Sumner, to the effect that I must fall back to my first position. Knowing General Smith's disposition to strengthen me and to make a movement in this direction, I sent a message by Lieutenant Crane, of General Smith's staff, stating that I ought to be re-enforced, and after some time received a reply through Lieutenant Crane that I must fall back to my first position, and that I could not be re-enforced on account of movements on the left.
I then sent Lieutenant Farquhar, of the Engineers, back to represent to General Sumner my position, with a view of showing the disadvantage of falling back at that time and giving up the advantages we had already secured, for which we might have to fight again the next day in order to recover, besides the bad impression if would make on my troops, and the inspiriting effect it would have upon the enemy, who were then engaged in a furious contest with our troops in front of Fort Magruder. I directed Mr. Farquhar to inform General Sumner that I would obey the order to fall back if no answer should arrive when a reasonable time had elapsed. While I was awaiting a reply to this message the crisis of the battle in front of Fort Magruder appeared to have arrived, and in order to furnish all the assistance possible our battery threw percussion shell into that fort. The artillery also fired into all the re-enforcements and caissons passing into Fort Magruder at and before this time. This annoyed the enemy so much that he finally brought out one or two pieces of artillery and turned them upon our advanced line, exploding shell within the line of our skirmishers, and in one instance reaching our battery. Previously the enemy had thrown round shot into the battery, killing and wounding some of our men. Our artillery was superior in efficiency to theirs, and the enemy, perceiving this, ceased firing. In the mean time I had two pieces disabled, one from carelessness in placing the shell in the piece in an improper position, and the other from its being fired at an elevation so great that the axle was broken.
Affairs remaining in this position, and Lieutenant Farquhar not having returned, at 4.20 p.m. I addressed a written communication to General Smith, stating that I would wait a reasonable time to get an answer from General Sumner before falling back. I awaited an answer to this communication till 5.10 o'clock p.m. The clouds had become very heavy over us and the rain was drenching the troops. I concluded to make my dispositions for the night. I was just giving my orders to fall back and occupy the crest on which the redoubt was situated, as a preparatory movement to a further withdrawal, hoping, however, that I might yet receive re-enforcements before I was fully prepared to make a final movement to the rear. I trusted that the thickness of the weather would prevent the enemy from observing that I was retiring, and had delayed for some little time with that object in view.
Just at this moment I observed that the enemy were throwing infantry into the redoubts on my front and that my skirmishers were firing on them. I immediately apprehended danger. A column of the enemy's cavalry now came out from behind a point of the woods near the redoubt to the right. The skirmishers kept up a constant fire upon this cavalry, doing good execution, at about 400 yards distance. Observing these movements, I immediately dispatched a staff officer to General Smith to notify him of the state of affairs. The enemy still persisting in their attempts to form, preparatory to a charge on my artillery, I ordered some shell to be thrown into them, and then directed the artillery to retire rapidly, piece by piece, to my second line. About this time I was informed that a regiment of the enemy had gone into