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A CAVALRY CHARGE.

heavy reserves are steadily pressing back Porter's left, and it begins to crumble, until the disorder reaches the very cen. tre of the Federal lines. “There is no panic, the men do not fly in the wild excitement of fear; but deaf to every appeal, they march off deliberately, as if success were impossible.” In vain the officers fling themselves in front of the troops, and shout to them to stand by the flag — in vain they offer to lead them back on the foe. On foot, his horse having been shot under him, Butterfield, surrounded by bis falling staff, plants a flag and calls on his men to rally around it, - but in vain. With sword in hand, aids dash amid the broken ranks with stirring appeals, in vain. Amid the storm of shot and shell, the gallant leaders move and fall, in vain. The battle is lost, and nothing now remains but to save it from becoming a rout. Then came the order for the cavalry to charge. The bugles rang out over the horrible din and uproar, and with sabres shaking over their heads, the Fifth cavalry, shouting as they rode, dashed fiercely on the dense battalions. But they might as well have dashed on a rock. Broken into fragments by the shock, they galloped wildly back through the artillery and flying infantry, sending up a cloud of dust in their headlong passage, and increasing tenfold the hopeless disorder. Borne back for a mile, the shattered army came upon the fresh brigades of Meagher and French, standing like a wall of iron, on the field. Undismayed by the frightful wreck that came heaving wildly down upon them, they maintained their firm formation, and hurled it scornfully back, and sent up a loud hurrah that rose over the tumult and told the enemy that fresh troops were on the field. Advancing boldly to the front, they arrested the confident and on-rushing enemy, and gave time for our troops to rally. Twilight had now settled over the landscape, and the enemy, having exhausted all his reserves, and weary with his long and des

LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR.

39

perate conflict, paused in his victorious career, and fell back, and the bloody day was ended. The slaughter had been fearful on both sides, and the trampled green sward and dusty roads were crimson with the blood of brave men, and sprinkled thickly with the dead and wounded. Twentythree guns were left in the enemy's hands as trophies, and many prisoners, among them the gallant General Reynolds.

It was while smarting under this defeat and slaughter of his brave troops, that McClellan used the following strong and stinging language to the Secretary of War:

"I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory. As it is, the government must not, and cannot, hold me responsible for the result.

“I feel too earnestly to-night. I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades to feel otherwise, than that the government has not sustained this

army.

If
you

do not do so now, the game is lost.

“If I save this army now, I tell you plainly, that I owe no thanks to you, or to any other persons in Washington

You have done your best to sacrifice this army.

This was a terrible accusation to come from a General-inchief on the field of battle, but it is one from which the Secretary of War has never yet successfully vindicated himself. That night the entire army was transferred to the other side of the river, preparatory to the movement of the whole force to the James River. All the

All the wagons, heavy guns, etc., were also gathered there, and General Keyes, with his corps, sent across the White Oak Swamp to seize strong positions on the opposite side, so as to cover the passage of the trains

Orders were also sent to embark all the troops and stores at the White House, and destroy what could not be removed. This was done, and a whole loaded train that could not be saved, was afterwards sent adrift, with a full head of steam on, which, rushing unguided along the track,

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plunged headlong into the stream, the bridge over it having been destroyed. Huge fires, caused by the burning material collected on the route to the White House, lightened the midnight heavens, leaving no fragment of the rich spoils which the enemy had fondly hoped to seize. The bridges over which our troops had passed were also destroyed, so that when morning dawned, the Army of the Potomac was all on the Richmond side of the Chickahominy, while more than half of the Confederate forces were on the opposite side, and the bridges broken down between. This was a complete surprise to the enemy, and compelled him for awhile to rest-powerless to do mischief. This result had been planned by McClellan, for he needed the ime it gave him, to get his immense trains across the swamp, before his army began to move. Tangled up between his corps, it would throw everything into comfusion. Only a single road crossed the swamp, along which five thousand wagons, twenty-five hundred cattle, his immense siege train, and various war material had to be transported. It required nice calculation and prompt, rapid movements to accomplish all this before the overwhelming force of the enemy would be on his rear, and rushing down, at right angles, on his line of march along the roads leading from Richmond beyond the swamp

The 28th was a quiet day to both armies, so far as hostilities were concerned; but the Army of the Potomac was stripping itself for the race and the struggle before it. The distance to the James River was only seventeen miles, so that along that single line of road, scarcely half of the immense train would have entered the swamp when its head would. be on James River. All day long it was winding, like a mighty serpent, its tedious length through the forest, whose gloomy recesses resounded with the rumbling of wheels, the lowing of cattle, and the shouts and curses of men, as they

RETREAT COMMENCED.

41

urged on their teams. Time pressed, and the huge caravan was crowded along the hot and narrow way to its utmost speed. Wounded men lay bleeding in the wagons, or limped along beside them, while every ear was turned to catch the thunder of cannon from the pursuing foe. It was oppressively hot, yet all day and night the vast throng of wagons kept hurrying forward to give room for the army, for the peril to which it was exposed increased with every hour's delay. The moon rose over the dark forest about nine o'clock, and revealed a strange, confused, wild spectacle; but its light was dimmed by a thunder cloud, that pushing up the heavens, sent' peal after peal like the roar of artillery over the alarmed multitude.

The next day was the Sabbath, but not a day of rest to that imperilled army. Early in the morning McClellan broke up his head-quarters at Savage Station, and moved across the swamp, to examine the ground beyond, for the disposition of the corps, and make sure his communication with the gunboats, without which all would be lost. He sent Slocum also across, to relieve Keyes, so that the latter could move on to James River. Porter was to follow, to make the communication sure. The whole army now began to move. Sumner, who was at Fair Oaks, started at daylight towards Savage Station, but before he reached it was attacked at Allen's field. With Richardson's and Sedgwick's divisions he succeeded however in holding the rebels at bay for three hours. In the meantime, the enemy, having repaired the bridges, began to cross the Chickahominy and were now advancing towards Savage Station.

Franklin hearing of it, sent word to Sumner, who pushed on to that point and assumed chief command. It was plain that a battle must be fought here to cover the retreat,

BATTLE OF SAVAGE STATION.

BATTLE OF SAVAGE STATION.

Sumner, Franklin and Heintzelman were here—on whom the Commander-in-chief could rely, and he told them to hold that position till dark, and right gallantly was the order obeyed. The public property which had accumulated here was first destroyed, so as not to fall into the hands of the

enemy, and then they prepared for a stubborn resist

1

ance.

In vain did the enemy move upon this noble rear guard, determined to break through to the trains beyond. It knew the mighty trust which had been reposed in it, and that it held the destiny of the army in its hands. Sumner and Franklin's commands were drawn up in line of battle, in an open field, the right stretching down the road, and the left resting on a piece of woods held by Brooks' brigade. About four o'clock the rebeis, iši overpowering masses, came moving down the Williamsburg road, and fell with savage fury on Burns' brigade. They could not have selected a worse point of attack, for a more gallant and stubborn commander never led troops to battle than he. Rooted to the ground --his hat pierced with balls, and bleeding from a wound in his face, he beat back the hostile battalions with a stern courage that elicited the highest praise from even the cautious Sedgwick. Hazzard's and Pettit's batteries covered themselves with glory. The battle raged for five hours, or until nearly nine o'clock—the thander of the guns breaking in successive crashes over the forest, and sending consternation through the struggling trains far ahead, and urging them on to still greater speed.

As soon as the battle was over, Sumner received orders to fall back across the swamp. He obeyed reluctantly, for, his blood was up, and he wished to punish still further the

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