ments were put in position several hundred yards in rear of the picket line, where, being sheltered from the enemy's small-arms, and reserving their fire till the regiments and pickets in front had passed behind them in falling back, they delivered a destructive fire upon the advancing lines. The front line wavered and then was broken at one point, but after falling back a short distance it soon reformed, and despite my rapid and well-directed fire, moved steadily and irresistibly forward, pressing heavies upon my extreme left.
I endeavored in falling back to turn the rocks and irregularities of the ground to the best account for the protection of the men, and, retiring from one position of strength to another, to yield the ground as slowly as possible, with the hope that support (for which I had sent to General Moore) might reach me. Many officers and men were captured because they held their position so long as to render escape impossible, the ground in their rear being rocky, rugged, and covered with fallen timber. My command being greatly sheltered were enabled to inflict upon the enemy as he advanced a loss far greater than it sustained.
By 12 m., or about that time, and two and a half or three hours after the first picket firing began, I was driven to the ridge which runs down the northern slope of the mountain, and here with three companies of sharpshooters from Twenty-fourth Mississippi Regiment, which had previously been posted there (and afterward strengthened by another from the same regiment), I made an effort to retard the enemy's progress till the remainder of my command, including the pickets on the right, then in charge of Colonel J. A. Campbell, Twenty-seventh Mississippi Regiment, could pass across the northern slope of the mountain. The slope was commanded by the casemated batteries on Moccasin Point, from which my command was constantly shelled from the time the slope was reached till they had passed across it. This passage was effected in part by means of a rifle-pit, designed for the double purpose of a covered way and defense against an attack from a northern direction, which runs across that part of the slope west of Craven's house, the sharpshooters on the ridge meanwhile resisting the enemy's advance as far as they were able, being themselves subjected to a heavy fire from the Moccasin guns.
After passing Craven's house between 12.30 and 1 p. m., or about that time, I dispatched a staff officer to brigadier-general commanding the advise him of my movement. Most of my picket line to the right of the railroad bridge (which had been forced back upon the reserves in the rifle-pits at the foot of the mountain, and these were unable to check the force opposing them) was cut off, including the efficient officer in charge of it, an ineffectual effort having been made as soon as the enemy began to overwhelm me on the left to retire it up the steep mountain side before the advancing lines, sweeping along the west side of the mountain, could occupy the slope near Craven's house. The only pathway leading from the right of the picket line to Craven's house ran up the creek to a point near the railroad bridge and then obliquely (in its general direction) across the side of the mountain to the northern slope, forming an acute angle near the bridge. When the left was forced back this angle was possessed by the enemy, and then the picket force on the right had to be withdrawn up a rugged steep, broken and rocky, and difficult of passage even for a footman at leisure.
The character of the ground making it impossible to communi-