In passing to the right I received from Brigadier-General Williams, commanding the division, additional instructions in regard to this movement, and passing forward I formed my regiments into line of battle directly opposite to the enemy's left. A thick belt of woods skirted an open wheat stubble field on three sides; a road running across formed the fourth. To the right a think undergrowth of scrub oaks and bushes covered the space. In front of the line the field sloped downward toward the woods directly opposite, the point of which terminated at the road.
Beyond this point and concealed by it the enemy had established a battery which stood in echelon near the road. After examining the position and finding that a space of nearly 300 yards had to be passed over by my infantry before we could reach the opposite woods I sent a staff officer to the general commanding, requesting that a section of the battery of Napoleons under Muhlenberg might be sent to me to clear the woods in front and on my flank. Before the officer could return Captain Wilkins, assistant adjutant-general of the general commanding the division, came up and urged the movement at once as the decisive one of the day. An order was given by him also to Colonel Ruger, commanding the Third Wisconsin Regiment, to join his command to mine and move with it upon the enemy.
My regiments were immediately formed, the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania on the right, the Twenty-eighth New York and Fifth Connecticut in line to the left. The Tenth Maine was advanced through the woods on my extreme left, under the immediate direction of a staff officer of the major-general commanding the corps, and was some distance from the other regiments. I then gave the order to advance to the edge of the woods, to fix bayonets, and to charge upon the enemy's position. Steadily in line my command advanced, crossed the fence which skirted the woods, and with one loud cheer charged across the open space in the face of a fatal and murderous fire from the masses of the enemy's infantry, who lay concealed in the bushes and woods on our front and flank. Onward these regiments charged, driving the enemy's infantry back and through the woods beyond. The Twenty-eighth New York, Fifth Connecticut, and part of the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania entered the woods and engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with vastly superior numbers of the enemy, reaching the battery at the heart of his position; but the reserves of the enemy were at once brought up and thrown upon or taken prisoners, the support I looked for did not arrive, and my gallant men, broken, decimated by that fearful fire, that unequal contest, fell back again across the space, leaving most of their number upon the field.
The slaughter was fearful. The field officers of the regiments which had driven the enemy back were killed, wounded, or prisoners. Most of the company officers had fallen by the side of their men, and the color guards had been shot down in detail as they attempted to sustain and carry forward the colors of their regiment. The Wisconsin regiment which advanced on my right, unable to sustain the terrible fire from the bushes and woods, retired to the woods in rear, where it was reformed some distance beyond and brought again into action. The Tenth Maine Regiment of my brigade, acting under direct orders from the commanding general, through one of his staff, advanced to the middle of the open space, and sustained a most severe and galling fire from the concealed enemy beyond.
In the Twenty-eighth New York its colonel (Donnelly) had fallen mortally