War of the Rebellion: Serial 048 Page 0622 OPERATIONS IN N. C., VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XLI.

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After this firing had continued for some minutes it slackened somewhat, and not hearing from it we were of opinion that it was from and at the enemy's skirmishers, and General Lee, expressing the opinion that the movement by the enemy on this part of the line was intended merely as a reconnaissance or feint, and that it was too late for the enemy to attempt anything serious that night, concluded to retire. It was then nearly or quite dark, and while I must confess that I did feel considerable anxiety for the result of a night attack if the enemy should have the enterprise to make it, yet the confident opinion expressed by the commanding general disarmed my fears. The firing at the trenches continued, and while I was making arrangements to send off two dispatches for General Ewell, left with me by General Lee, Major Hale, of my staff, who had been previously sent on foot across the river with messages for General Hays and Colonel Godwin, returned and informed me that when he left General Hays the enemy was advancing against him; that he had then gone to Colonel Godwin, and as he returned across the bridge he had seen some of Hays' men, who told him that Hays had been driven from the trenches; but he stated that he did not believe this statement, as he left Hays and his men in fine spirits, and I did not believe it myself, as the firing seen by us did not warrant any such supposition.

I, however, sent Major Daniel, of my staff, immediately to ascertain the state of things, and ordered Pegram to move up to the bridge with his brigade, and Dance and Graham to man their guns. I then started toward the bridge, and met Major Daniel returning with the information that he had just seen General Hays, who had made his escape, and received from him the information that the greater part of his brigade was captured and Hoke's brigade cut off, and the enemy in possession of the north end of the bridge. Pegram's brigade was hurried up and so disposed as to prevent a crossing of the bridge, and Gordon was sent for from the right, and messenger sent to General Lee. I then went near the river to ascertain of anything could be done to retrieve the disaster, but found it would be a useless sacrifice of my men to attempt to throw any of them across the bridge, as the enemy were in line just beyond the opposite end and were in possession of the trenches commanding it. I could not use the artillery by reason of the darkness and for fear of firing into my own men, who were prisoners in the hands of the enemy.

Hoke's brigade had not at this time been captured, as I subsequently ascertained, nor had the Fifth and Seventh Louisiana Regiments, of Hay's brigade, but they were hopelessly cut off from the bridge, without any means of escape and with no chance of being re-enforced; and while making the preparation for defending the bridge and preventing an increase of the disaster, I had the mortification to hear the final struggle of these devoted men and to be made painfully aware of their capture, without the possibility of being able to go to their relief. I might have fired canister across the river, and perhaps done some damage to the enemy, but the chances were that more damage would have been done to my helpless men, and I left that it would have been cruel and barbarous to have subjected them to this result for any amount of damage I could then inflict on the enemy. This contains as much of this affair as i am capable of describing from actual observation.

From the reports of General Hays and Lieutenant-Colonel Tate, of Hoke's brigade, as well as from the statements of other officers who