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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 36, Part 1 (Wilderness-Cold Harbor)
Page 325 Chapter XLVIII. RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES.

Birney's command, when it was found that the enemy did not hold the Orange plank road in force for some distance in my front. During this reconnaissance Captain Briscoe, of General Birney's staff, distinguished himself in a marked manner. At 9 a. m. a dispatch reached me, from General Humphreys, stating that the movements of the enemy indicated that either General Warren or myself would be attacked, but nothing more than light skirmishing occurred in my front.

About dark I sent to their proper commands, by order of the major-general commanding, all the troops under my orders not belonging to my own corps. Birney's division was detached just before dark and order for this movement was countermanded after the division had moved out a short distance. It then returned to its former position. At daylight on the morning of the 8th, in obedience to orders, I withdrew my corps from its position on the Brock road and covered the rear of the army during the movements toward Spotsylvania Court-House.

I am aware that I have given but a meager sketch of the part taken by the troops under unde my command in the battle of the Wilderness. The nature of the country in which that battle was fought is well known. It was covered by a dense forest, almost impenetrable by troops in line of battle, where maneuvering was an operation of extreme difficulty and uncertainty. The undergrowth was heavy that it was scarcely possible to see more than 100 paces in any direction.

No movements of the enemy could be observed until the lines were almost in collision; only the roar of the musketry disclosed the position of the combatants, to those who were at any distance, and my knowledge of what was transpiring on the field, except in my immediate presence, was limited and was necessarily derived from reports of subordinate commanders. The casualties of service then and subsequently have rendered it impossible for me to obtain the official reports of many of the gallant officers who took a prominent and distinguished part in that great battle. Major-General Birney, Brigadier-Generals Wadsworth, Stevenson, and Hays, are dead; General Barlow is in Europe, and Generals Ward and Owen are out of service. I have applied to General Getty for his report, but have not yet received it.

Looking at the action after so long a time has elapsed, it seems that the expected movement of Longstreet on the left flank, on the morning of the 6th, had very material effect upon the result of the battle. I was not only cautioned officially that the movement was being made, but many incidents narrated in the body of this report, such as the skirmishing and artillery firing on General Barlow's flank, the heavy firing in the direction of Todd's Tavern, where Sheridan was to attack Longstreet, and the report of the infantry moving on the Brock road from the direction of Todd's Travern, confirmed me in the belief that I would receive a formidable attack on my left. This paralyzed a large number of my best troops, who would otherwise have gone into action at a decisive point on the morning of the 6th. Had Frank's brigade been supported that morning by the remainder of Barlow's division the result must have been very disastrous to the enemy in his then shattered condition. From accounts from Confederate sources it is now known that our fierce attack along the Orange plank road on the 6th had


Page 325 Chapter XLVIII. RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 36, Part 1 (Wilderness-Cold Harbor)
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