General Longstreet of the route by which my brigade was moving forward, and learned from him [of] the parallel road on my right, by which his troops were to move. In approaching Powhite Creek we passed over extensive deserted camps of the enemy, with great quantities of accouterments and stores abandoned or burning. A large pontoon train was burning in a field to our left.
The enemy made some stand at Gaines' Mill, and here our skirmishers, Cordero's and Haskell's companies of the First and Miller's of the Twelfth, became sharply engaged. The enemy were sheltered by trees; our riflemen availed themselves of the inequalities of the ground, where they could fire and load lying down. This exchange of fire having continued for some short time, while the First and Twelfth were preparing to advance in line, and judging that a rapid charge of the skirmishers would dislodge the enemy with least lost to our troops, I ordered them forward at the double-quick. At the word of command the riflemen sprang to their feet, and advancing impetuously drove the enemy before them. The First and Twelfth now followed in line of battle, and after the bridges over the creek and mill-race, torn up by the enemy, had been relaid by a working party, under directions of Lieutenants Johnston and Izard of the Engineer Corps, crossed the stream and again formed line of battle on the brow of the hill, to advance, supported as before by the other two regiments. It was now nearly 2 p.m.
The advance across the plain which extends from the valley of the Powhite Creek to that beyond Cold Harbor was made steadily and rapidly under the fire of the enemy's skirmishers. For a good part of the distance the line advanced at the double-quick. Among the troops driven from the ground the Ninth Massachusetts Regiment was noticed. Descending into the hollow beyond Cold Harbor, the sides of which are wooded and the bottom occupied by a marsh somewhat difficult to cross, the brigade dislodged the enemy and was formed in two lines, the first consisting of the First and Twelfth Regiments, on the farther hill-side, the second, consisting of the First Rifles and Thirteenth, in the low grounds behind. Captain Crenshaw's guns were placed in battery near the brow of the hill on the Cold Harbor side, from which he commenced firing on the enemy across the valley, who replied from batteries on the hill in our front. In this position, with the fire of artillery passing overhead, the infantry remained at a halt, by General Hill's orders, from about 2.30 o'clock until 4 o'clock, to await the formation of the line of battle on our right and left, preparatory to a general attack.
When General Hill sent the order to make the attack, I directed the First and Twelfth Regiments to advance up the hill-side. The ground, especially in front of the First, was covered by a dense thicket of young pines. As our troops ascended toward the open ground they were met by a continuous fire of small-arms from a much superior number of troops, and at the same time were exposed to a heavy fire of artillery, both direct and oblique. The fire was so destructive that they could not advance farther. Finding that great damage was done by an enfilading fire from a battery established a good way to our right, I directed Colonel Marshall, with his regiment, to charge and take it. Throwing forward two companies in open order, supported by two others, as reserves, in close order, and following with the rest of the regiment formed in column in companies, Colonel Marshall, addressing a few brief and stirring words to his regiment, proceeded upon the execution of this highly perilous service in the handsomest manner.