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force was scarcely five thousand, all told, and totally separated from the main body. If overpowered in front, retreat would be utterly impossible through the narrow gorge behind them. General Keyes appeared on the field at this moment, and told General Hancock that he did not visit him to assume the command as ranking-officer, but to see him, Hancock, " carry the left." General Keyes at once sent back for a support of cavalry and artillery. This was about one o'clock in the afternoon. For some reason, General Sumner omitted ordering the reinforcements forward.
A regiment was soon in the enemy's deserted works (No. 3 from York river). The old flag was raised with wild cheers from its parapet; and eight cannon were quickly unlimbered in the field beyond. A smaller, intermediate outwork was still held between this and Fort Magruder. In front of it a line of rebel skirmishers deployed, but were quickly dispersed and forced to retire. In five minutes the Union guns were playing, some on the great fort at six hundred yards distance, the rest on the woods to the north, through which the rebels were retreating on their main body.
Just then the clouds broke away in the west, and a flood of light came in upon the whole panorama. Nothing could be more beautiful and inspiriting. The deserted rebel forts, surmounted with Federal colors; Hancock's infantry awaiting orders in battle line; a signal officer waving to the centre his flag-signals from the parapet of work No. 3; the long fire-belching, smoke-canopied curve of Fort Page in the distance; still further beyond, white flashes, and huge clouds of smoke appearing from Hooker's battle-ground on the left, of whose desperate contest the stunning roll of musketry and roar of cannon gave true token —all these combined formed a broad battle-picture worthy of Varney.
Wheeler's artillery fired with precision and rapidity for an hour, the fort answering gun for gun. But the rebel infantry seemed to have their hands full in managing Hooker, and as it was not yet practicable to storm the fort, the Union forces found little to do, and stood under fire of the artillery with small loss, a\vaiting a share in the business. It was not long in coming, and came in the shape which more than one observer had feared from the outset. It was preceded at four o'clock by one of those dead, ominous half-hour pauses which so often make the decisive turn of an engagement. Many thought the enemy were retreating. Others, who have had occasion to dread these still and awful lapses from the bloody work of a field-day, prognosticated an unknown danger impending close at hand.
Suddenly there burst from tl e woods on the right flank a battalion of rebel cavalry I Then, to the right and left of the horse, three regiments of infantry supporting it!
But General Hancock was equal to the crisis. Forming his infantry against this sudden attack, he held them in magnificent order, while the rebel foot and horse came on, cheering, firing, and charging in gallant and imposing style. Wheeler's battery turned and poured hot volleys into them as they came, and over five thousand muskets riddled them through and through. But they kept on—nearer—nearer—closing up, cheering, and sure of their power to sweep the Federals before them.
Thus they came, swifter than it can be told, until their line, now broken and irregular, was within two hundred yards of the unwavering columns. Then Hancock showed himself the coolest and bravest of the brave. Taking off his hat, and using the courtly prefix of the olden time, he said: ',',Ready, How! Gentlemen, Charge!" The whole line swept forward, as the reaper's sickle rushes through the grain. Its keen edge had not yet touched the enemy, when his ranks broke simultaneously, fled in confusion to the rear, and the field of Williamsburg was won.
About five o'clock p. M. some excitement was caused in the rear, and soon an officer, with his staff, rode to the opening in the woods where he could get a view of the field. It was General MeClellan. The moment he was seen, loud and deafening cheers rose up along the lines of the centre, and rolled away to the right and left, imparting a new enthusiasm to the forces. The chief officers were quickly consulted, and reinforcements were sent to the aid of Hancock and Hooker. Hancock's brilliant and successful charge hsvl already won the day on the right, and the effect of it in the panic and rout of the rebels was becoming sensibly felt in front of Hooker's division, when the long-looked for assistance came to his side. The rebels promptly retired, and the desperate struggle of the day closed on a splendidly contested field. The men were compelled to bivouack on the ground, with the rain still falling, in proud anticipation of a renewal of the conflict in the morning.
The rebels had been reinforced as late as five o'clock, and it was expected that General Johnston would command them in the morning in person, but the opportune appearance of the Federal reinforcements, together with the successful movements of General Hancock, created a panic among them, and they fell back on Williamsburg, and commenced their hasty retreat from that place. At two o'clock on Tuesday morning the Federal forces began to move. As they approached Williamsburg they found the way clear, and on coming np to the city the rear guard of the foe were flying on the road toward Richmond, leaving the town to be occupied by the Federal troops. General McClellan appointed General Jameson Military Governor of the place, and the troops marched through the main street of the city to the homely, but glorious and soul-stirring strains of "Yankee Doodle."
The houses, churches, barns and stables were found filled with the wounded of the rebel army, as well as the Federals whom they had taken prisoners. It was a sad, heart-rending scene, those brave soldiers mangled, dying and dead. The Federal troops immediately commenced the work of burial, while the surgeons found incessant occupation in the discharge of their duties. The battle field presented a frightful scene of carnage, and several days passed before all the dead and wounded stragglers were found in the woods and among the underbrush where they had fallen.
The loss of the Federals was about 500 killed, 1,600 wounded, arid 623 prisoners. That of the rebels was somewhat greater in killed and wounded. Five hundred prisoners fell into Federal hands. Some hundred of the rebel dead were buried on the day following the battle. Lieutenant-Colonel Irwin, of the Eighth Alabama, formerly United States Senator, was found dead on the field.
Thirty-five regiments of the rebels were engaged in tne action, that number being represented by the wounded men left after the battle.
BATTLE OP WEST POINT, VA.
Mat 1, 1862.
West Point is the name given to the landing-place at the head of the York river, which is formed by the junction of the Pamunkey and Mattapony rivers, and is thirty miles above Yorktown.
After the evacuation of that place, and the entrance of the Federal troops, the Union army proceeded in its advance toward Richmond by different routes, as already detailed. One column marched by the land route, under Heintzelman, Sumner, Hooker, Kearney and Keyes, while General Franklin led his corps by transports up the York river to West Point, leaving Yorktown at nine o'clock, on Tuesday morning, May 6th. The banks of the river presented a fine appearance, and white flags were displayed from many of the houses. The house of Mr. Bigler, a firm loyalist, was almost covered with an immense flag, bearing the stars and stripes, while one of the ladies of the house waved the beautiful emblem of peace along its folds, from one of the windows. The rebels had set fire to a vainable mill belonging to Mr. Bigler, and its ruins were still sending np great clouds of smoke into the air, a lurid witness of the destruction which had marked their progress. The army arrived at West Point about two o'clock, P. M., and commenced its disembarkation.
In consequence of the shallowness of the approach by water, it bocame necessary to use pontoon boats and scows to facilitate the landing. Operations were therefore slow; but the troops were landed by midnight. The rebels did not dispute the landing. Pickets were immediately thrown out into the woods in front, the roads leading to the landing-place examined, and trees were thrown across the roads. The pickets were occasionally engaged during the night, but only two or three of the Federals were lost in these irregular skirmishes. The night was spent in active labors and in jealously watching the movements of the foe.
At half-past three o'clock the next morning, the whole division was under arms. At six o'clock information that the enemy was approaching was received, and the troops prepared at once to meet him. The Gosline Zouaves, (Pennsylvania,) New York Sixteenth, Eighteenth, Thirty-first and Thirty-second, and Maine Fifth were ordered to take the advance; the New Jersey brigade following them up as a reserve. The Fourth New Jersey having in its front a marsh, and immediately on its far side a piece of woods, from which the enemy could fire upon it with advantage, Colonel Simpson ordered his fine body of pioneers to throw a bridge over the creek. This was the work of a few moments, and his regiment, by direction of Colonel Taylor, took possession of the woods, and were strongly posted behind a ravine, ready to deliver a telling fire upon the rebels, in the contingency of the Fifth Maine, immediately in front, being driven back. This contingency, however, did not occur.
The Thirty-second New York, Colonel Matteson, of Newton's brigade, was directed to clear the wood of rebels, who had made their presence known to the pickets. The Sixteenth New York was ordered to the same work in other portions of the wood. The Thiriy-second proceeded to execute their duty. Entering the wood they came upon a ravine, at the bottom of which they were fired upon by the rebel skirmishers. They charged at once, delivering a galling fire upon the enemy's position. The enemy retired, the troops following until a second ravine appeared in view. In attempting to cross this the rebels from the other side again poured a volley into them with considerable effect. They had not, however, the power to drive back the Federal troops, who gallantly pursued the rebels, delivering their fire upon them, or rather upon their position, for they kept themselves adroitly concealed by the woods. At a third and last ravine, the rebels had erected a breastwork on the opposite side, from which they opened on the Federals with small arms, and grape and canister from mountain howitzers. The Thirty-second charged gallantly up to within a few feet of the work, but were forced to fall back from the superior force of the enemy. They retired in admirable order. There were only seven companies of the Thirty-second regiment engaged against Alabama, Texas, South Carolina and Tennessee troops.
At two o'clock, p. sr., the gunboats, three in number, opened fire upon the enemy from their large guns, the shells apparently taking effect in the right quarter, for the enemy soon afterwards retired, their battery being silenced on the first shot from the boats. The enemy's retreat could be traced by the line of smoke in his rear. The retreating rebels were evidently attempting to destroy every thing on their route. The Sixteenth and Thirty-first regiments, New York Volunteers, were also engaged with the enemy in the woods. The loss of the Thirty-second regiment New York Volunteers was nearly one hundred in killed and wounded. Three officers,—Captain Young, of company D; Captain Brown, of company C, and Lieutenant Wallace, of company G—were killed, and Lieutenant Stone, of company B, and Lieutenant Twaddle, of company F, wounded severely, and thirteen privates were killed. The total loss in the different regiments of Newton's brigade was about two hundred in killed, wounded and missing. The loss of the rebels was heavy, as was presumed from the fact that they were seen from the transports carrying off their dead and wounded in great numbers.