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THE THIRTY-THIRD MAKES A CHARGE. 89 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 underrated 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
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 Williamsburg, and dashing into the woods, struck the skirnish 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
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
CAPTS. ROOT & WARFORD SECURING PRISONERS. 91 cried out, “Don't fire, you are shooting your own men.” At this Captain R. ordered them to advance and surrender; and they were, much to their surprise and chagrin, made prisoners. One of the officers attempted to escape, but the Captain made after him and compelled him to deliver up his sword. Other prisoners were afterwards taken, and when the number was swelled to forty, Captain R, concluding that he had his hands full, left the woods, and marched them off to the redoubt with his Company of twenty-seven men.
Not knowing that the wavering in the line was occasioned by the attack of the enemy's storming column, Captain Warford attempted to rally it instead of ordering it to retreat. While doing so, he was informed that some stragglers wished to give themselves up, but seeing nothing of them, started back to a small support in the rear. On the way, an officer approached him and said, “We are falling back," mistaking him for a fellow rebel. The Captain immediately captured him. The enemy had now been routed, and numerous stragglers ran into the woods, and were taken by the Captain's men. Frequent shots were exchanged, and several of Cos. E and I wounded. He was himself repeatedly shot at, but escaped without a scratch.
When the enemy's column advanced into the woods, it passed through Captain Drake's Company (H), which was in the centre of the skirmish line, and captured several of his men. After it had gone by, a body of fifty stragglers returned and suddenly
attacked him in the rear. Being thus surrounded on all sides he, together with several more of his men, were compelled to surrender. On being ordered to give up his sword to a non-commissioned officer, he refused, but presented it to a rebel Lieutenant, who soon after came up. He and twenty of his men were hurried off to Williamsburg, and a few days later taken to Richmond. After being confined there and at Salsbury, N. C., several months, he was exchanged and rejoined the Regiment in Maryland.
Capt. Cole's Company took thirty-seven prisoners, who were dispatched to headquarters, under charge of Lieut. Brett. Wm. Moran (private), not satisfied with halting and compelling them to deliver up their arms, made the prisoners get down on their knees and “surrender unconditionally.” “ Down on your knays, d— n you,” was the order which he administered to every one he found. He and others of the Company were afterwards complimented in a Special Order for their conduct on this occasion.
Separated, and each one fighting on their own hook," it was marvellous that all of these four Com. panies were not captured by the enemy. But owing to the heavy rain which prevailed, and thick underbrush concealing their strength and movements, they not only. effected their escape, but brought away nearly as many prisoners as they numbered men. This constituted a fitting sequel to the operations of the other portion of the Regiment.
Thus terminated the Battle of Williamsburg, in
which the Thirty-third captured alone one hundred and fifty prisoners, and won the plaudits of the whole army for its gallant charge. During the following night the enemy evacuated the city, and its surrounding works, retreating back to the Chickahominy. The Thirty-third slept on their arms, and on the following day encamped near York River. ·
On the evening of the 7th, Gen. McClellan rode into camp on his favorite bay charger, and the Regiment being drawn up in line, he addressed them as follows: OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS OF THE THIRTY-THIRD:
“I have come to thank you in person for gallant conduct on the field of battle on the 5th instant. I will say to you what I have said to other Regiments engaged with you. All did well—did all I could expect. But you did more ; you behaved like Veterans. You are Veterans— Veterans of a hundred battles could not have done better! Those on your left fought well; but you won the day! You were at the right point, did the right thing, and at the right time. You shall have Williamsburg inscribed on your Banner.”
This brief speech from the Commanding General occasioned the wildest enthusiasm among the men, and as “Little Mac” rode away, followed by his Staff, cheer after cheer rent the air. During the same evening a beautiful roan horse was presented to Adj. Sutton by the Regiment.