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[370] Hunter's axemen clearing his way, and awaited with some impatience the sound of his cannon on the opposite heights. Time wore along, with occasional shots from our guns, as well as those of Col. Richardson column, but without, in a single instance, receiving any reply.

At a little before 11 o'clock, the First Ohio and Second New York, which were lying in the wood on the left, were ordered to advance. They did so — passing out of the road and climbing a fence into a wood opposite, which they had barely approached, however, when they were met by a tremendous discharge of a four-gun battery, planted at the left in the woods, mainly for the purpose of sweeping the road perpendicularly and the open field on its right, by which alone troops could pass forward to the opposite bank. They were staggered for a moment, and received orders to retire. Capt. Ayres' battery (formerly Sherman's) was advanced a little, so as to command this battery, and, by twenty minutes of vigorous play upon it, silenced it completely.

At half-past 11 we heard Hunter's guns on the opposite height, over a mile to the right. He was answered by batteries there, and then followed the sharp, rattling volleys of musketry, as their infantry became engaged. The firing now became incessant. Hunter had come upon them suddenly, and formed his line of battle in an open field, at the right of the road. The enemy drew up to oppose him, but he speedily drove them to retreat, and followed them up with the greatest vigor and rapidity. Meantime, for some three hours previous, we had seen long lines of dense dust rising from the roads leading from Manassas, and, with the glass, we could very clearly perceive that they were raised by the constant and steady stream of reinforcements, which continued to pour in nearly the whole day. The Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth, Second, and Eighth New York; the First, Second, and Third Connecticut, and the Second Wisconsin were brought forward in advance of the wood and marched across the field to the right, to go to Col. Hunter's support. They crossed the intervening stream and drew up in a small open field, separated from Col. Hunter's column by a dense wood, which was filled with batteries and infantry. Our guns continued to play upon the woods which thus concealed the enemy, and aided materially in cleaning for the advance. Going down to the extreme front of the column, I could watch the progress of Col. Hunter, marked by the constant roar of artillery and the roll of musketry, as he pushed the rebels back from point to point. At 1 o'clock he had driven them out of the woods and across the road which was the prolongation of that on which we stood. Here, by the side of their batteries, the rebels made a stand. They planted their flag directly in the road, and twice charged across it upon our men, but without moving them an inch. They were met by a destructive fire, and were compelled to falls till further back. Gradually the point of fire passed further and further to the left, until the dense clouds of smoke which marked the progress of the combat were at least half a mile to the left of what had been the central position of the rebels.

It was now half-past 2 o'clock. I was at the advanced point of the front of our column, some hundred rods beyond the woods, in which the few troops then there were drawn up, when I decided to drive back to the town for the purpose of sending you my despatch. As I passed up the road, the balls and shells from the enemy began to fall with more rapidity. I did not see the point from which they came; but meeting Capt. Ayres, he said he was about to bring up his battery, supported by the Ohio brigade, under Gen. Schenck, to repel a rumored attempt of cavalry to outflank this column. As I passed forward he passed down. General Schenck's brigade was at once drawn up across the road, and Capt. Ayres' guns were planted in a knoll at the left, when a powerful body of rebels, with a heavy battery, came down from the direction of Bull Run, and engaged this force with tremendous effect. I went to Centreville, sent off my despatch, and started with all speed to return, intending to go with our troops upon what had been the hotly contested field, never doubting for a moment that it would remain in their hands. I had gone but a quarter of a mile when we met a great number of fugitives, and our carriage soon became entangled in a mass of baggage-wagons, the officer in charge of which told me it was useless to go in that direction, as our troops were retreating. Not crediting the story, which was utterly inconsistent with what I had seen but a little while before, I continued to push on. I soon met Quartermaster Stetson, of the Fire Zouaves, who told me, bursting into tears, that his regiment had been utterly cut to pieces, that the colonel and lieutenant-colonel were both killed, and that our troops had actually been repulsed. I still tried to go on, but the advancing columns rendered it impossible, and I turned about. Leaving my carriage, I went to a high point of ground, and saw, by the dense cloud of dust which rose over each of the three roads by which the three columus had advanced, that they were all on the retreat. Sharp discharges of cannon in their rear indicated that they were being pursued. I waited half an hour or so to observe the troops and batteries as they arrived, and then started for Washington, to send my despatch, and write this letter. As I came past the hill on which the secessionists had their intrenchments less than a week ago, I saw our forces taking up positions for a defence, if they should be assailed.

Such is a very rapid and general history of this day's engagement. I am unable to be precise or profuse in matters of detail, and must leave these to a future letter.

I hear nothing, on every side, but the warmest

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