division (brigades of Drake and Barton). The division, though moving at the pas de charge, suffered very heavily from the artillery of the enemy, which had a clean sweep of the field. Drake's brigade especially, had been much cut up, its leader had fallen mortally wounded, and on reaching the rebel ranks began to waver. Barton's brigade, however, emerging from the woods on its right, dashed forward with a yell, cleared the abattis, and gained the enemy's works, taking about three hundred prisoners. Ricketts' division of the Sixth corps, which was formed on the left of Devin's, behaved with equal gallantry, carried the rebel rifle-pits, and also took several hundred prisoners. The enemy, however, still held his position oh the right of Smith, in front of the division of Brookes. With the view of dislodging him from his position, Henry's brigade of Brookes' division, was ordered forward, and succeeded in taking the rifle-pits. Here, however, he was swept by the fire from a redoubt in his front, and Martindale, who was ordered to his support, not having been able to effect his dispositions in time to do so, Henry was compelled to fall back, the enemy following him to the skirt of the woods. The position thus carried was, as will presently be seen, one of cardinal importance, though it was purchased at a loss of two thousand killed and wounded. The rebel loss cannot have been less, as we took nearly six hundred prisoners, and the enemy left many hundred dead and wounded within our lines. The operations of Wednesday, though they had cost us dearly, had won a point of the very highest value, and this not merely tactically and with regard to operations on our front, but strategically, and in relation both to present and prospective movements. Cold Harbor is the point of convergence of all the roads radiating whether to Richmond, our objective point, or to White House, our base of supplies. Until we gained this point, indeed, we had no line of communication with our base, except by making an immense detour to the north of the Pamunkey. The importance of this point was, no doubt, appreciated by the rebels, and one of the Richmond papers, several days ago, and before we had begun moving in this direction, said in a witty prophecy in reference to Grant's favorite tactics, that “Grant has grown so enamored of his left flank that he will probably work his way down toward the James river, and we shall have another decisive battle of Cold Harbor.” By this the writer means what we term the battle of Gaines' Mill, that having been the position held by the corps of Fitz John Porter in the battle of 1862, while Cold Harbor was held by Stonewall Jackson. In the battle of to-day the relations were just reversed we holding Cold Harbor while the rebels hold Gaines' Mill. Why, in recognizing the commanding importance of the point to us, Lee did not make preparations to hold it at all hazards, is a question which he will find difficult to answer with entire satisfaction. Discovering on the night of Tuesday that the Sixth corps was retiring from the front of his left wing (held by Longstreet's command), he rapidly countermarched Longstreet, to anticipate us in the possession of Cold Harbor; and there is little doubt that he would have been able to seize it in advance of us, had it not been for the admirable tenacity with which our cavalry held on to it until it was relieved, and the position was secured beyond a peradventure, by the arrival of the columns of Smith and Wright. Cold Harbor being secured by the action of Wednesday, General Grant determined to give battle the day following, for the purpose of essaying the passage of the Chickahominy. Accordingly, during the night, Hancock's corps, which, by the previous withdrawal of the Sixth corps, held the right of the line, was moved and took position on the extreme left; and early on Thursday, the headquarters of Generals Grant and Meade, which had been in the rear of the right, were transferred to the rear of the left and established at Cold Harbor. It had, as I have said, been designed to give battle on Thursday; but Hancock was compelled to fight his corps into position, and his formation was not completed until this afternoon. The attack was then ordered for five o'clock in the afternoon, but a thunder-storm as heavy as that which swelled the Chickahominy on the day before Fair Oaks, set in, and the order had to be countermanded. The hour of attack was then fixed for 4:30 o'clock in the morning. Had General Lee, under these circumstances, emulated the conduct of that Union General whose chief glory is to be thought well of by the rebels, and planted his army astraddle the Chickahominy, as McClellan did, the storm which swelled that stream yesterday afternoon might have given General Grant an opportunity which you may depend upon it he would have improved. But while the rebels praise McClellan, they do not imitate him. Lee had his entire force north of the Chickahominy, and the only result of the delay in attack, caused by the rise in the river, was to give the enemy, who had by this time discovered the disposition of our troops, the hours of night during which to perfect his defensive preparations. In saddle at four o'clock in the morning. The gray light of dawn is struggling through a thick envelope of clouds, and a light pattering rain is falling. Our men still lie behind their breastworks, worn out with the work of the night; the rebels, too, lie behind their intrenchments, and only the sleepless pickets peer with wary eyes forward through the dusk of the woods. All is still as the grave, yet in thirty minutes the storm of battle will burst forth along a stretch of six miles. There is but time to take a glance at the lines. Here on the left wing of the army is the corps of Hancock (the
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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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