Knieriem with two four-gun batteries of 20-pounder Parrots. They were supported by a line of infantry in rear, and this line was strengthened by reserves deployed in the edge of the woods along the by-road alluded to above.
The Second Brigade was on the right of the main road, the Third on the left, the First in reserve. The Fourth Cavalry was close in rear of the left of the line. The division was scarcely formed before the attack commenced by a distant fire of shift and shell upon the ground occupied by the left, and attracted, doubtless, by a few discharges from the 20-pounder Parrotts. It was borne with perfect coolness and steadiness The advanced pickets of the First and Third were rapidly driven back by a force of skirmishers upon the main body, which at short range delivered a deliberate fire upon the advancing foe, cutting to pieces a regiment supposed to be the Ninth Virginia, and taking from it a number of prisoners. The position of the Third interfering with the range of our artillery, which now began to open it fell back, and being unfortunately fired upon by our own men, retired in some confusion, and reformed only late in the day.
On the extreme left a small log farm-house (Witlock's) had hastily been prepared for defense by piling rails and logs so as to shelter a part of the Twelfth Regiment, and from which, supported as it was by other troops, it should never have been driven. A fire from skirmishers, added to that of the distant artillery, drove these men, however, early in the action, and with very weak resistance, from their posts, and lost to us a very important point. The Fifth and a part of the Tenth and the small remnant of the First Rifles gallantly and successfully for a time stemmed the overwhelming tide. The Tenth, driving the enemy back by a brilliant charge, took some 60 prisoners from the --- Alabama and --- Georgia Regiments; but the success was only momentary. The force thrown upon us was too great to be long withstood.
Many a noble soldier laid down his life in holding this ground. Here fell Colonel Simmons, of the Fifth, commanding the First Brigade, closing a long line of honorable service by a glorious act of devotion to duty. Here Captain Biddle, assistant adjutant-general to General McCall, gave his life to his country, and no man more brave nor more esteemed fell this day. Captain Philip Holland, of the First Rifles, an excellent and noble-minded young man; Adjutant Gaither, of the Tenth, of high promise as a man and a soldier, and not a few other officers and many men, in endeavoring to stay the rush of the enemy, yielded up their lives.
Immediately upon the enemy presenting himself the batteries opened along the entire line, but at a great disadvantage, so close could the enemy advance under cover. On the left, no sooner were the Parrott guns subjected to the fire of musketry than they were limbered up and withdrawn, causing much confusion. The cavalry, crowded into a narrow ravine and shaken by the disorder, soon followed. It formed farther to the rear, but found no good opportunity to be of service on the field. Cooper's guns were finally taken from him after many of his officers and men had been disabled. Lieutenants Danforth and Cadvallader both died at their posts. Veterans could have done no more. The Ninth, Colonel Jackson, retook these pieces by a successful charge, and drove the enemy well back, but in so doing drew a heavy fire from his right that compelled his return. Amsden stood fast, doing excellent service until his ammunition was exhausted, then withdrew.