War of the Rebellion: Serial 043 Page 0252 Chapter XXXIX. N. C., VA., W. VA., MD., PA., ETC.

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One hundred and fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers having been previously detached from that brigade to support the part of our line on the right of the wood. When the enemy was first observed advancing on their extreme right, they issued from a piece of woods extending north and south, a mile distant from the First Brigade, the brigade being then faced to the north, and almost at right angles to its original position. A change of front of this part of the division was ordered, and executed under a heavy fire. After the change, the One hundred and forty second Pennsylvania Volunteers and Twentieth New York State Militia were on the right and center of the brigade, and the One hundred and twenty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers on the left, with the battery between the One hundred and forty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers and Twentieth New York State Militia. Notwithstanding the murderous fire with which the enemy was received by my left, the disparity between the contending forces was too great to render it possible for our line to hold its position. The First Brigade gradually fell back, firing, until it reached a cover of rails, hastily thrown up by some of the other troops, in front of the seminary. Here it remained, together with some men of the First Division, fighting desperately, and until time was afforded to most of our other troops, to the artillery, and to the ambulances to withdraw in an orderly manner from the town in the direction of Cemetery Hill, and until the advancing lines of the enemy were gaining on our flanks. At the breastworks, Colonel Biddle, commanding the First Brigade was wounded in the head by a shot, but he still remained on the field, and retired with his men, and reformed them on arriving in rear of Cemetery Hill, behind which Colonel Dana, with the Second Brigade, with reformed lines, was also again ready for service. The Second Brigade, on first falling back, halted in a peach orchard, where it renewed its fire, giving time for the removal of a battery which had been established there.

Arrived at the cemetery, our lines, with those of the Eleventh Corps, were reformed under the direction of Major-General Howard. Our batteries were placed upon the summit of the hill, the First Corps having been directed to occupy the ground to the west of the road, the Eleventh Corps being on its right. A portion of the troops was placed behind the hill in reserve. Major-General Hancock now rode up, and informed me he had been placed in command of both corps. He at once directed me to send a force to support a battery which had been established on a lower range of hills, some 100 yards to the east of our position, protecting our flank in that direction. I complied with the order, and sent the remainder of Wadsworth's division there. Immediately afterward orders came from Major-General Howard, who ranked Hancock, to send the troops in another direction. This occasioned at the time some little delay and confusion. No very serious demonstrations were made against our new position, and the hours passed away until sundown in comparative quiet.

The operations of the day were of necessity accompanied by severe losses in killed, wounded, and missing, on account of the great disparity in numbers and the prolonged nature of the contest. This preliminary battle, however, had the most important bearing on the results of the next two days, as it enabled the whole army to come up and re-enforce the admirable position to which we had retreated. Had we retired earlier in the day, without co-operation with the other parts of the army, the enemy by a vigorous pursuit might have penetrated between the corps of Sickles and Slocum, and have either crushed them in detail or flung them off in eccentric directions. The whole retreat from the commencement was most creditable to the troops engaged. There was no hurry and no confusion, but the regiments advance by volleys of musketry, and again retreating. From the admixture of so many different regiments at the seminary, it became impossible to reorganize them in good order without a delay which would have exposed the men to certain destruction. I saw,