were then engaging the enemy in the center. Under instructions received from him I threw forward the First Massachusetts Volunteers to support his line, while my remaining four regiments were drawn up in two lines, sheltered from the enemy's fire by a roll of the field in front. This position was occupied until about 2.30 p.m.
In the mean time I rode over the field in front as far as the position of the enemy would admit. After rising the hill under which my command lay an open field was entered, and from one edge of it gradually fell off in a slope to a valley, through which ran a railroad embankment. Beyond this embankment the forest continued, and the corresponding heights beyond were held by the enemy in force, supported by artillery.
At 3 p. m. I received an order to advance in line of battle over this ground, pass the embankment, enter the edge of the woods beyond, and hold it. Dispositions for carrying out such orders were immediately made. Pieces were loaded, bayonets fixed, and instructions given for the line to move slowly upon the enemy until it felt his fire, then close upon him rapidly, fire one well-directed volley, and rely upon the bayonet to secure the position on the other side.
We rapidly and firmly pressed upon the embankment, and here occurred a short, sharp, and obstinate hand-to-hand conflict with bayonets and clubbed muskets. Many of the enemy were bayoneted in their tracks, others struck down with the butts of pieces, and onward pressed our line. In a few yards more it met a terrible fire from a second line, which in its turn broke. The enemy's third line now bore down upon our thinned ranks in close order, and swept back the right center and a portion of our left. With the gallant Sixteenth Massachusetts on our left I tried to turn his flank, but the breaking of our right and center and the weight of the enemy's lines caused the necessity of falling back, first to the embankment and then to our first position, behind which we rallied to our colors.
In this fierce encounter of not more than twenty minutes' duration our loss was as follows:
Command. Killed Wounded Missing Total
1st Massachusetts Volunteers 5 66 7 78
2nd New Hampshire Volunteers 16 87 30 133
11th Massachusetts 10 77 25 112
16th Massachusetts 4 64 42 110
26th Pennsylvania Volunteers 6 33 14 53
41 327 118 486
Though forced to retire from the field by the immensely superior numbers of the enemy, supported by artillery and by the natural strength of his position, men never fought more gallantly or efficiently.
I must make special mention of my personal observation of the Second New Hampshire and Eleventh and Sixteenth Massachusetts Regiments, that under every trial have won new distinctions. The well-known First Massachusetts, though not under my personal observation, was, as usual, in the van. The Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, which supported the left, did not have that opportunity of showing its mettle that I could have desired, owing to the nature of the ground.
Striking examples of personal gallantry were unusually numerous.