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made the utmost exertions to hold the advanced position which we occupied on the north of the plank road, "refusing" the other wing. Had it been on open ground and in plain view, his inspiring presence and great tactical skill might have availed; but in the tangled forest, with the troops in the condition in which hours of hard fighting had left them, there was not time. On the left, Mott's division was fast crumbling away under the fire upon their flank; on the right, the heroic Wadsworth had been killed at the head of his division, and his regiments were staggering under the terrific blows of the encouraged and exultant enemy; in the center, Birney's division and the brigades of Carroll, Owen, and Webb, worn with fighting and depleted by their enormous losses, were being slowly pressed back. Down the plank road a stream of broken men was pouring to the rear, giving the onlooker the impression that everything had gone to pieces. In this situation Hancock, upon Birney's representations, reluctantly gave the order to withdraw the troops to the Brock road.
It was now high noon, and the battle of the Wilderness, in all its essential features, had been fought and finished. A great assault had been jnade in the early morning with overwhelming suc^s; but the disorder of the troops and the power.e-enforcements arriving upon the field on the ^derate first stayed and then turned
the tide of battle. While the Confederates had brought three new divisions into action, Burnside had not borne a finger's weight upon the fight. At last the enterprise of four brigades led to the turning of Mott's left and caused the whole line to be thrown back violently and in disorder. But while the stream of fugitives would not have allowed any one standing at the junction of the Brock and plank roads at noon of the 6th of May to think anything else than that the whole left wing had collapsed, things were far from being so bad as that. Through the forest the steadier regiments were falling back in as good order as the tangled thickets would permit, still facing the foe; and soon the intrenchments along the verge of the Brock road, which the troops had left in the morning for their great charge, were filled with armed men—much broken up, it is true, alike by advance and by retreat, but not men whom it was safe to attack in position. Their losses had been enormous; but the enemy had captured few prisoners, and had themselves been so severely punished that they made little effort to follow our people up as they fell back to the breastworks.
The next hour or two was, it must be confessed, an anxious time along the Brock road. Until regiments and brigades could be brought together; until the men could get a chance to breathe, to eat something, and look once more at the sun; until ammunition could be brought up and served out, it was impossible to feel entire confidence. Fortunately, a respite was given. Just as Jackson, riding out in front of his troops after his great victory at Chancellorsville, May 2, 1863, to survey the ground over which he purposed to follow up his victory, fell under the fire of his own men, so Longstreet, on this 6th of May, 1864, while riding down the front of the brigades which had made the decisive movement, received a volley which severely wounded him and killed General Jenkins.
The command of Longstreet's corps devolved upon R. H. Anderson; General Lee, arriving on the ground, postponed the attack. It was not until 4.15 p. M. that our skirmishers were driven in and the Confederates advanced in considerable force* against the intrenchments on the Brock road. The attack was a real one, but was not made with great spirit; nor was the response from our side very hearty. The enemy advanced to within about a hundred yards, and then halted and began firing, to which our troops replied with noise enough, but keeping too much down behind the log intrenchments, thus discharging their muskets into the air. The breastworks had taken fire at more than one point from the dried leaves and twigs in front, which had been kindled by the discharges of the musketry. The heat at times became intense, and the smoke, blown backward over the intrenchments, not only concealed the enemy from view, but blinded and stifled our men. Taking advantage of this unexpected incident, a Confederate brigade dashed forward and planted its colors upon the breastworks just to our left of the Brock road. For a moment all was confusion in that part of the line; some of Mott's men gave way and went to the rear, and with them one general officer.* But startling as was the exigency, it was as promptly and decisively met. Just as at Gettysburg Carroll forced his way through the retreating troops of the Eleventh Corps on the evening of July 2d, and, mounting Cemetery Hill, met and threw out the brigades of Hoke and Hays, which had effected a lodgment in Howard's line, so on this occasion the same intrepid officer, bringing his brigade at the double-quick across the plank road, faced to the right and drove out the adventurous enemy.
* " Field's and Anderson's divisions, excepting Law's and Perry's brigades, with probably some part of Heth's division."— Humphreys' Campaign of l864~'65.
This spirited action, which made Carroll a brigadier-general, put an end to the battle on the left in the Wilderness. The Second Corps had lost 5,092, of whom 699 were reported killed, 3,877 wounded, and 516 missing, many of whom had fallen in the thickets, unobserved by their comrades. Among the killed was General Alexander Hays, who had commanded Hancock's small Third Division with so much distinction at Gettysburg, but had, in the general reorganization of 1864, been assigned to the command of one of the large new brigades. General Hays was one of those astonishingly brave men whose courage and force in battle make them observed of all. At Gettysburg, at Bristoe, at Mine Run, at Morton's Ford, this devoted officer rode, with his staff and flag behind him, the mark of a thousand riflemen, the admiration of two armies, only to fall in a tangled wilderness, where scarcely a regiment could note his person and derive inspiration from his martial enthusiasm. Among the killed, also, were half a score of field officers. The heaviest blows had fallen upon Birney's Third Division, which had lost 2,242 men.
* See page 244.
A comparison of the proportion of the killed and wounded who were commissioned officers with the like proportion at Gettysburg is highly instructive as to the nature of the fighting in the Wilderness. At Gettysburg three hundred and forty-nine officers had fallen; in the Wilderness, out of a larger total, only two hundred and forty-six. At Gettysburg, of the killed* eight and a half per cent, and of the wounded eight per cent were officers. In the Wilderness but five and a half per cent of the killed * and five per cent of the wounded were officers. This
* These figures relate only to those killed outright. They do not include those who subsequently died of their wounds.