brigade following in double column. We advanced in this manner across the open space into the woods. It had then become dark. The woods were found to be thick and tangled, and difficult to penetrate in the darkness. General Smith took personal command of my two right regiments; I of the two on the left. I soon found that my two regiments were making an angle too much to the right and approaching the two right regiments, and that it was impossible to get through the woods, keeping our formation, without more light, so close and tangled was the undergrowth. I halted my regiments to reform the line, and then meeting General Brooks, whose line of columns had closely approached me and intermingled with my line, I consulted with him, and he also being of the same opinion, came to the conclusion that it was necessary to defer the assault until daylight, or until we could understand the locality of the enemy, concerning which we had been misled, as the road to Fort Magruder at the entrance of the woods made a right angle to the left, which we knew nothing about until after we had crossed it. I determined to halt and await instructions.
General Sumner at this moment came to my lines, and directed the troops to bivouac on the spot and to defer the assault until daylight. A few moments afterward I received an order from General Smith to the same effect. General Sumner bivouacked with us. Before daylight General Sumner concluded, instead of persisting in the assault at that point, to see what could be done toward turning the enemy's right. After daylight we were ordered to fall back to the edge of the woods to allow the troops to get their knapsacks and rations. It commenced raining during the night, and so continued during the day [5th May].
About 11 o'clock a.m. on the 5th instant, being encamped in line of battle in the edge of the woods which separated us from Fort Magruder, and receiving a message from General Smith that he wished to see me at his headquarters at Whittaker's house, I there met him and Brigadier-General Sumner, commanding the left wing of the Army of the Potomac. General Sumner directed me to take four or five regiments of infantry and a battery of artillery and proceed by a road to the right, crossing Cub Dam Creek, 1 1/2 miles distant, and to take possession, if possible, of the enemy's work on the opposite side of the creek commanding the dam at this point. There was a report that it was evacuated. General Smith subsequently authorized me to advance farther if I thought any advantage could be obtained, and if I required them to send to him for re-enforcements. I accordingly detailed from Hancock's and Davidson's brigades, then under my command, the Fifth Wisconsin, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, and Sixth Maine Volunteers, of my brigade, and the Seventh Maine and Thirty-third New York Volunteers, of General Davidson's brigade, leaving the remaining regiments of both brigades in camp. At the same time Lieutenant Cowan's New York battery of six guns was ordered to report to me.
Proceeding toward the point in question. I left three companies of the Thirty-third New York Volunteers at the junction of a road leading to my right, not knowing its terminus, and proceeded until we came out of the woods into an open country, with York River in view, about 1 mile to our right. From this point I turned to the left and soon came in sight of the work overlooking the dam. The dam at this work was about 75 yards in length, the breast of it forming the roadway across the creek, there being no practicable way of getting into the wok either to the right or left unless by this narrow passage, owing to the depth of the water and the flood above and below it. It was learned from some contrabands that the enemy had occupied this work the