War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0392 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, VA. Chapter XXIII.

Search Civil War Official Records

tunity to make a re-examination of the next work below the one in front of our batteries (about 750 yards) if opportunity presented.

To carry out these orders the Forty-third New York Volunteers was sent to the extreme right of our picket line along the creek especially to do the labor and guard that point during its continuance. I took the Fifth Wisconsin and Sixth Maine Volunteers beyond the picket line toward Lee's Mill, on the main road, with a view of approaching the enemy's works in question from the front and covering the workmen on the other part of the line. I deployed a portion of the Maine regiment as skirmishers, the remainder as reserves and flankers. The Fifth Wisconsin, in line of battle and in support, then advanced toward the creek, with our right brushing the picket line.

The Thirty-third New York Volunteers, of General Davidson's brigade, which had been ordered to report to me, in order to cover like operations in front of the picket line of that brigade, I found on the ground, and posted them on the road leading to Lee's Mill and perpendicular to it and about 200 yards in front of the picket line, with skirmishers thrown out 400 yards in advance, said skirmishers connecting with the flankers of the Sixth Maine.

A section of artillery was ordered to report to me, but finding no opportunity to use it-it being entirely a heavily-wooded country-I directed it to remain in the camp of the Forty-ninth New York Volunteers.

Advancing the skirmishers of the Sixth Maine, the enemy's pickets and scouts were soon driven before them, and the line advanced until the right rested on the creek near the Forty-third New York, the front and left within about 100 yards of the stream. It was then found that on prominent knoll on this side of the creek, and directly overlooking their works at a distance of about 75 paces from them, the enemy had thrown up a breastwork of logs in the form of a rifle pit. This is the only point from which their works could be overlooked. The commander applied to me for orders to take this rifle pit. At this time the reserves and supports were brought up closer to the line. I found, however, that on the right and left of this prominence the moment our men descended the little crest behind which they were lying a column of assault would be exposed to a flank fire of their ranges of rifle pits along the creek on the other side and at short range. I therefore concluded, having had an examination of their works from this prominence a day or two before-having had temporary possession of it, and knowing what the general nature of those works were, and the fact from experience then derived-that the moment of ascending that knoll we were under their immediate fire at very short range; that the advantage to be gained in taking it would not counterbalance the losses we would sustain, unless it was intended that the works on the other side should be assaulted also. I concluded, as it had no reference to our main operations, that as long as we could keep the enemy confined to that point it would be good military judgment not to make the assault, but to hold the position.

In order to ascertain the views of the general commanding the division on the subject I sent an officer of engineers to him to represent the state of the case. He decided that the assault should not be made. After holding this position about an hour, our skirmishsers within 40 or 50 paces of it in front, the enemy became very defiant, and the officer in command ordered a charge on our skirmishers. Their men rose up behind their rifle pits apparently with the view of crossing their breastworks in obedience to the order, but a deadly and well-