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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 668 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter XLVIII.

attack as soon as the column was formed, and stated that the artillery would cease firing at 6 p. m. Twenty minutes elapsed before all the preparations were completed, when, at command, the lines rose, moved noiselessly to the edge of the wood, and then, with a wild cheer and faces averted, rushed for the works. Through a terrible front and flank fire the column advance, quickly gaining the parapet. Here occurred a deadly hand-to-hand conflict. The enemy sitting in their pits with pieces upright, loaded, and with bayonets fixed, ready to impale the first who should leap over, absolutely refused to yield the ground. The first of our men who tried to surmount the works fell pierced through the head by musket-balls. Others, seeing the fate of their comrades, held their pieces at arms length and fired downward, while others, poising their pieces vertically, hurled them down upon their enemy, pinning them to the ground. Lieutenant Johnston, of the One hundred and Twenty-first New York, received a bayonet wound through the thigh. Private O'Donnell, Ninety-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, was pinned to the parapet, but was rescued by his comrades. A private of the Fifth Maine, having bayoneted a rebel, was fired at by the captain, who, missing his aim, in turn shared the same fate. The brave man fell by a shot from the rebel lieutenant. The struggle lasted but a few seconds. Numbers prevailed, and, like a resistless wave, the column poured over the works, quickly putting hors de combat those who resisted, and sending to the rear those who surrendered. Pressing forward and expanding to the right and left, the second line of entrenchments, its line of battle, and the battery fell into our hands. The column of assault had accomplished its task. The enemy's lines were completely broken and an opening had been made for the division which was to have supported on our left, but it did not arrive.

Re-enforcements arriving to the enemy, our front and both flanks were assailed. The impulsion of the charge being lost, nothing remained but to hold the ground. I accordingly directed the officers to form their men outside the works and open fire, and then rode back over the field to bring forward the Vermonters in the fourth line, but they had already mingled in the contest and were fighting with a heroism which has ever characterized that elite brigade. The Sixty-fifth New York had also marched gallantly to the support of its comrades, and was fighting stubbornly on the left. Night had arrived. Our position was three-quarters of a mile in advance of the army, and, without prospect of support, was untenable. Meeting General Russell at the edge of the wood, he gave me the order to withdraw. I wrote the order and sent it along the line by Captain Gorton, of the One hundred and twenty-first New York Volunteers, in accordance with which, under cover of darkness, the works were evacuated, the regiments returning to their former camps. Our loss in this assault was about 1,000 in killed, wounded, and missing. The enemy lost at least 100 in killed at the first entrenchments, while a much heavier loss was sustained in his effort to regain them. We captured between 1,000 and 1,200 prisoners and several stand of colors. Captain Burhaus, of the Forty-third New York, had two stand of colors in his hands, and is supposed to have been killed while coming back from the second line of entrenchments.* Many rebel prisoners were shot by their

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*Captain Burhaus was mustered out of service June 16, 1865.

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Page 668 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter XLVIII.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 36, Part 1 (Wilderness-Cold Harbor)
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