line in the rear of the first, Meade's brigade on the left near the Chickahominy, Reynolds' brigade on the right, covering the approaches from Cold Harbor and Dispatch Station to Sumner's bridge, and Seymour's in reserve to the second line, still farther in rear. General P. St. George Cooke, with five companies of the Fifth Regular Cavalry, two squadrons of the First Regular and three squadrons of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry (Lancers), was posted behind a hill in rear of the position and near the Chickahominy, to aid in watching the left flank and defending the slope to the river.
The troops were all in position by noon, with the artillery on the commanding ground and in the intervals between the divisions and brigades. Besides the division batteries there were Robertson's and Tidball's horse batteries, from the artillery reserve; the latter posted on the right of Sykes' division, and the former on the extreme left of the line, in the valley of the Chickahominy. Shortly after noon the enemy were discovered approaching in force, and it soon became evident that the entire position was to be attacked. His skirmishers advanced rapidly, and soon the firing became heavy along our whole front. At 2 p. m. General Porter asked for re-enforcements. Slocum's division, of the Sixth Corps, was ordered to cross to the left bank of the river, by Alexander's bridge, and proceed to his support.
General Porter's first call for re-enforcements, through General Barnard, did not reach me, nor his demand for more axes, through the same officer.
By 3 p. m. the engagement had become so severe, and the enemy were so greatly superior in numbers, that the entire second line and reserves had been moved forward to sustain the first line against repeated and desperate assaults along our whole front.
At 3.30 p. m. Slocum's division reached the field, and was immediately brought into action at the weak points of our line.
On the left the contest was for the strip of woods running almost at right angles to the Chickahominy, in front of Adams' house, or between that and Gaines' house. The enemy several times charged up to this wood, but were each time driven back with heavy loss. The regulars, of Sykes' division, on the right, also repulsed several strong attacks. But our own loss under the tremendous fire of such greatly superior numbers was very severe, and the troops, most of whom had been under arms more than two days, were rapidly becoming exhausted by the masses of fresh men constantly brought against them.
When General Slocum's division arrived on the ground it increased General Porter's force to some 35,000, who were probably contending against about 70,000 of the enemy. The line was severely pressed in several points, and as its being pierced at any one would have been fatal, it was unavoidable for General Porter, who was required to hold his position until night, to divide Slocum's division and send parts of it, even single regiments, to the points most threatened.
About 5 p. m., General Porter having reported his position as critical, French's and Meagher's brigades of Richardson's division (Second Corps) were ordered to cross to his support. The enemy attacked again in great force at 6 p. m., but failed to break our lines, through our loss was very heavy.
About 7 p. m. they threw fresh troops against General Porter with still greater fury, and finally gained the woods held by our left. This reverse, aided by the confusion that followed and unsuccessful charge by five companies of the Fifth Cavalry, and followed as it was by more determined assaults on the remainder of our lines, now outflanked, caused