War of the Rebellion: Serial 016 Page 0134 Chapter XXIV. OPERATIONS IN. N. VA., W. VA., AND MD.

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the rear of his skirmishers, and General Banks advanced to the attack. The engagement did not fairly open until after 6 o'clock, but for one and a half hours was furious and unceasing. Throughout the cannonading, which at first was desultory and directed mainly against the cavalry, I had continued to receive reports from General Banks that no attack was apprehended, and that no considerable infantry force of the enemy had come forward; yet toward evening the increase in the artillery firing having satisfied me an engagement might be at hand, though the lateness of the hour rendered it unlikely, I ordered McDowell to advance Ricketts' division to support Banks, and directed Sigel to bring his men upon the ground as soon as possible. I arrived personally on the field at 7 p. m. and found action raging furiously. The infantry fire was incessant and severe. I found Banks holding the position he took up early in the morning. His losses were heavy. Ricketts' division was immediately pushed forward and occupied the right of Banks, the brigades of Crawford and Gordon being directed to change position from the night and mass themselves in the center. Before this change could be effected it was quite dark, though the artillery fire continued at short range without intermission. The artillery fire at night by the Second and Fifth Maine Batteries in Ricketts' division of McDowell's corps was most destructive, as was readily observable the next morning in the dead men and horses and broken gun carriages of the enemy's batteries which had been advanced against it.

Our troops rested on their arms during the night in line of battle, the heavy shelling being kept up on both sides until midnight. At daylight the next morning the enemy fell back 2 miles from our front and still higher up the mountain. Our pickets at once advanced and occupied the ground. The fatigue of the troops from long marches and excessive heat made it impossible for either side to resume the action on Sunday. The men were allowed to rest and recruit the whole day, our only active operations being of cavalry on the enemy's flank and rear. Monday was spent in burying the dead and in getting off the wounded. The slaughter was severe on both sides, most of the fighting being hand-to-hand. The dead bodies of both armies were found mingled together in masses over the whole ground of the conflict. The burying of the dead was not completed until dark on Monday, the heat being so terrible that severe work was impossible. On Monday night the enemy fled from the field, leaving many of his dead unburied, and his wounded on the ground and along the road to Orange Court-House, as will be seen from General Bufford's dispatch. A cavalry and artillery force under General Buford was immediately thrown forward in pursuit, and followed the enemy to the Rapidan, over which he passed with his rear guard by 10 o'clock in the morning. Parts of our infantry followed; the remainder moved forward in the morning.

The behavior of Banks' corps during the action was very fine. No greater gallantry and daring could be exhibited by any troops. I cannot speak too highly of the intrepidity and coolness of General Banks himself during the whole of the engagement. He was in the front and exposed as much as any man in his command. His example was of the greatest benefit to his troops, and he merits and should receive the commendation of his Government. Generals Williams, Augur, Gordon, Crawford, Prince, Greene, and Geary behaved with conspicuous gallantry. Augur and Geary were severely wounded; and Prince, by losing his way in the dark while passing from one flank of his command to the other, fell into the enemy's hands.