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taken up a position so far to Hancock's rear as to be useless as a protection to that flank.
The afternoon had somewhat advanced when Hancock determined to throw Egan's division across the Run at Burgess's Mill and seize the heights on' the other side, not with any view to prosecuting the movement toward the Southside Railroad, but for the better protection of his own position. Egan was already moving to carry out this purpose when a dire commotion on the right told that the Confederates had, under cover of the dense woods, assumed the initiative. Heth, with about five thousand men, taking advantage of a ford known to his troops through long occupation of the ground, and of an old wood road which led down into Hancock's right rear, had crossed the stream without artillery, fallen upon Pierce's small brigade, and driven it back pellmell upon two guns of Beck's battery which were near the edge of the clearing. These guns the exulting enemy at once seized upon, and, rapidly deploying, proceeded to form line of battle in the open. Throwing themselves across the Boydton road, they faced south against the small force which they saw in the clearing. For the moment the stroke was completely successful. Our flank had been turned; our right had been driven in; two of our guns were in the enemy's hands; the ammunition trains within the clearing were, of course, in a wild stampede. This was the sort of thing which—
taking advantage of their familiarity with the ground, of the opportunities afforded by fords and roads known only to themselves, of their better woodcraft and more rapid marching—the Confederates, giving scope and swing to their greater constitutional audacity and contempt of risks, had attempted scores of times and had almost invariably accomplished. Seldom had any such movement been better begun than this on the 27th of October, or achieved a more decided initial success.
But Heth had this time disturbed a hornet's nest. As soon as the volleys of Pierce's retreating regiments told that the enemy were upon him, Hancock put himself at the head of all the cavalry and infantry which were in reserve within the clearing, and advanced against the foe, sending word up to Egan, of whose position above them on the road Heth's people seem to have had no suspicion, to face about and charge them from behind. That enterprising officer had been halted in the very act of crossing the stream by the sound of the firing, and now even before the order reached him he was sweeping down upon the enemy from the mill above. Caught thus between two lines, the Confederates made slight resistance, but, taking to their heels, sought refuge in the woods from which they had a few minutes before emerged, leaving nine hundred prisoners in our hands, and returning Beck's two guns in as good order as when they borrowed them.
The news of Hancock's repulse of Heth, when it reached General Meade about nightfall, aroused a momentary hope that something might yet come of the expedition; and Hancock was informed that Ayres's division of the Fifth Corps had been advanced to Armstrong's Mill, some miles in his rear, and would be ordered up if he deemed it advisable to remain in his position and resume operations in the morning. But Hancock was especially advised that the bulk of the fighting of the next day must not be made to fall upon Ayres's and Crawford's divisions. The responsibility thus devolved upon Hancock was a painful one. It went much against his grain while in a subordinate position to withdraw from the presence of the enemy without a positive order. Yet what was to be gained by remaining at Burgess's Mill? The position as a defensive one had been proved by the day's experience to be about as bad as could be found, and no forward movement was contemplated. The inhibition to use the Fifth Corps for the main part of the fighting took away a great deal of the value of those possible re-enforcements. His own small command had been much worn by the marching and the fighting of the day, which had cost fourteen hundred men. The night was dark, the rain was falling heavily; only one narrow road was available for the movement. In this situation the scale was turned by the report of General Gregg, whose cavalry had all day been pressed hard by the superior numbers of the enemy, that his regiments were out of cartridges, and that it would be impossible, drawn out as they were through miles of woods, to resupply them in the darkness and the rain. Consequently the order to retire was given. The wounded were as far as possible loaded upon the empty ammunition wagons and the few ambulances which had been allowed to accompany the column, the pickets were withdrawn, and the two divisions of the Second Corps took- up the route for the other side of Hatcher's Run. The march was accomplished rapidly and safely, and the old camps were regained the next day.
THE MIDDLE MILITARY DEPARTMENT.
The expedition to the Boydton plank road afforded, as events shaped themselves, the last occasion on which Hancock was to encounter the enemy. During the month of November, his wounds still troubling him, that officer sought a leave of absence to enable him to visit the North, to obtain rest and medical care after the labors of the campaign. There was in this no thought that the opening spring would not see him again at the head of his own corps, taking part in the decisive operations of the Army of the Potomac against an enemy manifestly now too much worn greatly to protract the contest. But Grant had for some time entertained other views; and Hancock's intimation of a desire