occasionally delivering a scattering fire. The Fourteenth was moving to the right flank. The Eighth had lost its organization. The marines were moving up in fine style in rear of the Fourteenth, and Captain Arnold was occupying a height on the middle ground with his battery. At this juncture there was a temporary lull in the firing from the rebels, who appeared only occasionally on the heights in irregular formations, but to serve as marks for Griffin's guns.
The prestige of success had thus far attended the efforts of our inexperienced, but gallant, troops. The lines of the enemy had been forcibly shifted nearly a mile to their left and rear. The flags of eight regiments, though borne somewhat wearily, now pointed towards the hill from which disordered masses of rebels had been seen hastily retiring.
Griffin's and Ricketts' batteries were ordered by the commanding general to the top of the hill on our right, supporting them with Fire Zouaves and marines, while the Fourteenth entered the skirt of woods on their right, to protect that flank, and a column, composed of the Twenty-seventh New York, moved up towards the left flank of the batteries; but so soon as they were in position, and before the flanking supports had reached theirs, a murderous fire of musketry and rifles, opened at pistol range, cut down every cannoneer and a large number of horses. The fire came from some infantry of the enemy, which had been mistaken for our own forces, an officer on the field having stated that it was a regiment sent by Colonel Heintzelman to support the batteries.
The evanescent courage of the zouaves prompted them to fire perhaps a hundred shots, when they broke and fled, leaving the batteries open to a charge of the enemy's cavalry, which took place immediately. The marines also, in spite of the exertions of their gallant officers, gave way in disorder; the Fourteenth on the right and the column on the left hesitatingly retired, with the exception of the Sixty-ninth and Thirty-eighth New York, who nobly shook and returned the fire of the enemy for fifteen minutes. Soon the slopes behind us were swarming with our retreating and disorganized forces, whilst riderless horses and artillery teams ran furiously through the flying crowd. All further efforts were futile; the words, gestures, and threats of our officers were thrown away upon men who had lost all presence of mind and only longed for absence of body. Some of our noblest and best officers lost their lives in trying to rally them.
Upon our first position the Twenty-seventh was the first to rally, under the command of Major Bartlett, and around it the other regiments engaged soon collected their scattered fragments. The battalion of regulars, in the mean time, moved steadily across the field from the left to the right, and took up a position where it held the entire forces of the rebels in check until our forces were somewhat rallied. The commanding general then ordered a retreat upon Centreville, at the same time directing me to cover it with the battalion of regulars, the cavalry, and a section of artillery. The rear guard thus organized followed our panic-stricken people to Centreville, resisting the attacks of the rebel cavalry and artillery, and saving them from the inevitable destruction which awaited them had not this body been interposed.
Among those who deserve especial mention I beg leave to place the following names, viz:
Captain Griffin, for his coolness and promptitude in action, and for the handsome manner in which he handled his battery.
25 R R-VOL II