Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/157

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McGowan's Report of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania C.H.

left struck and crossed a marsh and there was no firing in our front, except a little on our extreme right. The firing on both flanks and to our rear still continuing very heavy, I halted the brigade; and as the firing seemed closing in behind us, information of our position was given to General Wilcox, who directed the brigade to be withdrawn through the gap made. On our return, the enemy was so near the road on both sides that their balls crossed each other. They pressed so close to the road on the left that I sent a part of the brigade in to drive them back, where they found General Thomas engaging them. It was now sundown, and this portion of the brigade remained with General Thomas all night. The remaining portion was massed on the road to the left of General Thomas. Night closed in and the firing ceased, both sides retaining the ground on which they had fought.

In this charge the brigade behaved extremely well. They drove the enemy at all points and captured some prisoners. If our force had been sufficient to drive the enemy in the same way along the whole front, the bloodshed of the next day might possibly have been prevented.

The night of the 5th was an anxious one. The troops stood to their arms all night in the same broken order in which they were at the close of the fight; the line, if any, was something like an irregular horse-shoe—no two brigades touching each other. They had made a good march in the forenoon of that day. and then had fought until after dark. Hungry, thirsty and fatigued, they had to pass a sleepless night, during the long hours of which the enemy could be distinctly heard in the thick covert of the Wilderness making arrangements to envelop them. It was expected that we would be relieved about daylight by General Longstreet's corps, and hence, I suppose, the line was not readjusted; but as the day began to dawn without any appearance of relief, and as I believed from many indications that the enemy would attack us as soon as they could see, I sent for the portion of the brigade left with General Thomas and formed line of battle at an angle with the Plank road and facing the enemy on that (the left) side of the road. As soon as it was light enough, the enemy could be seen moving on our front, rear and right, completely enveloping us, except up the Plank road in the direction from which they had come. At the request of General Thomas, who was to my right and already nearly cut off, I advanced my brigade to shove the enemy farther from the road and prevent him from being entirely surrounded.