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[120] entire battle. He made it the chief subject of his first two telegrams to Lincoln, pronouncing Hancock's conduct brilliant in the extreme. And in his official report, written more than a year afterwards, he characterized it as one of the most brilliant engagements of the war, and declared that General Hancock merited the highest praise! So far from pressing the Confederates, as he had boasted he would do, after this day's work he sat quietly down in the ancient borough of Williamsburg, while these same ‘demoralized and flying’ Confederates sauntered up to the Chickahominy at their leisure, pausing on the route to reorganize their regiments whose period of service had expired, and to elect their officers! Nor did General McClellan ever again try the experiment of attacking General Johnston's men.

A few days after (May 9, 1862), the following animated account of the charge appeared in the columns of the New York Herald.

From the sharp fire of our skirmishers in the woods on our left came the first information of a movement in that direction and thus put all on the alert. * * * The fire grew hotter in the woods, and in a few moments, at a point fully half a mile away from the battery, the enemy's men began to file out of the cover and form in the open field. It was a bold, and proved an expensive way to handle men. Wheeler opened his guns on the instant, and the swath of death that subsequently marked the course of that brigade across the open field began at that spot. At the same moment, also, our skirmishers in the field began their fire. Still the enemy formed across the opening with admirable rapidity and precision, and as coolly, too, as if the fire had been directed elsewhere, and then came on at the double-quick step, in three distinct lines, firing as they came. All sounds were lost for a few moments in the sharp roar of the field-pieces and in the scattered rattle and rapid repetition of the musketry. Naturally their fire could do us but little harm under the circumstances, and so we had them at a fair disadvantage, and every nerve was strained to make the most of it. Still they came on. They were dangerously near. Already our skirmishers on the left had fallen back to their line, and those on the right had taken cover behind the rail fence leading from the house to the woods, whence they blazed away as earnestly as ever. Yet the guns are out there, and they are what these fellows want, and in the next instant the guns are silent. For a moment, in the confusion and smoke, one might almost suppose that the enemy had them, but in a moment more the guns emerge from the safe side


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Winfield Scott Hancock (2)
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May 9th, 1862 AD (1)
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