After passing along my line to its extreme right I started to return toward the left, and had gotten as far as the right of my second regiment, when my volunteer aide-de-camp, Mr. R. B. Carlee, called my attention to several small white flags, as he thought, which were displayed in the left regiment of Garland's brigade. I looked and saw the flags, but I could not believe them to be white flags, and supposed that they were small company flags, such as are frequently carried by volunteer companies. They did have a dingy white color, but I supposed that to be owing to the peculiar light in which they were with reference to the sun and to the fact that they were probably faded; moreover, although I knew that our heavy battery at the fort had been completely silenced, and that one or more gunboats had passed up the river, still everything had gone on so well on the left wing, and as far as I knew in Garland's brigade also, and knowing that it was General Churchill's determination to fight to desperation, I did not think it possible that a surrender could be intended, and accordingly paid no attention to these flags; but immediately afterward the enemy ceased firing, and a mounted officer bearing a white flag was seen advancing toward our line. I then ordered my sharpshooters to cease firing.
After the firing ceased the enemy showed themselves in immense force in three or four distinct and apparently parallel lines of battle and extending along my entire front and as far to the right and left as I could see. They were evidently bringing up very heavy reserves, but besides these a great many got up from where they had previously been hidden behind trees, logs, &c., in the timber to avoid our fire. The whole space in my front, as far as I could see through the timber, seemed almost black with their forces.
As several Federal officers rode out from their lines toward our breastworks as soon as we ceased firing, I went out to meet them and demanded of one of them [General Steele, I believe], who commanded a division, what the white flag meant; he replied that our entire force had surrendered, and in proof thereof pointed to the white flags displayed along our entire line to the right of my brigade and to their flag which surmounted the fort on our extreme right, which I could now see from my position in front of my line though from our line it was not visible. I required the Federal officer to keep his troops back until I could hear from General Churchill, as I had not received from him any order relative to the surrender. After some delay I received a message from the general to the effect that though he had not surrendered the forces it had been done by some unauthorized person and the act was now accomplished.
I was very much surprised when the firing ceased, as everything had gone on so well in my front. I knew that our heavy battery had been completely silenced some little time before and that one or more gunboats had passed up the river, but I hoped that we would be able to hold out until night and then cut our way out.
The battle ceased about 4.30 p.m. The loss in my brigade was surprisingly slight considering the heavy fire to which it was exposed, for besides the incessant and very heavy skirmishing fire from the enemy's infantry which was posted all along our front, concealed in the timber at distances from our line varying from, say, 80 to 200 yards, there was a very heavy fire of artillery from a number of field batteries in our front, and this fire was kept up constantly excepting when they had to cease in order to let their assaulting columns advance. The gunboats also had at times an enfilading fire upon my line; fortunately the greater part of their fire passed behind us. It was in their power,