It is difficult to do justice to the brilliant execution of this movement by Birney and his splendid command. Ward's brigade formed the first line; Hayman's second, about 100 yards in the rear, pieces all uncapped, and strict orders not to fire a musket until the Plank road and earthworks were reached, the movement to be by the right of companies. On the left a wide road led through the woods perpendicular to the Plank road, on which the Fortieth New York, Seventeenth Maine, and Sixty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers were pushed forward by column of companies at full distance.
The night was very clear and still; the moon, nearly full, threw enough light in the woods to facilitate the advance, and against a terrific fire of musketry and artillery, some twenty pieces of which the enemy had massed in the opening (Dowdall's), where General Howard's headquarters had been established, the advance was successfully executed, the line of the Plank road gained, and our breastworks reoccupied.
I commend to the particular notice of the general-in-chief the high praise bestowed by General Birney upon Colonel Thomas W. Egan, Fortieth New York, for the energy and dash which he threw into this attack. All our guns and caissons and a portion of Whipple's mule train were recovered, besides two pieces of the enemy's artillery and three caissons captured.
Thrown into hopeless confusion upon his right flank, the enemy advanced upon the front of the Second Division (Berry's) in connected lines on the right and left of the road, but was repulsed in less than thirty minutes by the combined and effective fire of infantry and Dimick's and Osborn's batteries, excellently posted on and near the road.
At about 2 a.m. the Third (Mott's) Brigade arrived from the ford, from whence it was ordered before dark, and was placed in reserve in two lines to the left of the Plank road, in the rear of the right of General Williams' division and in front of the division artillery, the right of each line resting on the road.
At daylight on Sunday morning, I received orders from the general-in-chief in person to withdraw from my position on the flank, and march my command by the most practicable route to Fairview, and there occupy the new line of intrenchments along the skirt of the woods perpendicular to and on either side of the Plank road, my artillery to occupy the field-works on the crest of the hill, in the rear of the lines of battle. Major-General Berry I found already in position in the front line, with the Second Division, connecting on his left with Williams' division (Twelfth Corps). An examination of his dispositions left me nothing to desire. General Whipple commenced the movement from the Wilderness by the left flank, preceded by the artillery of his own and Birney's divisions, except Huntington's battery, which was well posted on the right flank, to cover the withdrawal of the columns. Birney followed in good order. When the rear of his column (Graham's brigade) had descended the ravine, the enemy assailed Graham fiercely, and charged Huntington's battery, but were handsomely repulsed. Directing a battery to open fire from the crest of a hill to the left of the Fairview house, and a brigade to be formed in column of regiments within supporting distance of Graham, he was withdrawn in good order, although not without considerable loss. Huntington's battery, of Whipple's division, swept with a most destructive fire the plain on which the rebels deployed for their attack on Graham. In withdrawing over the branches of Scott's Run, this battery lost some of its horses and material.
Along the heights in front of Fairview, commencing near the Plank