shortly afterward inspected and approved by His Excellency the President.
At this juncture Brigadier General Henry A. Wise reached New Market, coming voluntarily to my support from Chaffin's bluff with two regiments, of 752 bayonets and two batteries.
The effective force under my orders thus amounted to 6,000 infantry and six batteries of artillery. In my front, between the river and Darbytown roads, were two regiments of cavalry, under colonel baker, First North Carolina Cavalry.
Matters were in this position when about 4 o'clock Major Meade, of the Engineers, rode up and reported the enemy as retreating in considerable confusion along the road leading over Malvern Hill. He suggested that a battery of rifled guns, placed under cover of a dense forest to the right and left of the river road at a point whence his reconnaissance had been made, distant some 800 yards from the enemy's column, would greatly embarrass his retreat. In this view Major Stevens, chief engineer, fully concurred. I accordingly at once directed, some 2 miles down the river road, with three sections, of two rifled guns each, selected from the different batteries, and dispatched the Thirtieth Virginia Regiment, Colonel Harrison commanding, of Walker's brigade, as a supporting force.
Soon afterward, feeling solicitous for the safety of this detachment, I put the remainder of the division in motion for the same point and proceeded to reconnoiter the ground in person. Upon reaching it I found the general commanding the army just returning from an observation of the enemy's position. He approved of what had been done, and directed that, after the remainder of the division had been disposed to support the batteries, fire should be opened upon the enemy's column.
By the time the infantry was in position the enemy had taken the alarm, and was drawn up in line of battle in the road between West's house and Malvern Hill, on very commanding ground. Before the fire of my artillery commenced, the enemy's gunboats began to shell vigorously the river road, clearly defined by clouds of dust, and the woods occupied by my troops. Colonel Deshler now opened his fire upon my order, and three or four regiments of the enemy's infantry within range immediately disappeared in the neighboring woods. A very heavy fire of field artillery was, however, at once brought to bear upon us from some twenty-five or thirty guns, so placed as, with the aid of the gunboats, to annoy us severely in front and on both flanks at the same time.
Finding himself overmatched in metal and the ground not admitting of more guns being put in battery on our side, Colonel Deshler ceased his fire in about an hour, after losing a considerable number of men and horses and having two caissons exploded.
The enemy kept up a furious cannonade until after dark. Under this my troops, which were mostly newly levied, behaved well, with the exception of Major E. Burroughs' battalion of cavalry and Graham's battery, with a part of branch's, whose conduct was shameful in the extreme.
The officers of my staff-Colonel James Deshler, chief of artillery; Major Archer Anderson, assistant adjutant-general; Captain T. S. Barton, acting chief commissary, and Cadet T. H. Holmes, jr., C. S. Army-performed their duty with the greatest zeal and intelligence and behaved as brave men should do.