arrived, formed also on its left. While endeavoring to make to necessary disposition to retreat, confusion was created by the appearance of an officer of the enemy's force in front of the Tammany regiment, who called on them to charge on the enemy, who were now in strong force along the wood occupied formerly by the Fifteenth Massachusetts, supposing that an order had been given for the advance of the whole line, rushed with eagerness, but was promptly recalled by their officers, who had received no such order. The detachment of the Tammany regiment was received with a shower of bullets, and suffered severely. In the disturbance caused by their repulse the line was broken, but was promptly reformed.
After this, however, although several volleys were given and returned and the troops fought vigorously, it seemed impossible to preserve the order necessary for a combined military to the rive bank. The troops descended the bluff, and reached the bank of the river where there is narrow plateau between the river and the ascent of the bluff, both the plateau and the bluff being heavily wooded. As I descended upon this plateau, in company with Colonel Cogswell, I saw the large boat, upon which we depended as the means of crossing the river, swamped by the number of men who rushed upon it.
For the purpose of retarding as much as possible the approach of the enemy, by direction of Colonel Cogswell I ordered the Fifteenth Regiment to deploy as skirmishers over the bank of the river, which order was executed, and several volleys were given and returned between them and others of out forces and the enemy, who were now pressing upon us in great numbers and forcing down furious volleys on this plateau and into the river to prevent any escape. It was impossible longer to continue to resist, and I should have had no doubt, if we had been contending with the troops of a foreign nation, in justice to the lives of me, it would have been our duty to surrender; but it was impossible to do this to rebels and traitors, and I had no hesitation in advising men to escape as they could, ordering them in all cases to thrown their arms into the river rather than give them up to the enemy. This order was generally obeyed, although several of the men swam the river with their muskets on their backs, and others have returned to camp, bringing with them their muskets, who had remained on the Virginia shore for two nights rather than to part with their weapons in order to facilitate their escape.
Having passed up along the line of that portion of the over occupied by my regiment, I returned to the lower end of it, and at dark myself swam the river by the aid of three of the soldiers of my regiment. On arriving at the island I immediately gathered a force of 30 men, who had reached it with safety, and placed them at the passage of the river to prevent any attempt of the enemy crossing in pursuit, but soon learned that Colonel Hinks had arrived with the Nineteenth Massachusetts Regiment, and would take charge of the island.
Our loss, in proportion to the numbers engaged of the regiment, is large, as will be seen by the list of the killed, missing, and wounded, which I annex.* A large proportion of those reported missing are probably prisoners in the hands of the enemy.
*See report No. 3.