previous next

[345] Gen. Tyler's brigade, were here halted for rest, and remained three or four hours. My carriage had become entangled in the baggage train, and was some two miles in the rear. I began the tour of Centreville in search of food, as I had had no breakfast, and was nearly famished. While swallowing a cup of very poor coffee, which I persuaded the servants of a deserted mansion to sell me, I heard the sound of cannon in the direction of Manassas. I immediately pushed forward on foot, under a blazing sun, and after a brisk walk of three miles, during which the only refreshment I could procure was a little vinegar and water, I came to a wood through which the road leads over a high rise of ground, with an oat-field on the right, and on the left a meadow, in which is placed a small house, with an adjoining shed. In the oat field, on the right, were stationed two of the Parrott guns, under Lieut. Benjamin. As you pass the crest of the hill, your eye falls upon a gentle slope of meadow on the left of the road, bordered on the lower side by a thick growth of low trees, and rising, after passing a ravine, to high ground on the other side. At the right of the wood was an open plain, with a house and barn some fifteen or twenty rods from the wood. As I approached the first hill, I saw Sherman's battery drawn up on the left, behind the crest, and the First Massachusetts regiment, in line of battle, some twenty paces behind, in a hollow, to be out of reach of the rebel batteries.

At about 1 o'clock, as the head of our column rose over the crest of the hill, it was saluted by a shot from the rebel battery quite across the ravine, which fired eight or ten rounds from two guns, and was briskly answered by Capt. Ayres. After about ten minutes, their firing ceased, and it was supposed that the rebels had retreated. They had fired no rifled cannon, and it was believed they had none.

Skirmishers were at once thrown out from the whole brigade, which was commanded by Col. Richardson, and consisted of five regiments, into the woods on the left, while the First Massachusetts was drawn up in line of battle immediately in front of the woods, and the Twelfth New York, Col. Walrath, just at their right. The Second and Third Michigan regiments were sent to the extreme right, and marched in a right line from the road, towards the wood, and drew up in line of battle. The skirmishers pushed into the wood, and were permitted to penetrate to some distance without being fired on. Soon a few scattering shots were fired at them, and then the First Massachusetts regiment and the Twelfth New York were pushed in together. I had gone into the field bordering the wood, about one-third of the way to the wood, and watched them enter. They had been gone perhaps five or ten minutes, when a full, round volley was fired directly in their faces from a breastwork in the ravine, behind which the whole rebel force had been drawn up. They could not see their assailants, they scarcely fired a single shot at them, but were shattered by the deadly fire thus suddenly opened upon them. At intervals of perhaps a minute this volley was repeated five or six times — the rebels accompanying each fire with tremendous shouts. Two howitzers, belonging to Sherman's battery, were sent past me through the field into the wood, and opened fire, which was returned by the same volleys. After a few minutes, a rebel battery of cannon, planted upon a small cleared space in the woods, which I could see very distinctly with my glass, opened fire, first upon the howitzers in their vicinity, but after two or three shots, they sent half-a-dozen balls into the field where I stood, and over my head into the group of officers and soldiers gathered about the house to watch the firing. One shot struck some 20 feet from me, another went through the shanty adjoining the house, and a shell exploded in the field some 20 rods from where I stood, without doing any damage.

At 2 1/2 o'clock, a company of cavalry, Texas Rangers, belonging to the regular force, had crossed the field and taken possession, the men dismounting, armed with carbines, immediately in front of the wood. While stationed on the hill during the first firing, one of the rebel shots had fallen in their midst and severely wounded one of them, who had been carried back into the wood. After the firing from cannon and musketry which I have mentioned had been continued some twenty minutes,--many of the musket shots reaching the point where I stood,--I saw the Twelfth New York regiment rush pell-mell out of the wood, followed by the Massachusetts men, marching in good order. Their appearance was the signal for a general retreat of the forces in that neighborhood. The regular cavalry wheeled and ran their horses up the hill at the top of their speed — putting those of us who were on the hill-side in greater peril of life and limb than we had been before during the day. Two companies of the New York Twelfth kept their ground well, and came off in good order. The rest made good time in leaving a position which it could not be expected for a moment that they could hold, The Michigan regiments, on the right, kept their position for a time, but soon drew off with the rest.

It was clear that the rebels were intrenched in great force in the wood, and that they had a powerful battery there, some of the guns being clearly rifled cannon from the noise the balls made as they passed over our heads. Clouds of dust, coming towards the front from the hills in the rear, indicated that they were bringing up reinforcements. The withdrawal of our troops was in pursuance of a purpose to change the plan of attack. Orders were sent back for reinforcements. Sherman's whole battery was ordered into the garden on the left of the road, just in front of the house; two guns were planted in the oat-field on the opposite side, and at three and a half o'clock, a shot

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Michigan (Michigan, United States) (1)
Centreville (Virginia, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William T. Sherman (3)
Walrath (1)
Daniel Tyler (1)
J. B. Richardson (1)
Judah P. Benjamin (1)
R. B. Ayres (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: