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On the 26th of June, in the morning, our troops took up their positions. Jackson hastened by forced marches to Ashland, there to commence his out-flanking operations against the enemy. Having arrived there, his advanced guard drove in the weakly posted foe, and pushed on without loss of time to Hanover Court-house, where he threw forward Gen. Branch's brigade, between the Chickahominy and Pamunkey rivers, to establish a junction with Gen. Hill (first), who had to cross the stream at Meadow bridge. Gen. Hill very gallantly opened the offensive, and began his operations against the little town of Mechanicsville. The enemy who were stationed here made a brave resistance. Storming attacks were made again and again, with a fury, and as often repelled with a cool determination that awakened admiration. In vain did Gen. Hill send his aids in quest of Gen. Branch. The latter had encountered so many topographical difficulties that he reached his position in front of Mechanicsville only late at night, when the conflict was at an end. The morning of the 27th had scarcely begun to dawn ere our artillery opened a tremendous fire upon the enemy's front, so that the latter, when they also saw Branch's brigade advancing to the attack on their right, abandoned their position at Mechanicsville, and fell back, fighting upon their second defensive line, further down the stream. Just at the moment when we had established the crossing of the Chickahominy, arrived Gen. Longstreet's magnificent army corps— old, experienced veterans of the Army of the Potomac-and the division of Gen. Hill (second). At once the order to advance was given all along the line. The divisions of Gens. Hill (second), Anderson, and Whiting formed the centre, and moved towards Coal Harbor, while Jackson, Hill (first), and Longstreet formed the left, and marched down along the bank of the river. Magruder, commanding the right wing, was, on account of the swampy nature of the ground he occupied, ordered to hold himself merely on the defensive. Gen. Wise took command of Fort Darling, on the James river. All these military offensive operations, and the two preceding fights, must have given Gen. McClellan knowledge of our intention to change our inconvenient position at Richmond, and to procure for ourselves more space and freedom of motion. He should, then, have instantly ordered the army corps of McDowell, which for
four months had lain inactive at Fredericksburg, to make a demonstration along the Richmond road. By such a movement even the flank march of Gen. Jackson would have been rendered impracticable. But Gen. McClellan must have been deceived in the character of Gen. McDowell; for, notwithstanding all the communications in reference to our combined manœuvres, the latter remained with imperturbable indifference in his secure position, and left Gen. McClellan's army, which had suffered greatly by sickness and desertion, a prey to the heavy concussions of our attack. Scarcely, therefore, had Gen. Lee received reliable intelligence of McDowell's inactivity, than a general and simultaneous attack on McCellan's whole line was resolved upon. So.soon, then, as the arrival of Gen. Jackson at Coal Harbor was reported, the Commander-in-chief, with his staff, repaired to Gaines's Mill, and ordered the divisions of Anderson, Hill (first), Longstreet, and Picket to attack. Before these columns got into motion, the thunder of artillery at our left announced that Gen. Jackson was already at work. This called forth in our troops the utmost enthusiasm.
Gen. McClellan's position on that day was remarkable in the highest degree. With one portion of his troops he had crossed to the south side of the Chickahominy, and there confronted Magruder, while, with the larger portion of his force, he had taken up a position more to the rear and nearer to the railroad, where he was resolved to accept battle. His dispositions revealed comprehensive forethought, talent, and coolness. The different divisions of his army took their positions with admirable precision and awaited our onset with firmness. It was the first time that the two hostile armies had, in relation to numbers, confronted one another with force so nearly equal; but the Unionists had the advantage of a better protected position, while our troops had to expose themselves to the hostile fire. The attack was opened by the columns of Hill (first), Anderson, and Pickett. These gallant masses rushed forward with thundering hurras upon the musketry of the foe, as though it were a joy to them. Whole ranks went down under that terrible hail, but nothing could restrain their courage. The billows of battle raged fiercely onward; the struggle was man to man, eye to eye, bayonet to bayonet. The hostile Meagher's
brigade, composed chiefly of Irishmen, offered heroic resistance. After a fierce struggle our people began to give way, and at length all orders and encouragements were vain-they were falling back in the greatest disorder. Infuriate, foaming at the mouth, bare headed, sabre in hand, at this critical moment Gen. Cobb appeared upon the field, at the head of his legion, and with him the Nineteenth North Carolina and Fourteenth Virginia regiments. At once these troops renewed the attack, but all their devotion and self-sacrifice were in vain. The Irish held their position with a determination and ferocity that called forth the admiration of our own officers. Broken to pieces and disorganized, the fragments of that fine legion came rolling back from the charge. The Nineteenth North Carolina lost eight standard-bearers, and the most of their staff-officers were either killed or wounded. Again, Generals Hill (first) and Anderson led their troops to the attack, and some regiments covered themselves with immortal glory. Our troops exhibited a contempt of death that made them the equals of old, experienced veterans; for, notwithstanding the bloody harvest the destroyer reaped in our ranks that day, no disorder, no timid bearing revealed that many of the regiments were under fire and smelt gunpowder then for the first time. But the eneiny, nevertheless, quietly and coolly held out against every attack we made, one after the other. Notwithstanding the fact that solitary brigades had to stand their ground from four until eight o'clock P. M., they performed feats of incredible valor; and it was only when the news came that Jackson was upon them in the rear, that about eight they retired before our ad
Despite the dreadful carnage in their ranks, they marched on with streaming banners and rolling drums, and carried with them all their slightly wounded and all their baggage; and, when the cavalry regiments of Davies and Wickham went in pursuit, repelled this assault also with perfect coolness.
By this time night had come on, and overspread the field of death with darkness, compassionately shutting out from the eyes of the living the horrid spectacle of slaughter. Quiet gradually returned. Only a feeble cannonade could be heard upon our farthest left, and that too, little by little, died away. The soldiers were so fearfully exhausted by the day's struggle
that many of them sank down from their places in the ranks upon the ground. Although I, too, could scarcely keep in the saddle, so great was my fatigue, I hastened with one of my aids to that quarter of the field where the struggle had raged the most fiercely. The scene of ruin was horrible. Whole ranks of the enemy lay prone where they had stood at the beginning of the battle. The number of wounded was fearful, too, and the groans and imploring cries for help that rose on all sides had, in the obscurity of the night, a ghastly effect that froze the blood in one's veins. Although I had been upon so many battle-fields in Italy and Hungary, never had my vision beheld such a spectacle of human destruction. The preparations for the transportation of the wounded were too trifling, and the force detailed for that purpose was either too feeble in numbers or had no proper knowledge of its duties. Even the medical corps had, by the terrors of the situation, been rendered incapable of attending to the wounded with zeal and efficiency. With inconceivable exertion I at length succeeded, with the assistance of some humane officers, in bringing about some kind of order amid this frightful confusion. By the happiest chance, I found some Union ambulances, had all our men who could drive and knew the way pressed into service, and set to work to get the wounded into Richmond. A most heart-rending task it was; for often the poor sufferer would expire just as we were about to extend him succor. By midnight we had got the first train ready. It consisted of sixty wagons, with two hundred seriously wounded. I cautiously and slowly conducted this train with success to the city. The first hospital reached I was met with refusal. "All full," was the reply to my inquiry."Forward to the next hospital," was my word of command. "All full,” was again the answer. Just then a friend said to me that if I would wait he might be able to help me, as he would have a neighboring tenement, used as a tobacco warehouse, prepared for a hospital. So I had to make up my mind to wait there an hour and a half in the street with my dying charge. I did my best to supply the poor fellows with water, tea, and other refreshments, so as to alleviate their sufferings in some degree; but the late hour of the night and the agitation of the city prevented me from putting my design into more than half execution.
At length the so-called hospital was ready; but I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw the dismal hole offered me by that name. There, in open lofts, without windows or doors, a few planks nailed together were to be the beds of the unfortunate defenders of our country. During those days of fate the soldier had endured all things-hunger, thirst, heat. Nothing could rob him of his courage, his indifference to death, and now he lay there wounded to the death at the door of his friends, whose property he had defended, for whose welfare he had exposed his life; and these friends turn him away to an open barn, where, without dressing for his wounds or any care, he is left to perish.
And yet this city had a population of forty thousand souls, had churches admirably adapted to conversion into hospitals, had clergymen in numbers; but neither the doors of the churches opened, nor were the ministers of the gospel there to sweeten the last moments of the dying soldier. Sad and dispirited, I gave the order to carry in the wounded, cast one more glance at that house of death and horror, and then swung myself into my saddle and fled, with a quiet oath on my lips, back to my regiment.
Gen. Jackson had accomplished his flanking march without meeting with important resistance from the enemy. Hardly had he arrived at the positions marked out for him, ere he sent his columns to the charge. Notwithstanding the difficulties and exertions of the march, which they had executed on short allowance, he hurled his troops-those desperate sans culottes of his upon the Federals. In vain was all the courage, all the bold manoeuvring of the enemy. Like a tempest, Gen. Stuart and his cavalry swept down upon them and hurled every thing to the earth that stood in his way. A genuine fury took possession of Jackson's men, who, throwing aside their muskets, and drawing their terrible bowie-knives, fell with these alone upon the victims offered up to them. Horrible was the carnage that then ensued, and although the Federals had at first made obstinate resistance, they now lost ground and fell back, throwing away arms, knapsacks, blankets-in fine, every thing that could impede their flight. Subordination and discipline were at an end. The soldier no longer