324 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. (CHAp. XLVIII.
These troops I directed to be massed near the plank road in reserve.
No further demonstrations were made in my front until 4.15 p. m.,
when the enemy advanced against my line in force, pressing forward
until they came to the edge of the abatis, less than 100 paces from my
first line, where they halted, and continued an uninterrupted fire of
musketry. Though the firing was very heavy, little execution was
done among our troops, but after half an hour had passed, some of
the troops began to waver, and finally a portion of Mott's division
and Ward's brigade, of Birney's division, in the first line, gave way,
retiring in disorder toward Chancellorsville. My staff and other
officers made great exertions to rally these men, and many of them
were returned to the line of battle, but a portion of them could not
be collected until the action was over.
As soon as the break in our line occurred, the enemy pushed for-
ward and some of them reached the breast-works and planted their
flags thereon. A few of them were killed inside of our breast-works.
At the moment when the enemy reached our line, General Birney
ordered Carroll's brigade, of Gibbon's division, to advance upon them
and drive them back. Carroll moved by the left flank and then for-
ward at the double-quick, retaking the breast-works at once and
forcing the enemy to fall back and abandon the attack in great dis-
order, with heavy loss in killed and wounded. Brooke's brigade, of
Barlow's division, was sent up from the left by General Gibbon to re-
enforce Mott about the same time, but was just anticipated by Car-
roll's brigade, which reached the breast-works first and drove the
enemy back. This attack was principally on the left of the plank
Dow's battery (Sixth Maine) rendered valuable and effective serv-
ice, one section being on the plank road, the others in the second
line near Mott's left. It delivered a destructive fire as the enemy ap-
proached our line, and was served with great steadiness and gallan-
try. The confusion and disorganization among a portion of the
troops of Mott's and Birney's divisions on this occasion was greatly
increased, if not originated, by the front line of breast-works having
taken fire a short time before the enemy made his attack, the flames
having been communicated to it from the forest in front (the battle-
ground of the morning), which had been burning for some hours.
The breast-works on this portion of my line were constructed en-
tirely of logs, and at the critical moment of the enemy's advance
were a mass of flames which it was impossible at that time to sub-
due, the fire extending for many hundred paces to the right.and left.
The intense heat and the smoke, which was driven by the wind di-
rectly into the faces of the men, prevented them on portions of the
line from firing over the parapet, and at some points compelled them
to abandon the line. About the time the enemy had been repulsed,
I received a dispatch from the major-general commanding counter-
manding the order for the attack which had been previously directed
to take place at 6 p. m.
While on my way to army headquarters between 7 and 8 p. m.,
in obedience to a summons from the major-general commanding, I
was called upon for troops to assist Major-General Sedgwick, whose
line had been broken by the enemy. I directed General Getty's
division, Sixth Corps (then under command of General Wheaton),
to report to General Sedgwick at once. The night of the 6th and
the following day passed without material incident save that early
in the morning of the 7th a reconnaissance was made under General