At 5 p. m. our extreme left, held by the Second Division, was hard pressed, and I was ordered to send a regiment to support Howe's right. The Ninety-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel Wynkoop, was immediately dispatched with a staff officer, and almost immediately after I was ordered to the same point with the whole brigade. We moved down the Plank road at a double-quick, and turned into a field on our left, and formed line of battle, advancing.
The most advanced rebel battalions of the attacking column were within 50 yards of a low furze fence just as the Ninety-eighth was at an equal distance from this side. Shouting and firing as he advanced, Lieutenant-Colonel Wynkoop reached the fence first, and checked the rebels, who found an unexpected line to meet them. Seeing it well supported, and my other three regiments advancing, they fell back in confusion, and were easily captured. Not daring to weaken my line by detaching any of my own regiments to take these prisoners (the better part of two regiments) to the rear, I directed a fragment of one of the Second Division regiments to escort them to headquarters, which was done.
After my line was formed, I went to the left to find and report to General Howe. I found it impossible to do so, especially as matters immediately in my front were so unsettled, and I did not dare to leave my brigade, which I was momentarily expecting to be attacked by a strong column on the hills in its front.
Night had come on, and I dispatched 45 men, under 2 officers, commanded by Lieutenant Morris, of the Sixty-second New York Volunteers, with a staff officer, to deploy a line of pickets on my right front, and went myself, with my adjutant-general, to see that my right was in communication with the left regiment of the First Division. After reconnoitering carefully, we found nothing, and, while moving down the Plank road to learn of any changes that had been made in the positions of the troops, we fell in with the picket of the First Division moving rapidly toward the Banks' Ford road. I immediately sent my brigade by its left flank toward the river, and went to previous headquarters to obtain further instructions, or to find some staff officers who could dive directions for the new position it was evident my brigade must assume or be captured. The first instructions I received were from General Newton, to put my troops in the earthworks near Dr. Taylor's house, on the right of the Second Brigade.
We crossed the Rappahannock on Monday night with the division, and bivouacked about 1 1/2 miles from the pontoons at Banks' Ford. Although they were recalled by a faithful messenger, it was impossible for the gallant little band (45 in number) of the Sixty-second New York Volunteers, under Lieutenants Morris and Stuart, to escape capture. Their fire as skirmishers on the advancing enemy delayed his movements and necessitated a more careful reconnaissance, which took time, and, in my opinion, the time thus gained saved the right of the Second Division and my own brigade from capture.
I would call the special attention of the division commander to these officers. Lieutenant Morris has always been distinguished for his gallantry; but his coolness on this occasion was the salvation of many men and much material.
During our operations in front of Fredericksburg Heights, McCarthy's (First Pennsylvania) artillery was in action near the center of my brigade, and I cannot close my report without expressing my admiration for this battery and calling attention to its gallant officers and men.