At the time of the assault of the Fourth Division General Willcox threw out his Second Brigade, Colonel Humphrey's, and took an additional portion of the line on the left. Soon after the repulse, an assault from the front was made on the crater; it was gallantly repelled with great loss to the enemy, none of them advancing to our lines except those who surrendered themselves.
At this time the enemy had planted artillery at several points on the hill, and had gained the range of the crater and lines with great accuracy, his mortar firing being especially destructive.
At 9.15 a.m. I received with regret a peremptory order from the general commanding to withdraw my troops from the enemy's line. The order was sent into the crater at 12.20 p.m. with instructions to brigade commanders on the spot to consult and determine the hour and manner of retiring. I directed General Ferrero to immediately commence a covered way to the crater, to meet one already begun from there. The men in the crater and lines adjoining had become exhausted with the severity of the day's work. They had made several and had repulsed three distinct assaults, and had fought hand to hand with the enemy for the possession of his pits. They were suffering severely under a hot sun from want of water.
Finding that their position was not to be held, the general determined, in order to save further loss of life, upon an evacuation of the lines. A message to that effect, requesting that a heavy fire of infantry and artillery to right and left should be opened from the old lines, to distract the attention of the enemy, was on its way to me when another assault of the enemy was made. Seeing its preparation, and knowing their men to be discouraged by the proposed relinquishment of all the advantages gained at such cost, and disheartened that they were to expect no further support, Generals Hartranft and Griffin directed their troops to withdraw. It is feared the order was not clearly understood in the crater, as most of the troops, and all of the wounded, then lying there in great number, were captured.
During the engagement the batteries of the corps did efficient service, especially in keeping down the fire of the rebel fort on the left and in annoyance of the enemy's guns on the right. Twenty-three commanders of regiments were lost on that day-4 killed, 15 wounded, and 4 missing; 2 commanders of brigade-General W. F. Bartlett and Colonel E. G. Marshall-were taken prisoners.
In a report so hurriedly made up, it will be impossible for me to mention the many acts of heroism which characterized the action; and I will only say that my entire command, officers and men, did all that gallant men could do under the circumstances.
To my staff-Brigadier General Julius White, chief of staff; Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Richmond, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant Colonel C. G. Loring, jr.,assistant inspector-general; Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Monroe, chief of artillery; Surg. John E. MacDonald, medical director; Surg. James Harris, medical inspector; Major E. M. Neill, assistant adjutant-general; Major Philip M. Lydig, assistant adjutant-general; Major J. L. Van Buren, aide-de-camp; Major William Cutting, aide-de-camp; Captain W. H. Harris, U. S. Army, chief of ordnance; Captain H. R. Rathbone, commissary of musters; Captain Duncan A. Pell, aide-de-camp; Captain J. C. Paine, signal officer; Captain Charles E. Mallam, volunteer aide; Lieutenant D. S. Remington, acting assistant quartermaster-I must express my thanks for their activity and gallantry during the action.
34 R R-VOL XL, PT I