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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 1055 Chapter XLVIII. RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES.

of the Heth and Wilcox broke and retreated in some confusion. With considerable difficulty, but with steadiness, opening their ranks to let the retreating divisions through, Kershaw formed his line on the right and Field on the left of the plank road. Having checked the advance of the enemy, I ordered a general advance by my line, which was made with spirit rarely surpassed, and before which the enemy was driven a considerable distance. The woods were dense and the undergrowth almost impossible to penetrate. This success was not purchased without the loss of many of the bravest officers and men of my corps. The circumstances under which they fought were most unfavorable. Thrown suddenly, while still moving by the flank, and when hardly more than the head of the column could face the enemy, into the presence of an advancing foe with their ranks broken each instant by bodies of our retreating men, they not only held there own, but formed their line, and in turn, charging the enemy, drove him back in confusion over half a mile to a line of temporary works, were they were re-enforced by reserves. About 10 o 'clock Major General M. L. Smith and the other officers sent out to examine the enemy's position, reported that the left of the enemy's line extended but a short distance beyond the plank road. Special directions were given to Lieutenant-Colonel Sorrel to conduct the brigades of Generals Mahone, G. T. Anderson, and Wofford beyond the enemy's left, and to attack him on his left and rear-I have since heard that the brigade of General Davis formed a part of this flanking force-the flank movement to be followed by a general advance, Anderson's brigade on the right and Wofford's on the left, Mahone being in the center. They moved by the flank till the unfinished railroad from Gordonsville to Fredericksburg was reached. Forming on this railroad facing to the north, they advanced in the direction of the plank road till they encountered the enemy in flank and rear, who was then engaging the brigades of Gregg, Benning, and Law in front. The movement was a complete surprise and a perfect success. It was executed with rare zeal and intelligence. The enemy made but a short stand, and fell back, in utter rout with heavy loss, to a position about three-quarters of a mile from my front attack.

I immediately made arrangements to follow up the success gained, and ordered an advance of all my troops for that purpose. While riding at the head of my column, moving by the flank down the plank road, I came opposite the brigades which had made the flank movement, and which were drawn up parallel to the plank road, and about 60 yards therefrom, when a portion of them fired a volley, which resulted in the death of General Jenkins, and the severe wounding of myself. I immediately notified the commanding general of my being obliged to quit the field, and the command devolved on Major-General Field.

To the members of my staff I am under great obligations for their valuable services. They conducted themselves with their usual distinguished gallantry. Much of the success of the movement on the enemy's flank is due to the very skillful manner in which the move was conducted by Lieutenant-Colonel Sorrel.

I have the honor to forward the accompanying reports of subordinate commanders of corps.

I am, colonel, with great respect, your obedient servant,

J. LONGSTREET,

Lieutenant-General.

Lieutenant Colonel W. H. TAYLOR, A. A. G.


Page 1055 Chapter XLVIII. RAPIDAN TO THE JAMES.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 36, Part 1 (Wilderness-Cold Harbor)
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