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A fresh supply.

On Sunday, June 9th, a fresh supply of tools enabled us to put more men to work, and when not engaged in religious duties the men worked vigorously on the intrenchments. We were aroused at 3 o'clock on Monday morning for a general advance upon the [204] enemy, and marched three and a half miles, when we learned that the foe, in large force, was within a few hundred yards of us. We fell back hastily upon our entrenchments and waited the arrival of our invaders. Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart, of the Third Virginia regiment, having come with 180 men, were stationed on the hill on the extreme right, beyond the creek, and Company G, of my regiment, was also thrown over the stream to protect the howitzer under Captain Brown.

Captain Bridges, of Company A, First North Carolina regiment, took post in the dense woods beyond and to the left of the road. Major Montague, with three companies of his battalion, was ordered up from the rear and took post on our right, being at the church and extending along the entire front on that side.

This fine body of men and the gallant command of Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart worked with great rapidity, and in an hour had constructed temporary shelters against the enemy's fire.

Just at 9 o'clock A. M. the heavy columns of the enemy were seen approaching rapidly and in good order, but when Randolph opened upon them at 9:15 their organization was completely broken up. The enemy promptly replied with his artillery, firing briskly but wildly. He made an attempt at deployment on our right of the road under cover of some houses and paling. He was, however, very promptly driven back by our artillery, a Virginia company—the Life Guard—and Companies B and G of my regiment. The enemy attempted no deployment within musketry range during the day, except under cover of woods, fences or paling.

Under cover of trees, he moved a strong column to an old ford some three-quarters of a mile below, where I had placed a picket of some forty men, Colonel Magruder sent Captain Worth's company, of Montague's command, with one howitzer, under Sergeant Crane, to drive back this column, which was done by a single shot from the howitzer.

Before this a priming-wire had been broken in the vent of the howitzer commanded by Captain Brown, which rendered it useless.

A force estimated at 1,500 was now attempting to outflank us and get in the rear of Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart's small command. He was accordingly directed to fall back, and the whole of our advanced troops were withdrawn. At this critical moment I directed Lieutenant-Colonel Lee to call Captain Bridges out of the swamp, and ordered him to reoccupy the nearest advanced work, and I ordered [205] Captain Ross, Company C, First Regiment, North Carolina Volunteers, to the support of Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart.

These two captains, with their companies, crossed over to Randolph's Battery under a very heavy fire in a most gallant manner. As Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart had withdrawn, Captain Ross was detained at the church, near Randolph's Battery. Captain Bridges, however, crossed over and drove the Zouaves out of the advanced howitzer battery and reoccupied it.

It is impossible to overestimate this service. It decided the action in our favor.

In obedience to orders from Colonel Magruder, Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart marched back, and in spite of the presence of a foe ten times his superior in number, resumed in the most heroic manner possession of the entrenchments.

A fresh howitzer was carried across and placed in the battery, and Captain Avery, of Company G, was directed to defend it at all hazards. We were now as secure as at the beginning of the fight, and as yet had no man killed. The enemy, finding himself foiled on our right flank, next made his final demonstration on our left. A strong column, supposed to consist of volunteers from different regiments, and under command of Captain Winthrop, aid-de-camp to General Butler, crossed over the creek and appeared at the angle on our left. Those in advance had put on our distinctive badge of a white band around the cap, and they cried out repeatedly: ‘Don't fire.’ This ruse was practiced to enable the whole column to get over the creek and form in good order. They now began to cheer most lustily, thinking that our work was open at the gorge, and that they could get in by a sudden rush. Companies B and C, however, dispelled the illusion by a cool, deliberate, and well directed fire. Colonel Magruder sent over portions of Companies G, C and H, of my regiment, to our support; and now began as cool firing on our side as was ever witnessed.

The three field officers of the regiment were present, and but few shots were fired without their permission, the men repeatedly saying: ‘May I fire?’ ‘I think I can bring him.’ They were all in high glee, and seemed to enjoy it as much as boys do rabbit shooting. Captain Winthrop, while most gallantly urging on his men, was shot through the heart, when all rushed back with the utmost precipitation. [206]

The fight at the angle lasted but twenty minutes. It completely discouraged the enemy, and he made no further effort at assault. The house in front, which had served as a hiding place for the enemy, was now fired by a shell from a howitzer, and the outhouses and palings were soon in a blaze. As all shelter was now taken from him, the enemy called in his troops and started back for Hampton. As he had left sharpshooters behind him in the woods on our left, the Dragoons could not advance until Captain Hoke, of Company K, First North Carolina Volunteers, had thoroughly explored them.

As soon as he gave assurance of the road being clear, Captain Douthatt, with some one hundred dragoons, in compliance with Colonel Magruder's orders, pursued. The enemy, in his haste, threw away hundreds of canteens, haversacks, overcoats, etc.; even the dead were thrown out of the wagons. The pursuit soon became a chase, and for the third time the enemy won the race over the New Market course.

The bridge was torn up behind him, and our dragoons returned to camp. There was not quite eight hundred of my regiment engaged in the fight, and not one half of these drew trigger during the day.

All remained manfully at the post assigned them, and not a man in the regiment behaved badly. The companies not engaged were as much exposed, and rendered equal service with those participating in the fight. They deserve equally the thanks of the country. In fact, it is the most trying ordeal to which soldiers can be subjected, to receive a fire which their orders forbid them to return. Had a single company left its post our works would have been exposed, and the constancy and discipline of the unengaged companies cannot be too highly commended.

A detachment of fifteen cadets from the North Carolina Military Institute defended the howitzer under Lieutenant Hudnall, and acted with great coolness and determination.

The Confederates had in all 1,200 men in the action.

The enemy had the regiments of Colonel Duryea (Zouaves), Colonel Carr, Colonel Allen, Colonel Bendix, and Colonel Winthrop (Massachusetts), from Old Point Comfort, and five companies of Phelp's Regiment, from Newport News. We had never more than 300 actively engaged at any one time.

The Confederate loss was eleven wounded—of these one mortally. [207] The enemy must have lost some 300. I could not, without great disparagement of their courage, place their loss at a lower figure.

D. H. Hill, Colonel First Regiment North Carolina Volunteers.

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