and the batteries of De Hart, Easton, and Kerns on the left, sweeping from commanding ridges the space between the woods and the Chickahominy. The cavalry covered the main bridge still farther to the rear.
The engagement commenced fiercely about 3 o'clock, and such overpowering numbers were brought into action by the enemy that it was soon necessary to send forward this division in support of the line already engaged. Regiment after regiment advanced, relieved regiments in front, in turn withstood, checked, repelled, or drove the enemy, and retired, their ammunition being exhausted, to breathe a few moments, to fill their cartridge boxes, again to return to the contested woods. Some of these regiments stood for four hours, scarcely changing position, yielding to no odds, and to drive the enemy in his turn. The woods were strewn with the heroic dead of both sides, and multitudes of wounded and dying painfully sought every hollow affording even momentary shelter from the incessant and pitiless fire.
Through such scenes, upon such ground, the Reserve Corps principally enacted its part. Several regiments were detached from their brigades to the support of distant points. No brigade went into action entire, and it is difficult to describe connectedly the movements of any one command. Of the First Brigade the Second Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel McCandless, was detached to the left, in support of General Morell's line. The Bucktails, First, Fifth, and Eighth, went in to relieve the left of Sykes' division and the right of Morell's. They held their ground well and stood fast, even after four hours' work had exhausted their ammunition. The First only was relieved, retired, and after some rest subsequently advanced a second time. The Eighth, posted in support of two batteries of Sykes' division, was advanced to relieve the Second U. S. Infantry, where it gallantly repulsed an advance of the enemy in force.
In the Second Brigade the Fourth and Third Regiments were also ordered forward to support the main line of battle, and the Fourth relieved Warren's Zouaves, the Third the Fourth Michigan. These both did manly service. The Fourth held the enemy in check for some time, but was compelled to fall back. The Ninth, of Seymour's brigade, came to its relief. It reformed and again returned to support the Third, still farther to the left, was finally overpowered, and fell back in good order. The Third, Colonel Sickel, was engaged for two hours, losing many men. The Eleventh had been ordered to relieve an exhausted regiment in front, and moved into line through the woods by a flank upon the right of the Fourth New Jersey at the moment when the left of Sykes' division was being relieved. The enemy, pressing strongly, fell upon the Eleventh, and finding it at disadvantage surrounded it and compelled it to yield. The New Jersey shared the same fate.
The Third Brigade early in the day was ordered to the extreme right to support batteries, but the attack being developed more to the left, the Twelfth was left in support, and the Ninth and Tenth moved to the rear of the woods, into which they were soon ordered. The Ninth, Colonel Jackson, relieved the Fourth on the right of the woods at a moment when the enemy endeavored to advance. Joined by parts of the Ninth Massachusetts and Sixty-second Pennsylvania it drove him back across a field in front, thereby exposing itself to a severe fire, under which it fell back. Reforming in the wood it returned, but could not force the enemy, hose forces rapidly increased. Again it field to
26 R R-VOL XI, PT II