Suspecting from the natural strength which I saw the position to possess that the enemy must be in force,a nd desiring to ascertain the extent of that force and the position of his batteries, I ordered up the two rifled guns, Ayre's battery, and Richardson's entire brigade, and subsequently Sherman's brigade in reserve, to be ready for any contingency. As soon as the rifled guns came up I ordered them into battery on the crest of the hill, nearly a mile from a single battery which we cloud see placed on the opposite side of the run. Ten or a dozen shots were fired, one of them seeming to take effect on a large body of cavalry, who evidently thought themselves out of range.
The battery we had discovered on our arrival fired six shots and discontinued fire. Finding that our battery did not provoke the enemy to discover his brigade and to throw out skirmishers to scour the thick woods with which the whole bottom of bull Run was covered. This order was skillfully executed, and the skirmishers came out of the wood into the road and close tot he ford without provoking any considerable fire from the enemy.
Desiring to make a further attempt to effect the object of the movement, and discovering an opening low down ont he bottom of the stream where a couple of howitzers could be put into battery, I ordered Captain Ayres to detach a section, post it himself on the ground I pointed out to him, and sent a squadron of cavalry to support this movement.
The moment Captain Ayres opened his fire the enemy replied with volleys, which showed that the whole bottom was filled with troops, and that he had batteries established in different positions to sweep all the approaches by the road leading to Blackburn's Ford. Captain Ayres maintained himself most gallantly, and after firing away all his canister shot and some spherical case with terrible effect, as we afterwards learned, withdrew his pieces safely and rejoined his battery. This attack on Captain Ayres accomplished the object I desired, as it showed that the enemy was i force and disclosed the position of his batteries, and had I been at hand the movement would have ended here; but Colonel Richardson having previously given an order for the Twelfth New York to deploy into line and advance into the woods, in an attempt to execute this order the regiment broke, with the exception of two companies, A and I, who stood their ground gallantly, and was only rallied in the woods some mile and a half in the rear. The fire which the regiment encountered was severe, but no excuse for the disorganization it produced.
Having satisfied myself that the enemy was in force, and also as to the position of his batteries, I ordered Colonel Richardson to withdraw his brigade, which was skillfully though unwillingly accomplished, as he requested permission with the First Massachusetts and Second and Third Michigan Regiments to charge the enemy and drive him out. It is but justice to these regiments to say that they stood firm, maneuvered well, and I have no doubt would have backed up manfully the proposition of their gallant commander. After the infantry had been withdraw, I directed Captain Ayres and Lieutenant Benjamin, who commanded the two 20-pounders, to open their fire both on the battery which enfiladed the road leading to the ford and on the battery which we had discovered in the bottom of Bull Run, which we knew to be surrounded by a large body of men. This fire was continued from 3.15 until 4 o'clock, firing 415 shots. The fire was answered from the enemy's batteries, gun for gun, but was discontinued the moment we ceased firing.
The concentrated position of the enemy, and the fact that the elevation