War of the Rebellion: Serial 069 Page 0122 Chapter XLVIII. OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C.

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HEADQUARTERS SECOND CORPS,

May 23, 1864-7.50 p. m.

General WILLIAMS:

GENERAL: Two brigades of Birneys' division assaulted the enemy's earth-work and rifle-pits which they held this side of the river and behind a creek. The assault was a gallant one. The works were carried; the enemy were driven across the river with a small loss in prisoners. It is understood the pits were held by McLaws. Colonel Egan reports that he holds the bridge, so that he can cross. This is probably true, but as the message came by an orderly, I do not report it as absolutely true. Lieutenant Mackenzie, engineer, just from the front, reports that the above is correct.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WINF'D S. HANCOOCK,

Major-General of Volunteers.

HEADQUARTERS SECOND ARMY CORPS,

May 23, 1864-9.20 p. m.

General WILLIAMS:

SIR: The enemy appear to have fortified the position opposite me some five months since. They have some half dozen strong detached earth-works for artillery well back from the river. The crest of the hill they occupy in rear of these works is fringed with woods, and if the enemy have rifle-pits now, they are just in the edge of the woods. The works I carried were this side of the river. I hold a position close to and commanding the bridge, and may carry it to-night. But if General Warren has crossed two divisions, as reported, it may be better to hold this point, an rods most of the troops where Warren is. The position I hold in advance is well under the guns of the redoubts mentioned, and there may be difficulty in advancing beyond this point. One division of my corps is east of the railroad, the others on the west side. My picket-line is on the rive, except for a short distance near the railroad bridge. The enemy have no men on this side of the river in my front now.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WINF'D S. HANCOCK,

Major-General of Volunteers.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

May 23, 1864-11 p. m.

(Received 12.30 a. m. 24th.)

Major-General HANCOCK:

Your dispatches of 7.50 and 9.20 received. I infer from the latter that you deem the crossing of the river in your front impracticable. It is desirable you should cross there, but the attempt should not be made unless, in your judgment, there is a reasonable degree of probability of success. The matter is, therefore, left to your discretion. Should you conclude it imprudent to attempt, you will make your arrangements to hold the bridge securely with the minimum fore, and hold the balance available, ready to cross at Ox Ford in case Burnside can cross there, or where Warren has crossed. Should you attempt to force a passage and require support, Burnside has