but subsequently moved up and bore their part in the action in a handsome manner. After this change of front the troops were pushed forward and soon came upon the left flank of the enemy, which was thrown back at right angles with his main line and overfed by a strong breast-work, screened behind a dense undergrowth of pine and about 100 yards in length. This breast-work my troops charged and took at the bayonet's point, capturing in carrying it over 1,000 prisoners and several battle-flags. Halting there a short time by General Sheridan's order, till it was apparent the enemy were giving way generally, I pushed forward rapidly, holding my men in hand and marching steadily in line of battle.
I have italicized "halting there, &c.," because it shows that General Sheridan modified his own order not to halt. No order to haled was given by me. What caused the general giving way of the enemy while General Ayres was halted by General Sheridan's order was due to the operations elsewhere directed.
It will be seen that the rapid change of front by General Ayres, necessitated by the unexpected condition of things, unavoidably threw his flank temporarily in the "air." Had the line gradually swung round General Crawford would have bene on his right, but as it was the change had the momentary effect to leave General Crawford "in echelon" in rear of General Ayres' right. It happened also that the right of General Ayres became exposed to a fire from the enemy across the open field around Sidney's [Sydnor's]. General Crawford's left encountered the same fire as it came up on General Ayres' right, and the effect was to cause the line to oblique somewhat to the right to gain the cover of the woods and ridges; but it kept steadily moving on in the enemy's rear, a threatening movement which made the position of the enemy no longer tenable, assailed as he was both in front and flank beside. I will now extract from General Crawford's report. After giving a copy of the order of attack that I had furnished him with (see p. 8*), he says:
In obedience to this order we crossed Gravelly Run, crossed the White Oak road, and changed direction to the left and advanced directly west. We encountered the enemy's skirmishers shortly after moving, driving them steadily back. Our way led through bogs, tangled woods, and thickets of pine, interspersed with open spaces here and there. The connection between the Second division and my line could not be maintained. I received orders from both General Sheridan and General Warren to press rapidly forward. i urged on the entire command. General Coulter's brigade, from being in support in my rear, was brought toy fill the grape between me and Second Division. I pressed immediately on and found myself in the enemy's rear, on the Ford road, which I crossed. * * * Just at this point the enemy opened upon my center and left flank a vary heavy fire. Major General Warren arriving on the field at that moment directed me to advance immediately down the Ford road, and General Coulter's brigade was selected for that purpose. Two regiments, commanded by Major Funk, [were] placed on what was then the left of the road, and the rest of the brigade were on the right, supported by the other two brigades in echelon. I advanced at once and captured a battery of four guns and the battle-flags of the Thirty-second Virginia Infantry. We then changed direction and advanced again in a southwest direction, the enemy flying before us, though keeping up a desultory firing.
General Griffin's report says:
Immediately after the order to advance against the enemy was given, with instructions to the division that after it had crossed the road it was to change direction to the left, so as to strike the enemy in flank and rear. After advancing about a mile, and finding nothing in front save a few cavalry vedettes, and there being heavy volleys of musketry to the left and rear, the division was halted.
This halting, under the circumstances, was a commendable exercise of discretion. He says that a personal examination showing him the enemy on his left he marched in that direction. To effect this same thing I had sent Major Cope to him, as already stated. A small portion
*See Crawford's report, p. 880.