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[214] reaching their respective positions. At noon they had not appeared, and Hill and Longstreet moved to the attack of Keyes, without waiting for their expected diversion. The attack was sudden, vigorous, and overwhelming. Keyes was forced to retire, abandoning his camp, and losing many guns. The enemy pressed forward, encountering and overcoming a brigade of Couch's division, which sought to arrest the Rebel advance. Affairs looked very discouraging; a fresh column of the enemy was now moving against the right; and along the railroad, a heavy force, which had been held in reserve, was directing its march upon Fair Oaks.

In this critical condition of affairs, General Sumner was ordered to march rapidly to the scene of conflict; his corps lay on the opposite or north side of the Chickahominy, there being two hastily-constructed bridges for communication between the two portions of the army. The swift and swollen stream had swept away one of these bridges, that opposite the First Division; and the other, opposite the Second (Sedgwick's), was trembling and vibrating in its struggle for life. The division succeeded, however, in crossing, and pressed onward, for the unceasing cannonade in front still told of sharply-contested battle. The deep and miry morass, which formed the intervale of the river, had swamped all the artillery of the division, except five guns, beyond extrication; and two infantry regiments—the Nineteenth Massachusetts and Fortysecond New York—were detached to protect them and guard the river. As the column approached the field of battle, it was halted to load. ‘We are in luck to-day,’ said Major Revere; ‘we are not left in the rear to guard the river.’ This was not said thoughtlessly, or with levity, for no man felt more profoundly the solemnity of battle.

The division, weakened by the causes above mentioned, hastened forward, and late in the afternoon arrived upon the field near Fair Oaks. The column of the enemy which had advanced along the railroad was deployed in front of Sedgwick's division, when the latter came into line of battle. The safety of the army depended in a measure upon its ability to

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William Sedgwick (2)
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A. P. Hill (1)
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