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Cold Harbor, June 5--Night.
Our men lie in the face of an active and wily enemy, ready at any moment to avail himself of our slightest relaxation of vigilance. He may attempt a surprise at any moment, and on any portion of our line, and the vigilance of our men is therefore kept constantly at its utmost tension. The report of a musket, a low voice or whisper, the sound of a footstep, the breaking of bushes, is heard in front of some point of our line; for aught we know, it may indicate a stealthy foe advancing, silent, and cautious, to attack us; and the possible danger is greeted with an instantaneous volley.

For this reason it is difficult at night to form any judgment of events by the amount of noise made. To-night, however, the firing was so severe, and kept up so long, as very naturally to produce the impression that the enemy was making a most desperate and determined assault on our left wing. Inquiry subsequently elicited that although an attack had been made, its magnitude was slight in proportion to the amount of powder exploded and the clamor made.

The firing was chiefly along the front of Gibbon's division of the Second corps, and Russell's division of the Sixth. Of the former division the Second brigade, General Owen, and the First brigade, Colonel Ramsay, report that the enemy fired from their rifle-pits, the object being to stop our working parties on the intrenchments; but the Third brigade, Colonel Smith, report that in their front the rebels actually approached our works, crawling on their hands and knees almost up to our front breastwork. They were, however, glad to retire again to the cover of their own works as soon as our men opened fire; but if they were out in line of battle, as it is said they were at this point, they must have left many dead and wounded behind them.

At other parts of the line it was merely an exchange of volleys and artillery fire between the opposing works. Shells and even bullets came far to the rear of our lines of battle, and the headquarters of General Hancock was exposed for a time to a very heavy fire. Captain McEwen, of General Hancock's staff, had his leg struck by a shell while standing in front of his own tent. The wound is such as to render amputation necessary. With this exception our casualties are supposed to have been insignificant. The duration of the fire was about forty-five minutes.

The body of Colonel McKean, Eighty-first Pennsylvania, was this morning brought off the field and sent to a hospital for embalment, then to be forwarded North at the earliest opportunity. Major Hancock, Assistant Adjutant-General of General Barlow's division, at considerable risk of his own life, went out to the body while it laid under the rebel fire, but ascertaining that life was extinct, brought away such papers and other articles as were on his person, to forward home to his family.

It was difficult to get Colonel Porter's body inside the works, owing to the vigilant attention of rebel sharpshooters, but with the aid of a rope it was accomplished.

I heard to-night an incident worth relating in connection with the rebel assault of two nights ago. About thirty rebels, somewhat more daring than their fellows, crawled on hands and knees up to our breastworks on a part of General Barlow's front. On coming up they met with no resistance from our men, the latter, on the contrary, lending a helping hand to each rebel who came in their way, by seizing him by the collar and bringing him over head fore-most [564] into their rifle-pits, where, of course, he found himself a prisoner.

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John L. Hancock (6)
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William Russell (2)
Robert H. Ramsay (2)
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