Finding the skirmishers of the regiment on our flanks also driven in, I directed the commandants of companies to fire from the barricade whenever the enemy appeared.
It will be borne in mind that our line was formed in the woods. The left wing of our regiment was located in a wet swamp. From its center the ground rose slightly to the front and the rear; at a distance of about 100 yards to the front the ground descended again. The undergrowth was thick and embarrassing.
The firing from the enemy's line soon followed the attack of their skirmishers, and was briskly replied to by the regiments on our left, and more rapidly by our own regiment was warranted by the order which had been given, as the enemy's line was invisible. Intently watching for the appearance of their columns of attack, which, from the cutting of small trees for abatis would have been uncovered at the distance of 50 feet from our line, when it was my intention to have given the order to fire by rank, and, hidden by the undergrowth it reached more than half the extent of the wing. The color company obeyed the order to return, but the companies on our right rapidly broke, and the movement was participated in by the regiment on our right. The left wing was beyond my reach, but a rapid movement brought me in the retreating mass on the right, which I vainly attempted to rally at the foot of a slight pitch in our rear. Following the movement to a road about a quarter of a mile farther to the rear, I endeavored to collect our men, but could not find more than three or four, with whom I walked through the open field to a battery of artillery, behind which were masses of our troops. By this battery I found the regiments of the brigade forming, and a portion of our men gathered around our own colors. Here was the first line formed in our rear. Inquiring of the commandants of our left companies the cause of the break, which, owing to the strength of the barricade, to the slight loss sustained, and my confidence in the stability of the regiment of the regiment, I had not anticipated, and my confidence in the stability of the regiment, I had not anticipated, I was told that it was by an order sent through the regiment on our left, and repeated by our sergeant-major and company officers, and that the regiment our left had broken for an appreciable length of time before the movement extended to our own regiment.
After the lapse of an hour, the brigade was marched through the woods, a distance of about 1 1/2 miles, to the main road to the ford. Here the stream of fugitives was more effectually intercepted, and we had an opportunity for rest and a meal. In the afternoon we returned to the front of the woods, within a short distance of the line of breastworks, where we remained without further casualties until the morning of the 4th instant, when we recrossed the river and returned to our camp.
The effective strength of our regiment previous to the battle was 457 men and 24 officers. On the retreat and return it rose to 391 men and officers. At the present time there are 16 missing. In the engagement of the 3rd instant, 8 men were killed and 45 wounded. In the letters 1 commissioned officer is included.
For a notice of the meritorious conduct of men and officers, I beg leave respectfully to wait until more leisure is afforded me for a proper discrimination.
C. D. WESTBROOK,
Major J. P. FINKELMEIER,