already deployed, to fill the gap between my command and the Third Division. About 4 p.m. I received orders to make a strong demonstration on the enemy's works, to drive them from their rifle-pits, and if not developing too severe a fire to push forward and take the works, the object being to ascertain the strength of the enemy and his position. I immediately ordered Colonels Curtis and Bell to advance their skirmishers, supported by their main lines, to assault the works of the enemy if practicable, and if unable to carry them to advance sufficiently far to be able to report accurately his strength and position. The entire line then advanced, the skirmishers carrying two lines of rifle-pits, and driving the enemy into his main line of works. They were met with a severe fire of grape and case-shot and after advancing to within about eight rods of the enemy's works it was found impracticable to proceed. In addition to a severe fire from the front, the First Brigade was, during this charge, suffering severely from a partially enfilading fire of two guns to the right of the Darbytown road, and also from two to the left, near Henrico Poor-House. My right (the Third Brigade) moved forward at the same time, and, after carrying two lines of rifle-pits on their front, were met by a fire of such severity from four pieces of artillery and musketry as to break the assaulting force, part of which fell back in some confusion to the rifle-pits. This brigade was, however, soon rallied and formed in line near the first line of rifle-pits, the skirmish line holding the second. I then moved the Second Brigade near the woods to the Darbytown road, and in rear of the First Brigade, in easy supporting distance of both the right and center. The right and center then retired out of range, bringing their dead and wounded with them. I found the enemy posted in single [line] of battle, behind a strong line of earth-works, with slashing and abatis in front. About 5 o'clock I received orders to make no further demonstration that night and about dark I withdrew my division within the line of abandoned works, with a strong line of pickets along my entire front, connecting with the First Division on the right and the Third Division on the left. My command remained in this position until about 2 o'clock on the 28th, when I received orders to return to camp. I moved my First and Second Brigades (left and center) to the rear, my Third Brigade (the right) acting as rear guard, covered by the entire picket-line, which retired as skirmishers. I am fully satisfied that the orders I received were fully carried out, and that the strength and position of the enemy as given above is correct.
My loss was 14 commissioned officers and 297 men. I forward herewith a list of casualties.*
I take pleasure in testifying to the general good conduct of the division. Composed largely (as it now is) of raw recruits, I was fearful that they might fail to acquit themselves creditable, but there was almost a total absence of straggling, and the new recruits acquitted themselves as well as their most sanguine friends could expect.
Colonel Curtis, commanding First Brigade, and Colonel Bell, commanding Third Brigade, were constantly superintending the movements of their brigades, their duties taking them frequently on the skirmish line, and they both deserve credit for the manner in which they gained the enemy's rifle-pits and drove him into his main line of works. The Second Brigade, Colonel Pennypacker, although not engaged as a whole, did much to material for the advance skirmish line, moving promptly at all times when ordered to the support of any portion of the line.
* Embodied in revised statement, p.149.