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[147] Confederate disaster, and would involve the failure of General Lee's whole plan for the relief of Richmond.

It was a critical moment for the Confederates, as victory, which involved the relief or loss of their capitol, hung wavering in the balance. Night seemed about to close the account against them, as the sun was now setting upon their gallant, but so far fruitless efforts.

While matters were in this condition, Whiting's division, after crossing, with much difficulty, the wooded and marshy ground below Gaines' Mill, arrived in rear of that position of the line held by the remnants of A. P. Hill's division. When Whiting advanced to the attack, a thin and irregular line of General Hill's troops were keeping up the fight, but, already badly cut up, could effect nothing, and were gradually wasting away under the heavy fire from the Federal lines. From the centre of the division to the Chickahominy Swamp on the right, the ground was open, on the left were thick woods; the right brigade (Law's) advanced in the open ground, the left (Hood's) through the woods.

As we moved forward to the firing, we could see the straggling Confederate line, lying behind a gentle ridge that ran across the field, parallel to the Federal position. We passed one Confederate battery, in the edge of the field, badly cut to pieces and silent. Indeed, there was no Confederate artillery then in action on that part of the field. The Federal batteries in front were in full play. The fringe of woods along the Federal line was shrouded in smoke, and seemed fairly to vomit forth a leaden and iron hail.

General Whiting rode along his line and ordered that there should be no halt when we reached the slight crest occupied by the few Confederate troops in our front, but that the charge should begin at that point, in double-quick time, with trailing arms and without firing.

Had these orders not been strictly obeyed the assault would have been a failure; no troops could have stood long under the withering storm of lead and iron that beat into their faces, as they became fully exposed to view, from the Federal lines. As it was, in the very few moments it took to pass over the slope and down the hill to the ravine, a thousand men were killed or wounded. The brigade advanced to the attack in two lines.

Passing over the scattering line of Confederates on the ridge in

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Gaines Mill (Virginia, United States) (1)

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W. H. C. Whiting (3)
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