right by that road, and Colonel B. H. Robertson, of the Virginia cavalry, who was near Hanover Court-House, had sent me repeated messages to the effect that a heavy body from that direction was threatening my line of retreat. I had already learned that my brigade was engaged with an entire division in its front, but continued the contest in the hope that the cannonade would attract to me some
re-enforcements, taking the precaution, however, to keep R. P.
Campbell's (Seventh North Carolina) and Hardeman's (Forty-fifth Georgia) regiments in hand to cover the retreat in case my expectations should not be realized. Finding I could remain no longer without being surrounded, and hearing of not
re-enforcements, and feeling assured from the firing that Lante had made good his retreat to Hanover Court-House, I determined to draw off. This, always, difficult in the presence of a superior enemy, was rendered comparatively easy by the precaution I had taken not to engage my whole force.
Campbell was ordered to place the Seventh across the road, so as to receive the enemy if they should attempt to follow. Orders were then sent to Lee and Cowan to withdraw in order. They were hotly engaged when the order was received, but promptly withdrew. Colonel Cowan, in an especial manner, attracted my attention by the perfect order in which he brought out his regiment, notwithstanding the severe and long-continued fire he had sustained from both infantry and artillery. The regiments marched to the rear without haste or confusion, and went up the Ashland road. A cautions was made by the enemy to follow, but a single volley from the rear guard of the Seventh arrested it. The march was continued without interruption to Ashland, where I was ordered by General Johnston to report to Major-General Hill. All my subsequent movements having been under orders received from him in person, they need not be detailed.
Having but one wagon and one ambulance, I was under the necessity of leaving a portion of my wounded. The enemy left a portion of their killed on the ground which was subsequently occupied.
My senior surgeon established his hospital in a house on which the hospital flag was conspicuously displayed. It was not in nor near the line of fire. I saw many shells thrown by the enemy explode immediately over and around the house. It could not have been undesigned.
Colonel Lane, with the Twenty-eighth Regiment, had rejoined the brigade, but I have nor received his report of the engagement he had with the enemy. As soon as received will be forwarded to you.
My loss (exclusive of Colonel Lane's command) was 66 killed and 177 wounded.
An entire division was engaged against me, and, as you are aware, a large part of General McClellan's army was in supporting distance.
The officers and men of my command conducted themselves in a very handsome manner both in the engagement and on the march. The enemy may have captured stragglers enough to offset the prisoners we took from then in the open field, by they took no body of my troops. Twice during the day the enemy were driven back, the last time taking shelter behind a ditch bank at the edge of the woods. From this position I did succeed in driving them.
I have the honor to be, yours, very respectfully,
L. O'B BRANCH,
Captain R. C. MORGAN,