War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0603 Chapter XXIII. BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

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position on the extreme left. General Early held the front line. He soon after reported to General Longstreet in person that there was a Yankee battery in his front on the edge of a woods and asked leave to take it with his brigade. General Longstreet approved of the movement, and directed me to accompany it. Neither Longstreet nor myself knew the precise position of the battery, and both were entirely ignorant of the ground. We, however, agreed in the general plan of getting in rear of the battery by passing through the woods to the left of its supposed position. I reconnoitered the ground as well as I could, but could not distinctly locate the battery by the sound, as it was hid by an intervening woods. I discovered, however, that there was a stream to be crossed, skirted by very dense undergrowth difficult to penetrate, in front of the right wing of Early's brigade.

On my return this brigade was moved forward in line of battle across an open wheat field. General Early took charge of the left wing, consisting of the Twenty-fourth and Thirty-eighth Virginia Regiment, and I took charge of the Twenty-third and Fifth North Carolina Regiments, of the right wing. I directed this wing to halt as soon as the stream was crossed and undergrowth penetrated, to get the whole brigade in line, and sent my adjutant, Major Ratchford, to General Early to know whether he had got over, the thickness of the undergrowth being such that the troops on the left could not be seen. We had not halted five minutes when I heard shouting and firing immediately in our front, and a voice, which I took to be General Early's, above all the uproar, crying, "Follow me." I directed the right wing to move rapidly forward and went myself in advance of it. I soon discovered a small, open field, with an extensive woods in front of it. All on the right was an open space of many acres, in which was an earthwork occupied by our troops. I could see nothing of General Early or the Yankees. I soon, however, met an aide galloping up from him, stating that General Early was far over on the right in the open field chasing the Yankees; that he was wounded and needed re-enforcements, and had ordered a regiment in the earthwork to his support. At the same moment almost Major P. J. Sinclair, of the Fifth North Carolina Regiment, rode up with a message from Colonel D. K. McRae, of that regiment, asking permission to join the Twenty-fourth Virginia.

I regretted that our troops had gone into the open field, where the ground was so heavy that they could march with difficulty, and where they were exposed for half a mile to the full sweep of the Yankee artillery; but it was now too late to change the order of things, and there was some hope of success from a direct attack, if made rapidly. I therefore gave a reluctant consent to Colonel McRae, urging him to move forward briskly.

The woods on the left were full of Yankees, and a column moving across the open field would be exposed to a fire in flank. It was necessary, therefore, to clear it of the Yankees. I rode into it, and found there the Thirty-eighth Virginia, huddled up and in considerable confusion. The Yankees shells and balls were falling among them, and their crowded condition was such as to increase the mortality. Line of battle was formed with considerable difficulty, but when formed they were directed to move on through the woods and drive out the Yankees. The Twenty-third North Carolina Regiment had been lost sight of from the moment of being ordered to advance from the creek. It was at length found, halted by a fence. I ordered it to change front, so as to come in on the left of the Thirty-eighth Virginia and sweep the woods. The