should have been first transported, and this alone would have made a difference in the infantry line at the line of attack of at least 1,000 men; enough to have turned the scale in our favor.
At about 12.30 or 1 o'clock p. m. the enemy appeared in force in front of Colonel Devens, and a sharp skirmish ensued, which was maintained for a considerable time by the Fifteenth Massachusetts, unsupported, and, finding himself about to be outflanked, Colonel Devens retired a short distance in god order, and took up a position in the edge of a wood about half of three-quarters of a mile in front of the position of Colonel Lee, where he remained until 2 o'clock p. m., when we again fell back, with the approval of Colonel Baker, and took his place in line with those portions of the Twentieth Massachusetts and First California Regiment which had arrived. Colonel Baker immediately formed his line and awaited the attack of the enemy, which came upon him with great vigor about 3 o'clock p. m., and was met admirable spirit by our troops, who, though evidently struggling against largely superior numbers (nearly if not quite three to one), maintained their ground and a most destructive fire on the enemy. Colonel Cogswell, with a small portion of his regiment, succeeded in reaching the field in the midst of the heaviest fire, and they came gallantly into action with a yell which wavered the enemy's line.
Lieutenant Bramhall, of Bunting's battery, had succeeded, after extractionary exertion and labor, in bringing up a piece of the Rhode Island Battery, and Lieutenant French, First Artillery, his two mountain howitzers; but while for a short time these maintained a well-directed fire, both officers nearly all the men were soon borne away wounded, and the pieces were hauled to the rear to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy..
At about 4 p. m. Colonel Baker, pierced by a number of bullets, fell at the front of his command while cheering his men, and by his own example sustained the obstinate resistance they were making.
Colonel Lee then took command, and prepared to commence throwing our forces to the rear, but Colonel Cogswell, of the Tammany regiment, being found to be senior in rank, assumed the command, and ordered dispositions to be made immediate for marching to the left and cutting a way through to Edwards Ferry. Unfortunately, just as the first dispositions were being made, an officer of the enemy rode rapidly in front of the Tammamy regiment and beckoned them towards the enemy. Whether the Tammamy understood this as an order from one of our officers or an invitation to close work, is not known; but the men responded to the gesture with a yell, and charged forward, carrying with them in their advance the rest of the line, which soon received a murderous fire from the enemy at close distance. Our officers rapidly recalled the men, but in the position they had now got into it was impracticable to make the movement designed, and Colonel Cogswell reluctantly gave the order to retire. The enemy pursued our troops to the edge of the bluff over the landing place, and thence poured in a heavy fire on our men, who were endeavoring to cross to the island.
Rapid as the retreat necessarily was, there was no neglect of orders. The men formed near the river, deployed as skirmishers, and maintained for twenty minutes or more the unequal and hopeless contest rather than surrender. The smaller boats had disappeared, no one knew where. The largest boat, rapidly an too heavily loaded, swamped at 15 feet from the shore, and nothing was left to our soldiers but to swim, surrender, or die. With a devotion worthy of the cause they were serving, officers and men, while quarter was being offered to such as would.