A heavy 32-pound rifled cannon was brought well forward on the road, and threw a couple of shell among the rebel lines, which were indistinctly seen formed and forming a mile before us. These were not answered, and, for a while, the cannonade was discontinued from our side.
Our position was less commanding and less clear than that we had occupied on Thursday.
We were still before the valley of Bull Run
, but the descent from our side was more gradual, and we were surrounded by thick woods down almost to the ravine through which the stream flows.
The enemy, on the contrary, had cleared away all obstructing foliage, and bared the earth in every direction over which they could bring their artillery upon us. Clumps of trees and bushes remained wherever their earthworks and other concealed defences could be advantageously planted among them.
The ground on their side was vastly superior to ours.
It rose in regular slopes to great heights, but was broken into knolls and terraces in numberless places, upon which strong earthworks were successively planted, some openly, but the greater part concealed.
The long interval between our first discharge of artillery and the positive attack afforded abundant opportunity to overlook the ground.
In no spot did the enemy seem weak.
Nature had supplied positions of defence which needed but little labor to render them desperately formidable.
How thoroughly these advantages had been improved we know by the enormous efforts which were required to dislodge the troops, and by the obstinate opposition which they displayed before retiring from point to point.
While our division waited, quiet and alert, Gen. McDowell
led the columns of hunter and Heintzelman
far around by the right, to the enemy's flank and rear.
The march was long and doubtless slow, for it was not until about 11 o'clock that we were able to discover indications of their having met the rebels.
's position, to the left, however, we heard, at 8 o'clock, the commencement of vigorous cannonading.
The deep, sullen sound from his distant batteries was all that broke the silence for nearly an hour.
Then the hurrying of our officers up and down the hill, and through the woods, told us that our assault was about to open.
The skirmishers had detected a thick and tangled abatis at the banks of the run, into which, before advancing, a few shell were thrown.
As these burst, the rebels swarmed out from their hiding-places, and took up their next fortified post beyond.
's brigade was moved forward at the left, but, before reaching the run, received the full fire of a battery masked with bushes, before which they retired to their first line.
Again all operations were suspended by our division, and until 11 o'clock the contest was carried on by the artillery, which, indeed, at that hour, resounded from every point of the field.
The action by artillery must have extended over five or six miles, from Richardson
's position at the extreme left around to Hunter
's at the right.
The roar and rattle were incessant, and the air above the vast field soon became thick with smoke.
Suddenly a line of troops was seen moving over the open hill-slope precisely in advance of us and within a mile — the least distance at which the rebel infantry had been seen.
The 3d brigade under Col. Sherman
was now drawn from its shelter among the woods and led rapidly around by the right across the run and towards one of the enemy's best positions.
Brisk volleys of musketry were soon after heard, but the smoke hung like a veil before us and it was impossible to discover by whom, or against whom, they were directed.
A puff of wind afterwards cleared the view, and we saw the brigade still in firm line, and advancing with great speed.
A few shots, and a round or two of artillery, next came from the right upon the 2d brigade, which had not yet moved forward, and which, as a whole, held its post squarely, although some squads broke and ran into the open road.
Orders were given to the men to lie upon their faces when not in motion, and menaced by artillery.
However proper this precaution may have been at this time, it afterwards turned out to be one of the most fatal causes of the demoralization of the division.
It was so frequently repeated that some regiments at last could not be made to stand at any point whatever, the least report of cannon or musketry sending them instantly upon their knees; and I saw an entire company of the New York 2d grovel in the dust at the accidental snapping of a percussion cap of one of their own rifles.
At 11 1/2 o'clock the cannonading was lighter from our side, and the attention of the enemy seemed to be distracted from us. We were then able to descry great volumes of smoke arising in front, in the precise spot at which Hunter
's column should have arrived.
This gloomy signal of the battle waved slowly to the left, assuring us that Hunter
were pushing forward, and driving the enemy before them.
At the same time, our right brigade disappeared over the eminence for which they had been contending, and the distant cheers, which evidently came from them, proved that the present triumph was their own. To sustain and re-enforce them, the reserve brigade of Colonel Keyes
was then brought down, and marched forward, in spite of a tremendous cannonade which opened upon them from the left, in the same line as that which Colonel Sherman
The left brigade, under General Schenck
, did not advance, but still remained on the ground where it had formed at the very outset.
The result of this inaction was, that our left was at the close of the battle assailed and successfully turned; and although the enemy did not pursue this final triumph, it was not the fault of the commander of that brigade that great mischief was not