War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0451 Chapter XXIII. BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG,VA.

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four batteries of horse artillery. I came up with him at 4 o'clock p.m., and found he had been engaged with the enemy. General Stoneman stated to me that the enemy had in front of him four regiments of infantry, two regiments of cavalry, and several pieces of artillery, with a rifle a half a mile long, but he believed had evacuated their works. He, moreover, said that the wood between us and the enemy was practicable for infantry; that the cavalry had been riding through it. I then had Smith's division in hand, and feeling the importance of pressing the pursuit as fast as possible I determined to advance at once. I formed the division in two lines and advanced. After entering the woods I found the underbrush much thicker than I expected and the lines became entangled, and shortly afterward it became so dark it was impossible to advance, and I ordered the troops to halt and lie on their arms.

During the night it recurred to me that it was possible that General Stoneman might have been misinformed as to the force of the enemy, and also as to the strength of their works, which proved to be the case.

Another difficulty which could not be set aside was this: A part of General Smith's division had marched without rations. All these considerations determined me to pause a little and change my plan of attack. I had a careful reconnaissance made on the left of the enemy's works on the morning of the 5th, and found two of their forts unoccupied. I immediately ordered General Hancock to advance with a brigade and ten pieces of artillery and hold those works, it being my intention to force their left. This led to an attack upon him by a superior force of the enemy, which he splendidly repulsed. I sent three regiments to re-enforce him but they did not reach him until after he had repulsed the enemy.

General Hooker became engaged with the right of the enemy early in the day and had very severe fighting. On this being reported to me that he was hard pressed, I immediately ordered General Kearny, who was coming up with his division, to support him, which he did as soon as possible, and participated in the fight. About 11 o'clock a.m. I sent General Heintzelman to the left to take command of the troops in that quarter.

At 3 o'clock p.m. the enemy made a furious attack upon my center, which was directly in front of their principal work and at a half a mile distance. When it commenced I had not many troops to meet it, and for a little time I was exceedingly anxious, for I well knew the fearful consequence that would ensue if they pierced our center. I sent several officers to the rear to hurry up the troops, and they struggled on through the mud and rain as fast as possible. The leading brigade of Couch's division came up first under General Peck, and walked into the fight in the most gallant manner. Great praise is due General Peck for his high conduct. The action at this point continued so long and with such determination on the part of the enemy to force our center that several of our regiments expended all their ammunition, and I was obliged to interpose fresh regiments between them and the enemy.

About 5 o'clock p.m. I received a message from the commanding general that he was at a house near by and wished to see me. I was then expecting another burst of the enemy to force the center, and I felt it to be unsafe to leave my position at that moment. I therefore sent a staff officer to the general to ask whether I should come to him at once or if he would allow me to delay a little. I had not the slightest intention of showing any disrespect by this message. About twenty minutes after this the general came down to me, and after conversing