judicious with reference to our inferior numbers and the extent of ground we were obliged to cover.
On the right Gordon's brigade occupied the interior slopes of the hills nearest town and adjacent to the Strasburg pike. Two sections of Company M, First New York Artillery (Cothran's battery), and one section of Hampton's battery, Maryland artillery, were placed in position on the crest of the central heights.
On the extreme right five companies of Michigan cavalry (attached to the First Division) were held in reserve under cover of the hill. This body of horse were successively under command of Majors Town and Paldi, both Colonel Brodhead and Lieutenant-Colonel Copeland being prevented from assuming command by severe illness, from which they had some time been suffering.
On the left Donnelly's brigade rested its right upon a considerable elevation, which commanded the road toward Front Royal and extended its left in a crescent form, so as to observe and cover the approaches on the southeast direction. The six guns of Light Company F, Fourth U. S. Artillery, Lieutenant Crosby commanding, and one section of Company M, First New York Artillery, Lieutenant Peabody, held commanding positions near the right of this brigade. The narrow valley which intervenes between these two positions and the plain, extending in a fanlike shape beyond, was commanded by a section of Hampton's battery of Maryland Artillery, under Lieutenant Fleming, in position on a central elevation immediately in front of the town, in supporting distance of which General Hatch had ordered the principal position of his cavalry.
The opening of the cannonade was followed within half an hour by an infantry attack in force upon Donnelly's brigade. This was gallantly and successfully repulsed. One of the rebel regiments more audaciously pursuing its attack than the others (said to be the Twenty-seventh North Carolina Volunteers) was almost annihilated, first by the cross-fire of the Fifth Connecticut and Forty-sixth Pennsylvania Regiments, and afterward by one wing of the Twenty-eighth New York Regiment, in its attempt to regain the woods in its rear. This regiment left in front of our lines its dead and wounded thickly strewn over the field so near to our lines that Colonel Donnelly and several of our field officers went forward and conversed with the wounded soldiers.
After this unsuccessful infantry attack the rebels confined their efforts for a long time to artillery firing, opening their batteries from new positions and with increased number of guns. The whole atmosphere for a while was densely and obscurely filled with smoke and fog. Our artillery replied with marked vigor, and, though inferior in number of guns, was decidedly more effective, both in rapidity and precision of fire. At this time Colonel Donnelly reported to me that several rebel regiments of infantry were moving to their right, with the apparent purpose of occupying our line of retreat to the Martinsburg road, and that Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, commanding Twenty-eighth New York, had deployed his skirmishers and moved his regiment in that direction. The colors of nine rebel regiments could be seen at this moment preparing to attack simultaneously this gallant little brigade of not over 1,700 men, who awaited the trying onset with a coolness and composure of both officers and men which was most marked and extraordinary.
With the approval of the commanding general I went in person to observe the progress of events upon the right wing, and, if practicable, to bring up re-enforcements to the support of this seriously threatened