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146 FIGHTING AT CHAKLE8 CITY CROSS-ROADS.
tinued until after night had enveloped friend and foe in darkness. General Smith appeared frequently riding along the line, regardless of the shells which were bursting all around him, and exhibiting as much nonchalance as if the occasion were nothing more than a militia training. Halting at one time in front of the Thirty-third, he said to them, "You are doing nobly; stay where you are until you get different orders." He afterwards remarked that the Regiment had "sustained its former reputation." While the battle was progressing a fierce engagement was also going on at Charles City Cross-Roads. The cheering of friend and foe could be easily distinguished as either side gained any advantage.
About half-past eight o'clock in the evening the enemy's fire slackened, and preparations were made to resume the march. The Division stealthily withdrew, and were massed in a large field. The men were not permitted to return to the hillside and secure their knapsacks, which contained letters, likenesses, &c., but were speedily and quietly hurried away.
A picket line was left to deceive the enemy by 'making them think that we still remained. In half an hour's time all preparations were completed, and the troops commenced marching. It was a most solemn and impressive scene as the long column moved away, winding over hill and through dale. The officers delivered their commands in a whisper, and the men were not permitted to speak. The
HONORABLE MENTION OF OFFICER8. 147
artillery was drawn away by hand; one single Napoleon being left to fire upon the crossing, kept booming, booming all night long.
The woods adjoining the swamp were set on fire at our departure, casting a lurid flame over woodland and plain, and lighting up the country for miles around. An attack was expected every moment, and the snapping of a twig or cry of a night bird was sufficient to create an alarm. But no enemy appeared, and the solemn, noiseless march was continued. Colonel Taylor, in his report of this engagement at White Oak Swamp, said: "Major John S. Platner, and Captain Cole, of Company C, and Captain McNair, of Company F, rendered themselves conspicuous in their efforts to get the men into line of battle and under arms, where they nobly stood until relieved by the order to fall back." The following is an extract from a report subsequently made by General Davidson: "In compliance with special order No. 42, from 6th Army Corps, to forward any recommendations for promotion, and the names of the officers and men deserving reward for distinguished services, I have the honor to report as follows: Major John S. Platner, Captain James McNair, Company F, and Captain C. H. Cole, Company C, for gallant conduct at White Oak Swamp. Owing particularly to the efforts of these officers, the men were formed in perfect order, and enabled to hold their position under the terrific fire of the enemy."
148 THE ENEMY BAFFLED.
The Enemy Out-generaled.—Arrival at Malvern Hills.—The Thirty-third assigned to Picket Duty.—Battle of Malvern.— Arrival at Harrison's Landing.—General McOlellan's Address — Building a Fort.—Slashing Timber.
So successfully had the pickets, who were left to cover the withdrawal, performed their part, that it was not discovered by the enemy in time to pursue. Before morning, however, a fresh danger encountered the Division, which now constituted the rear of the army. Another portion of the enemy, under Huger, had gained possession of the road ahead of us, thereby cutting off the retreat. Some, nearly exhausted by the arduous labors of the four days previous, were well nigh discouraged on receipt of this intelligence. But General Smith was equal to the emergency, and instead of pressing forward, as some of his officers advised, and attempting to cut his way through to the river, seven miles distant, he turned off, and making a circuit of twenty-two miles, completely eluded the foe.
In a conversation which occurred a few days afterwards, at Liberty Hall, between General Jackson and Surgeon Dickinson, of the Thirty-third, Jackson's Opinion Of Hdger And Magrttder. 149
who had remained with his sick and wounded, Stonewall remarked, that "Huger ought to be courtmartialled for permitting Smith to escape, and Magruder shot for his drunkenness and mismanagement at Malvern." They were both subsequently shelved. Jackson added, further, that Gen. McClellan had out-generaled them, escaping with his army when it was just within their grasp.
After debouching from the main thoroughfare a halt was ordered, and the men, sinking down by the roadside, were soon fast asleep. But they were immediately roused from their slumbers, and springing to their feet, prepared to resist the. enemy's cavalry, who were reported to be advancing on a charge. The alarm, however, proved to be groundless, having been occasioned by some horses, which had got away from their sleepy riders, dashing through the ranks. When the panic created by this circumstance had subsided, the Division again moved forward rapidly, many of the soldiers being so exhausted as to fall asleep, and mechanically move along, until a halt in the line would throw them headlong against their comrades in front. The memories of that fearful night march can never be effaced from the brain of those who participated in it. An hour after daylight the head of the column reached Malvern, when the boys, mistaking some dead pines ahead for ship masts, gave vent to the wildest demonstrations of joy, supposing that the river had been reached. It was, however, but a short way off. Moving on a
150 BATTLE OF MALVERN HILLS.
little distance further, the troops were massed by Kegiments in a large clearing, and permitted an hour's sleep. At the expiration of that time the Thirtythird was ordered on picket in the woods at the right of Malvern Hills, where a portion of the army was drawn up to receive an attack. Major Platner, still in command of the Eegiment, deployed all the Companies as skirmishers, every other man being permitted to sleep.
Directly in the rear, the Vermont Brigade were employed in slashing timber, and constructing a formidable abatis, behind which a line of battle . was formed, No openings were left, or other provisions made for the escape of the Thirty-third, should the enemy appear, but they were told to fire off their guns, and make their way back through the slashing as best they could. The night was intensely dark, and the men, unable to see or converse with each other, had a decidedly dreary time of it. About three o'clock in the morning (Wednesday) an Aid appeared and ordered them in. Owing to the darkness and obstacles some did not get back for several hours.
The fierce battle of Malvern Hills was, in the meantime, being fought. The line of battle was formed about eight o'clock in the morning (Tuesday), General Franklin having the right, Generals Keyes and Heintzelman the centre, and General Porter the left. General Sumner's Corps was held as a reserve. Our batteries were planted on the hills in commanding positions. About nine