No. 23. Report of Colonel Thomas Cass,
Ninth Massachusetts Infantry, of engagement May 27.
HEADQUARTERS NINTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS, May 28, 1862.
LIEUTENANT: The Ninth started in the morning with the brigade under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Guiney, as the poor state of my health prevented me from accompanying it whilst it rained so heavily as it did at the beginning of the march. So soon as the weather promised to be tolerably fair, although very faint and weak from an illness of three weeks, at times more or less severe, I joined my command on the way to the Virginia Central Railroad.
Passing the scene of the struggle that had taken place but a short time before our arrival between the Twenty-fifth New York and a party of rebels and down the Hanover road, where the brigade halted for a brief period, no firing was heard. Soon, however, it was evident that the enemy intended a demonstration on our rear, he making a detour from our front around to the left. "About-face, forward," was the command, and the troops retraced their steps. The Vincent house passed, now on our left, a little way on the road this regiment moved into a field on the right into column of companies through a wheat field to near the verge of a wood in which the fight seemed to rage heavily. Everything a fierce contest in the front. Colonel McQuade, our brigade commander, accompanied by some artillery officers, rode up to us, and rising to full height in his saddle, and with full emphasis said, "Colonel Cass, the enemy has taken two pieces of Martin's battery,and I want the Ninth Massachusetts to retake them, which I know they can and will."
A line of battle was formed. I repeated to my men the wish of their brigade commander, "Forward, Ninth!" A lound and vigorous cheer was given, and a bold dash made into and through the woods by my command. For some time not a shot was fired by them. Every eye seemed distended to catch a glimpse of the retiring foe in some force. Prisoners of war were captured in fives, tens, twenties. Onward heroically and determinally the boys of the Ninth pushed their way, nothwihstanding a long and fatiguing march from early in the morning, it then being about 5 o'clock. Our charge was over felled trees, through brush and tangled brambles, swamps such as Virginia produces, over a ditch and fence from behind which the enemy poured a hot fire, but which was charged upon with redoubled energy, he scattering in every direction.
All the obstacles that could be thrown in the way of an advancing force in a close wood by a resisting foe were surmounted. Six companies got out to the roads and into the fields and small orchard on the left, where the enemy still held ground behind and in the vicinity of four or five houses and huts. At the farther house Captain O'Leary's company (F) captured 17 prisoners, and an ambulance at the nearest one, leaving several wounded Confederates in the houses. The woods were cleared by both wings. The line was reformed as it moved along in the wheat field in the teeth of an incessant fire, miraculously doing us but little hurt. Companies I and F were deployed out on the right and left flank with a view to engage the attention of the enemy, who had now, after leaving the two pieces of artillery of Martin's battery in rear of the house in the orchard, taken up a position behind a fence