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THE SIXTH CORPS SURROUNDED.
First on the west our main army, then Lee's main army, then the Sixth Corps, then a rebel Corps, and then our siege guns, planted on the east side of the river—a most extraordinary sandwiching of opposing forces together. . .
Instead of attempting to cut his way through to Hooker in front, or Fredericksburg in the rear, Gen. Sedgwick drew back Brook’s Division, still in the advance, and arranging his army in the form of an arc, fronting towards the enemy, gradually contracted the lines until the wings extended nearly to the river. By this movement the rebels were thrown out of the rear to his left front. The lines continued to stretch out towards the river, until they enclosed Banks’ Ford, six miles above the city, over which communication was immediately established with Falmouth, and Gen. Sedgwick sent for supplies. The announcement of this fact dispelled much of the gloom prevailing at headquarters, for it was then known that if the Corps could hold out until night it would be able to draw back to the ford, under cover of darkness, and escape.
At daybreak, the Thirty-third, together with three other Regiments of Gen. Neill's Brigade, had been sent out to attack a body of rebels who appeared on the higher ridge, some distance further on from the point where they finally descended. After a spirited fight, the enemy were put to flight. The Regiment had now returned, and was posted on the left curvature of the arc formed by Sedgwick, about one mile from the Heights, and near the road leading
THE ENEMY'S CHARGE AND REPULSE.
from the city. Occupying a commanding position, and being so near, they could perceive all the operations of the flanking force, which numbered twentyfive thousand. The reader can imagine their feelings at seeing the Heights which they had so gallantly stormed on the day previous, now reöccupied by the enemy. After being arranged in line of battle, the men amused themselves by firing at the rebel skirmishers, who crept up behind the trees and fences to reconnoitre our position. Several were killed in this manner. Lieutenant Carter, seizing a musket from the hands of one of his men, brought down a general officer, who persisted in recklessly riding out in front of the line.
As the morning advanced, members of the Regiment proceeded out on the road, and brought in one of the, wagons abandoned by the teamsters, which proved to be well stocked with delicacies for a General and his Staff. This was a rich prize for the men, who, now having subsisted for six days on the scanty contents of their haversacks, were as eager for food as the famished Arab in the desert, who, discovering a bag of gold, mourned that it did not contain dates.
Towards noon a Brigade of rebels charged upon the earthworks thrown up in front of the Brigade, but were handsomely repulsed, and two hundred of them made prisoners, by a counter charge.
Our forces remained in two lines of battle, expecting every moment a fierce onslaught from various points. But the day wore away without an attack,
BATTLE OF MONDAY EVENING.
and the men were beginning to think that none would be made, when suddenly, about four o'clock, a heavy column of reinforcements for the enemy were observed descending the upper ridge. This meant battle. Imagine a semi-circle within a semicircle, and you have the relative positions of the opposing forces at that time.
An hour later, the rebel hordes rose quickly from the Heights where they had lain all day, and rushing forward with cheers and yells, precipitated themselves upon our line. At the same moment the siege guns at Falmouth opened a fire on their rear. Gen. Neill's Brigade, being the nearest to them, bore the brunt of the attack, and though assaulted by overpowering numbers, maintained its position and repulsed the enemy. One Regiment, the same which broke at White-Oak Swamp, gave way, thereby bringing a destructive cross fire upon the Thirtythird. As the rebels fell back in disorder through the fields, it was only by the greatest exertions that Col. Taylor could restrain his men from following. A few squads did rush forward and secured several prisoners.
But unmindful of the havoc made in their ranks, the enemy again pressed on, determined to crush the Brigade. At the same time they attacked other points in the extended arc, and Gen. Neill, seeing that there was imminent danger of his position being turned, fell back, not, however, before having incurred a loss of one thousand men. Gen. Sedgwick now gave instructions for the entire lines to 310 HAVOC MADE BY OUR ARTILLERY. recede, in accordance with the plan which he had previously decided upon, viz: to slowly fall back fighting to the river, until darkness should come on. As the lines drew back, the enemy steadily pursued, a vigorous fire of musketry and artillery being kept up on both sides. Our batteries literally mowed the pursuers down, as they repeatedly charged upon them in solid columns. The gunners reserved their fire until the charging forces came within a few rods, and then poured the grape and cannister into them at a fearful rate. Having broken the columns, they would fall back to new positions, and again resist their approach.
In this manner the retreat was conducted most successfully, though not without great loss. The Thirty-third, which suffered severely at the outset, likewise lost many men in falling back, including Lieuts. Porter and Rossiter. While scaling a fence at one time, which through some culpable negligence had been left standing, several were killed and wounded. Gen. Neill being stunned by the falling of his wounded horse, Col. Taylor temporarily took command of the Brigade.
To assume command of a Brigade in the confusion of a retreat, when the enemy was pressing on all sides, was a most hazardous undertaking. Col. Taylor, however, did not shrink from the responsibility, and with the assistance of the Major of the Seventh Maine, who stepped forward when he called for volunteer Aids, soon arranged the Regiments in proper line.