During the interval between these two extremes I was ordered by Colonel Miles to throw forward skirmishers and feel the enemy, and accordingly two companies of the Third Michigan Regiment were sent forward and down the ravine, to cover our front and advance; these were supported by Captain Brethschneider's light infantry battalion, which also advanced down the ravine, accompanied by Lieutenant Prime, Corps of U. S. Engineers, who went for the purpose of ascertaining the enemy's position, he volunteering his services for that particular purpose. Colonel Davies also threw forward a company of skirmishers on his right. The enemy's skirmishers were in force in the woods in front, and covered themselves with trees and rifle-pits which had been thrown up before. Our two advance companies were driven back; the enemy pursued, and were in turn driven back by the spherical case shot of Greene's battery, and I ordered back the light infantry and also the two companies to their former position. The company in front of Colonel Davies' command retired about the same time.
By 5 o'clock p.m. I had the battery and the abatis nearly completed, making my defenses as secure as the short time nd few implements used would permit. No enemy appeared in force at my front with a disposition to assault, but about this time a heavy column of infantry appeared to the left of Colonel Davies, in a ravine, moving up to the attack. This brigade opened a heavy fire upon them, and gallantly drove them back, as he informed me afterwards. During this firing, which was soon after 5 o'clock, I received orders from Colonel Miles, through one of his staff, to retreat upon Centreville, and endeavor to hold that position. I immediately collected together my brigade, and put it in motion on the road towards Centreville, when a staff officer proposed to me to throw my regiment in line, face towards the enemy between the house occupied the night before by Hunt's battery and the Union and Centreville road, in which road the enemy was supposed to be advancing. I had gained a position near the desired point when I was met by Colonel Davies, who informed me that he had beaten the enemy handsomely in front. I told him I had been ordered back to Centreville by Colonel Miles; that the rest of my brigade had gone on; that I had been directed to go to that point with my regiment for the purpose of facing the enemy there, which I had done, and Colonel Davies returned, as I supposed, to his brigade. Soon after this I was met by a staff officer of General McDowell's, who told me to put my brigade in position on the left of the road from Centreville to Blackburn's Ford and stretching towards the Union and Centreville road, facing the enemy. Other troops had also fallen back to this point, distant about a mile from Centreville.
At about 6 o'clock p.m. Captain Alexander, of the Corps of Engineers, directed me, by the order of General MdDowell, to take the general arrangement of the troops at that point in my own hands, he suggesting as a good line of defense a line between a piece of woods on the right and one on the left, the line facing equally towards the enemy, who were supposed to be coming either on the Union or Blackburn road. I immediately formed that line as I best could of the regiments nearest the position, placing the men in the ravines and the artillery as much as possible on the hills in rear of the infantry.
Before Captain Alexander gave me this last direction, I learned that Colonel Miles had altered the position of some regiments which I had placed before, especially the Third Michigan Regiment, which I had ordered to form close column by division, to remain as a reserve, and