to open fire. He was replied to with much spirit at first, but by a well-directed fire soon silenced their battery, blowing up two caissons of the enemy and dismounting one of his guns, and the road after this was kept clear of the enemy's columns.
Shortly after this the head of an apparently heavy column of infantry was observed slowly and cautiously defiling round a point of the Plank road about half a mile from our works, and approaching them. Our pickets, flanking the road, immediately opened upon them and threw them into confusion, and at the same time Lieutenant Muhlenberg delivered 2 or 3 rounds of canister into them, causing them considerable loss as they retired, leaving many of their dead and wounded in the road and woods adjoining.
About 5 p. m. I was ordered by the general commanding to move our on the Plank road with a portion of the command, for the purpose of cutting off the train of the enemy, who was supposed to be retreating toward Gordonsville. The movement I considered of sufficient importance to be conducted by myself in person, and, accordingly, I advanced with the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania and the Seventh Ohio on the left of the road, with orders for the Second Brigade to proceed upon the right. At the same time one section of Knap's battery was ordered to advance up the center of the road, and, by occasional discharges of canister, clear the woods of the approach of the infantry. After advancing about 200 yards on the road, the fire of the enemy was drawn, and his infantry caused considerable distress to our artillery. I accordingly ordered it to retire,a nd advanced with the infantry through the woods under a severe and galling fire.
At a distance of perhaps 500 yards from our own intrenchments, I discovered the enemy drawn up in line of battle in heavy force, with a number of cannon, and strongly posted behind breastworks near the turn of the Plank road.
At this time I was continuing the contest, but received orders to fall back within my lines, and did so in good order, though two of the regiments which were engaged with me did not abandon the contest until their ammunition had been exhausted. They then retired from their position, having suffered severely during their engagement.
Our loss upon this occasion was comparatively heavy, owing to the insufficient force which could be brought into action against the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, strongly intrenched as he was behind his earthworks.
It is with much satisfaction that I am able to report that, during a panic which ensued shortly after this occurrence among some troops of another corps upon our right, our men nobly stood their ground, notwithstanding the fact that numbers of the panic-stricken men alluded to came directly into our lines, almost bearing down all opposition in their flight.
During the night heavy and continuous picket firing was kept up along the front, and numbers of prisoners and deserters were brought in by our skirmishers, by whom the character of the coming contest was disclosed. These were forwarded to headquarters for examination by the commanding general.
Shortly after daylight on the morning of the 3rd instant, the action commenced at a distance from our line on the right and rear of the army, and within half an hour it had reached my division and become general along the whole front.
About 8 o'clock the division was in the trenches, exposed to a terribly raking and enfilading fire from the enemy, who had succeeded in