the plain between his position and Fort Magruder, and would have enabled him to take in reverse and cut the communication of the troops engaged with Generals Hooker and Kearny.
The enemy soon began to show himself in strength before him, and as his rear and right flank were somewhat exposed, he repeated his request for re-enforcements. General Smith was twice ordered to join him with the rest of his division, but each time the order was countermanded at the moment of execution, General Sumner not being willing to weaken the center. At length, in reply to General Hancock's repeated messages for more troops, General Sumner sent him an order to fall back to his first position, the execution of which General Hancock deferred as long as possible, being unwilling to give up the advantage already gained and fearing to expose his command by such a movement.
During the progress of these events I had remained at Yorktown to complete the preparations for the departure of General Franklin's and other troops to West Point by water and to make the necessary arrangements with the naval commander for his co-operation.
By pushing General Franklin, well supported by water, to the right bank of the Pamunkey, opposite West Point, it was hoped to force the enemy to abandon whatever works he might have on the Peninsula below that point or be cut off. It was of paramount importance that the arrangements to this end should be promptly made at an early hour of the morning. I has sent two of my aides (Lieutenant-Colonel Sweitzer and Major Hammerstein) to observe the operations in front, with instructions to report to me everything of importance that might occur. I received no information from the leading me to suppose hat there was anything occurring of more importance than a simple affair of a rear guard until about 1 p.m., when a dispatch arrived from one of them that everything was not progressing favorably. This was confirmed a few minutes later by the reports of Governor Sprague and Major Hammerstein, who came directly from the scene of action.
Completing the necessary arrangements, I returned to my camp without delay, rode rapidly to the front, a distance of some 14 miles, through roads much obstructed by troops and wagons, and reached the field between 4 and 5 p.m., in time to take a rapid survey of the ground. I soon learned that there was no direct communication between our center and the left, under General Heintzelman. The center was chiefly in the nearer edge of the woods, situated between us and the enemy. As heavy firing was heard in the direction of General Hancock's command, I immediately ordered General Smith to proceed with his two remaining brigades to support that part of the line. General Naglee, with his brigade, received similar orders. I then directed our center to advance to the farther edge of the woods mentioned above, which was done, and I attempted to open direct communication with General Heintzelman, but was prevented by the marshy state of the ground in the direction in which the attempt was made.
Before Generals Smith and Naglee could reach the field of General Hancock's operations, although they moved with great rapidity, he had been confronted by a superior force. Feigning to retreat slowly, he awaited their onset and then turned upon them, and after some terrific volleys of musketry he charged them with the bayonet, routing and dispersing their whole force, killing, wounding, and capturing from 500 to 600 men; he himself losing only 31 men. This was one of the most brilliant engagements of the war, and General Hancock merits the