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TROOPS ARRANGED IN POSITION. White, G, Capt. Hamilton, and K, Capt. McGraw, were left, under Lieut. Col. Corning, to guard the forks of the road. After the force crossed, they were ordered forward, and took possession of the first fort, Major Platner being left in command of them. • General Hancock continued to move forward, and having advanced half a mile to the left, halted in the field, a short distance from the enemy, and near by an abandoned redoubt. Lieut. Col. Corning was now ordered to take Cos. A, Capt. Guion, D, Lieut. Brown, commanding, and F, Capt. McNair, Regimental Colors and Color Guard, occupy and hold the fort. This was quickly done, and the beautiful banner soon waved from the battlements, where it remained through the fierce conflict which ensued, torn and tattered for the first time by shell and bullets. A few moments later, Colonel Taylor proceeded with the remaining Companies of the Regiment, C, E, H and I, to a body of woods to the right and front, and deployed them as skirmishers.
Wheeler and Cowan's Batteries moved forward five hundred yards, directly in front of the redoubt and .commenced shelling Fort Magruder, in which the enemy were posted. They were supported by the Fifth Wisconsin, whose skirmishers connected with those of the Thirty-third on the right, and Sixth Maine and Forty-ninth Pennsylvania on the left. From the redoubt, occupied by Cos. A, D and F, the ground descended slightly for a few rods, and then became a level plain, extending to Fort SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF THE ENEMY. 87 Magruder, and presenting but few obstacles to the advance of infantry.
Our artillery kept up a vigorous fire until two o'clock in the afternoon, and then ceased, in accordance, as it was understood, with orders from General McClellan, who had arrived on the opposite side of the creek.
A lull of several hours followed, but the heavy firing from the direction of our left, indicated that a severe engagement was going on there. No other troops had arrived to reinforce Hancock, and he held his position on the enemy's left flank all day with the small force previously designated. Night was approaching, and the men began to consider what further dispositions were to be made of them, when suddenly the rebels were discovered approaching from the direction of Williamsburg, and rapidly forming two lines of battle, which extended entirely across the plain in front. It required but a glance to divine their object. With overwhelming numbers they expected to press down upon the small force and capture it entire, or drive it pell mell into the creek. General Hancock immediately sent word to the batteries and infantry supports to fall back quickly, which they did, engaging the enemy as they retired. The three Companies of the Thirtythird were ordered out of the redoubt into line of battle, but the Color Sergeant and Guard remained to defend and keep unfurled the banner. The Seventh Maine was likewise posted in line of battle at the right.
On came the swarthy rebels, shouting Bull Run and Ball's Bluff, their lines unbroken and unchecked, while our guns and the Fifth Wisconsin, Sixth Maine and Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, hastily receded, forming on the left of the Thirty-third, as they fell back. The enemy's flying artillery also moved forward, and discharged shot and shell in quick succession, which fell all around the redoubt. It was a most trying situation—the foe was steadily bearing down upon us, and no reinforcements, were they to be had, could cross the narrow mill-dam in time to render assistance. Still the men faltered not, but nerved themselves for the shock, determined that many of the enemy should bite the dust before they would surrender.
As the rebels drew nearer and nearer, the men fired rapidly, but failed to make any impression upon their lines, which swept over the plain in most perfect order. They had now arrived within seventy yards of the redoubt. Lieutenant Brown and many other brave fellows had fallen mortally wounded. The cannoniers with their guns, and members of other Regiments, were hurrying back to the dam to escape. The right and left of the line were wavering, and it seemed as if all was lost.
At this critical juncture, the Lieutenant Colonel, turning to Colonel Taylor, who had just arrived from the skirmish line, remarked, “Nothing but a charge can check them.” “A charge it shall be," he replied, and instantly waving his sword in the air, shouted, “Forward, men,” “Charge bayonets,” added
Lieut. Colonel Corning, and the brave fellows, to a man, sprang forward on the double quick, and were soon lost in the cloud of smoke which enveloped the plain. Incited by this gallant example of three Companies charging a whole Division, other Regiments followed. Alarmed at this sudden counter charge, and doubtless fearing that they had under- rated our force, the enemy broke and ran in confusion. In vain the commanding officer attempted to rally them. Sauve qui peut became the order of the day. The Thirty-third, which was close on the front line when it broke, halted, and discharged volley after volley upon the gray-backs, as they scampered over the plain. The other regiments now joined them, and for several moments a most murderous fire was poured upon the panic stricken fugitives, who never “stopped until they reached their entrenchments. Many tumbled over on their backs and feigned death, while others ran towards us with uplifted hands, imploring that we would spare their lives.
More than two hundred of them lay dead and wounded on the field, including the Lieut. Colonel and Major of the Twenty-fourth Virginia, and a Captain on Magruder's Staff.
It was a most daring and brilliant exploit, deciding the fortunes of the day, and turning what was, up to this time, a defeat on the left, into a substantial victory.
The four Companies deployed as skirmishers on the left, to prevent a flank movement, were not idle
during this time. Colonel Taylor had posted them just beyond a small creek, nearly on a parallel with the first position occupied by the batteries, as follows: Co. C, Capt. Cole, right; H, Capt. Drake, centre; E, Capt. Warford, left, and I, Capt. Root, in rear and reserve. On his departure, Capt. Warford was placed in command of the line.
After they had been in position a short time, Lieutenant Gummer, of Co. E, was sent with ten of Captain Cole's men one hundred and fifty yards in front, as a party of observation. Having made a proper survey of the vicinity, he returned and reported to headquarters. Firing now commenced between the skirmishers on the left, and Captain Warford ordered Captain Root forward to strengthen the line. Soon after, the enemy's charging column made its appearance from the direction of Williamsburs, and dashing into the woods, struck the skirmish line on the right of Co. E. Brisk firing ensued, our skirmishers falling back into the forest, and the enemy pushing on to the open fields at the left.
Owing to the confusion resulting from the sudden turn of affairs, Captain Root was unable to find the skirmish line, and consequently placed in an awkward position, the enemy being all around him. His men were not dismayed, however, but after receding two hundred yards, halted. A small party of rebels who had broke away from the main force, now approached, and when within a short distance were fired upon. Taking them to be friends they