War of the Rebellion: Serial 044 Page 0848 N. C., VA., W. VA., MD., PA., ETC. Chapter XXXIX.

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As soon as the deployment was competed, the order was passed along the line from Major Nichols to advance slowly. The line of skirmishers then moved forward cautiously, preserving a very regular line and intervals, the moon making the whole line on that side the railroad visible. After passing over the slight elevation already spoken of, in front of our first resting place, the field was quite level and unobstructed for a distance forward of 80 or 100 rods. The left was skirted by low woods or bushes. Seeing the left of my line unsupported, and fearing that the distance between it and the woods on the left - some 10 or 12 rods - would allow my flank to be turned by the enemy, I ordered forward from the reserve a sergeant and 4 men, to form upon and support the left of my line, at the same time slightly extending my intervals so as to reduce more than one half the distance between my left and the woods. This disposition had just been completed, and the line had by this time advanced some 50 or 60 rods, when suddenly a fire was opened upon us from the enemy, deployed in a line across the field, some 15 or 20 rods in advance of our line. Their right being about opposite my center, in thus outflanking them on the left, the fire was instantly returned from the whole length of my line in a united volley, the men throwing themselves on the ground, after delivering their fire, while reloading. My line then advanced slowly, each alternate man then halting to load, as laid down in the instructions for skirmishers, with great regularity and precision, after the first or second time firing. The line advanced in this manner, the left going a trifle beyond the right, so as to turn the flank of the enemy, and pour in upon him an enfilading fire. In the meantime, the enemy had opened upon us from his batteries, firing shell and solid shot with great rapidity from at least four guns, two of them near together and almost directly in front of my line, another near the railroad bridge (to our right), and the other beyond our left. We advanced under this fire across the open field a distance of some 30 or 40 rods, my left being considerably in advance of my right. Here the ground descended in front, and we were very much exposed to the fire of the enemy, who were all now retired behind their breastworks, and who seemed to have receive re-enforcements, for their musketry fire was much more vigorous and frequent, and seemed to extend along a distance equal to the whole length of our line. The two guns in front of us now fired grape, or shrapnel, which seemed literally to fall in showers among us at every discharge. The cross-fire of the shot and shell from the two guns on the right and left now became truly terrific, and the range much nearer and more accurate than at first, for whereas they had previously passed high over our heads and exploded in our rear, they now struck close among us, and exploded directly over our heads. The ammunition of some of my men had by this time become exhausted, so rapid had been their fire, and in several instances their pieces had become so heated as to make it dangerous to load; still, the fire was kept up along my whole line without cessation, fresh ammunition being supplied from the reserve to those who had exhausted theirs. The men were now clamorous for an opportunity to charge upon the enemy, and drive him from behind his breastworks, but this was not practicable in the night, with the position and strength of the enemy unknown; besides, it had not been contemplated in the orders