War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0980 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN VA. Chapter XXIII.

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ment rose promptly and began the march to the rear under their con- ception of the order. Impressed with the importance of arresting the movement at once I galloped about equidistant between my line and that of the enemy, and called to my men by word and gesture to move on the enemy. Promptly facing about, and exclaiming from one end of the line to the other that the order was misunderstood, they moved at double-quick with such impetuosity that the enemy tied from his hiding places before us. Falling back, however, upon a second hue, he poured a most terrific fire upon my ranks. In this charge my fearless and efficient field officers, Lieutenant- Colonel Willingham and Major Kesmith, fell, nobly doing their whole duty. To me their loss at this trying hour was great indeedto the regiment it is almost irreparable. Having had my horse killed just as I neared the abatis work, I was forced to discharge my subsequent duties on foot. Entering the swamp, covered in water 2 or 3 feet deep, in which the vines, briers, and felled timber made an almost impassable barrier, we were driving the enemy steadily before us, when he suddenly moved upon my right flank a strong force hearing Confederate battle-flags and enfiladed my entire line. My adjutant was ordered immediately off to ask for support, but was shot down. Messenger after messenger was then dispatched to urge the troops in rear of my right to move down to my support. This brigade, although within sight and but a few hundred yards distant failed to give me any assistance whatever. Prompt succor would ilave enabled us to have driven the enemy, already fleeing in my front, entirely from the abatis, and have saved to the service one- half of my fallen. But to protect my right and rear it now became necessary to change the front of my right company (A), under the command of Capt. Thomas H. Bell, than whom a more gallant officer never gave his life for love of country. In a sheet of fire and within a few rods of overwhelming numbers this company stood until the last officer and non-commissioned officer, except 1 corporal and 44 of the 56 men carried into action, had fallen. Yet when General Rodes gave the order for this regiment to fall back the few survivors were loading and firing, all undaunted, amid their fallen comrades. In my judgment history does not record an instance of greater courage and more steadiness of nerve than was exhibited by this entire regiment. Contending from the first with superior numbers, flanked on the right and unsupported by reserves, officers and men falling thick and fast, if not killed possibly to drown in the water in which they stood, there was no sign of wavering in any portion of the line. Two field officers had fallen, three companies had not an officer spared, four others had but one, and more than half of these brave men had fallen, when, under orders, they retired to the enemys intrench- ments in the rear. It is impossible in a report of this kind to mention the many instances of individual heroism exhibited during the day. Of Captains Flournoy and McCarty, of each man and officer who fell, I can say he died at his post. I am, very respectfully, major, your obedient servant, J. B. GORDON, Colonel Sixth Alabama Regiment. Major WHITING, A. A. U., Third Brig., Third Div., Army of the Potomac.