Our arrival with other troops at Hilton Head was in consequence of General Foster's orders to co-operate with General Sherman in his "march to the sea," for the latter had telegraphed General Halleck from Kingston, Ga., November 11, 1864.
"I would like to have Foster break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad about Pocotaligo about the 1st of December."
A force of some five thousand men was gathered at Port Royal and organized as the "Coast Division," under command of General Hatch. Gen. E. E. Potter's First Brigade was composed of the Fifty-sixth, One Hundred and Twenty-seventh, One Hundred and Forty-fourth and One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York, Twenty-fifth Ohio, Thirty-second, Thirty-fourth, and Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops; Col. A. S. Hartwell's Second Brigade, of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, Twenty-sixth and One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops. Lieut.-Col. William Ames commanded the artillery, consisting of Batteries B and F, Third New York, and Battery A, Third Rhode Island. Capt. George P. Hurlbut, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, had a detachment of his regiment. Admiral Dahlgren formed a naval brigade of sailors and marines with some howitzers for duty ashore under Commander George H. Preble, and ordered the gunboats "Pawnee," "Mingoe," "Pontiac," "Sonoma," "Winona," and "Wissahickon" to take part.
Our regiment started on this expedition in light marching order, with Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, commanding, Acting Major Pope, Surgeon Brigs, Assistant-Surgeon Radzinsky, Adjutant Howard, Quartermaster Ritchie; Company C, Captain Homans and Lieutenants Bridgham and Spear; Company E, Lieutenant Chipman, commanding, and Lieutenant Cousens; Company G, Lieut. David Reid, commanding, and Lieutenant Webster; Company H. Captain Tucker and Lieutenant Stevens; Company A, Lieutenant Knowles; Company D, Lieutenant Emerson, commanding, and Lieutenant Hallett ; Company I, Lieut. Lewis Reed; Company K, Lieutenant Leonard, commanding, and Lieut. Charles Jewett, - a force of twenty-one officers and 540 men. Captains T. L. Appleton and R. E. L. Jewett were on staff duty with General Hatch.
A large fleet was ready at Port Royal, the decks of the transports crowded with troops; and the pier at Hilton Bead was full of stores and men awaiting transportation. During the 28th, Captain Pope's companies were transferred to the steamer "Golden Gate," on which was Colonel Hartwell. After Companies A and E under Captain Homans were taken upon the steamer "Fraser," General Hatch made the "General Hooker" his flagship.
Orders were issued that the fleet start before daylight on the 29th at a signal light; but just as anchors were hauled up, a heavy fog came drifting in, preventing much progress. Owing to a mistake, the naval vessels did not move until 4 a.m., by which hour it was clear overhead, but the fog clung to the water below. However, they crept up Broad River, and at 8 a.m. entered a creek and were soon at Boyd's, where a dilapidated wharf served as a landing; not an army transport was to be seen, for they had either run info the wrong estuary, grounded, or come to anchor in consequence of the thick weather.
As the naval vessels approached, loud "holloas" came from a picket of the Third South Carolina Cavalry through the misty atmosphere; and their fires were seen burning in front of some huts. Soon uncultivated fields, stock grazing, and fine woodland about a plantation house were discovered as the fog lifted. From the landing a tortuous wagon-road led to Grahamville, a village some eight or ten miles distant, near the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. Only a squadron of the Third South Carolina Cavalry and one-field-piece were in the vicinity at this time. General Foster had selected this line of advance instead of the fortified roads leading to Coosawhatchie and Pocotaligo. General Hatch's flagboat, the "Fraser," flying a blue pennant with a single star, on which were Companies G and E, was the first army vessel to arrive. The Fifty-fourth men, headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper, sprang ashore I eagerly, and were the first troops to land. A skirmish line was formed, and advanced without opposition, though several of the enemy's cavalrymen were seen along the edge of the stream. Moving about half a mile, the companies were then halted and disposed to watch the enemy and resist attack. The Naval Brigade landed and advanced to the first cross-road, pushing a small force farther to the right, which met a few of the enemy. It then moved to a second cross-road and halted. The Thirty-second United States Colored Troops, one of the first regiments to arrive, was sent to support the blue Jackets.
Our companies on the "Golden Gate" started at the signal; but about daylight the pilot admitted that he was lost. When the fog lifted and land was seen near by, a boat was sent ashore to obtain information. At last the proper course was ascertained, and the craft made Boyd's Landing, the fourth transport to arrive. Captain Pope landed his men on the rude wharf one at a time, and then joined Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper up the road. Captain Homans's companies on the "Fraser" moved on time, but the steamer grounded. After a while she floated, and this detachment also disembarked at the landing and joined the regiment.
In the afternoon the creek was crowded with craft. General Foster was there at 2 p.m., and General Potter at 3:30. The latter infused new life into affairs. Small boats, were employed to put men ashore. General Potter moved out with the larger part of his brigade about 4 p.m. At the cross-road the general and Commander Preble had a consultation. Concluding that the map furnished was incorrect, and that the Naval Brigade was on the wrong road, General Potter moved the whole force back to the Coosawhatchie cross-road. There the Naval Brigade remained; and Potter's troops, continuing on to Bolan's church two miles distant, marched to the left in the direction of Savannah, when they should have turned to the right at the church to reach Grahamville. It is said that the guide employed-was either ignorant or faithless. Potter continued the march on the wrong road until after midnight, when he retraced his steps, going into bivouac about 2 a. m., on the 30th, at Bolan's church. About this rude structure painted white, the troops rested without fires, the pickets disturbed by occasional shots on the Grahamville road during the night. Our failure to seize the railroad on the 29th or very early the next morning was fatal to success, for the enemy took prompt and effective measures to oppose us. Their small cavalry force in the vicinity was collected; word was sent in every direction of our landing, and that reinforcements must arrive the next morning or the positions would be given up. General Hardee could spare no troops from Savannah, but ordered two regiments from Charleston to Grahamville. But fortune favored the enemy by the opportune arrival at Savannah at 2 a.m., November 30, of Gen. Gustavus W. Smith with a force of Georgia militia brought from Macon by a roundabout way. Governor Brown had refused to allow his State troops to serve elsewhere than in Georgia; but General Smith permitted himself to execute the instructions of General Hardee, and the cars holding the Georgians were shunted from the rails of the Gulf to those of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad; the leading brigade arriving at Grahamville about 8 a.m., on the 30th. With Smith's and the local force it was hoped to protect the railroad until the arrival of other troops later in the day. Col. C. J. Colcock, the district commander, who was "temporarily absent," arrived at Grahamville at 7 a. m. It was arranged that General Smith should advance about two miles to Honey Hill, which was already fortified for defence, and that Colonel Colcock should take some cavalry and one field-piece, and move in advance of that point to support his pickets and contest our advance. Colonel Hartwell at the landing made his headquarters at Boyd's house, and saw to the disposition of the troops as they arrived. The regiments were bivouacked in the fields; and the troops, not knowing how moments necessary for success were being lost, were in fine spirits.
Before daybreak on November 30, the regiments of Potter's brigade at the landing moved to join him, followed by Colonel Hartwell, with the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts and the remaining artillery. The Twenty-sixth and One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops had not arrived at that hour. At about 7 a.m. our cavalry beyond Bolan's church reported the enemy advancing down the Grahamville road. General Hatch moved his column at 7:30 p.m., preceded by the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York, skirmishing. For half a mile the road was bounded by dense woods, then a cotton-field, beyond which were thick woods reaching to a creek crossed by a causeway. Across this field our skirmishers at 8:15 a.m. met the enemy's light troops, who retired slowly.
Our advance had crossed the field, when, at 8:30 a.m., the first cannon-shot was heard, coming from the enemy. General Hatch formed line of battle, and Lieut. E. A. Wildt's section, Battery B. Third New York, shelled the Confederates. Then our skirmishers entered the woods, and Col. George W. Baird's Thirty-second United States Colored Troops, moving along the causeway by the flank at the double-quick, through a severe fire which wounded Lieut.- Col. Edward A. Geary and killed or wounded a number of men, cleared the head of the causeway. Before this retirement the enemy set fire to the dead grass and stubble of an old field beyond the swamp which delayed our progress as intended, and they continued to annoy our advance with occasional shots. Over part of the way still farther onward the troops were confined to the narrow road in column by woods and swamps, while the skirmishers and flankers struggled through vines and underbrush. At a point where the road turned to the left, Colcock made his last stand before seeking his works at Honey Hill; and in the artillery firing that ensued the brave Lieutenant Wildt received a mortal wound.
General Smith was in position, protected by the earth works at Honey Hill. In his front was a swamp thick with underbrush and grass, through which flowed a sluggish stream. This stream was about one hundred and fifty yards in front of the earthwork, and was crossed by a bridge, the planks of which were torn up.- Bushes and. trees covered the slight elevation occupied by the enemy. Their left reached into pine lands; the right along a fence skirting the swamp. The enemy's position and the bridge were concealed from our troops, coming up the road to the turn, by a point of woods. Just before the turn was reached, as one came from Bolan's church, a wood-road ran from the main road to the right, with an old dam between it and the creek.
General Smith's force engaged in the battle is given as about fourteen hundred effectives, and consisted of the First Brigade of Georgia Militia, the State Line Brigade of Georgia, Thirty-second and Forty-seventh Georgia Volunteers Athens Battalion, Augusta Battalion, detachments from four companies Third South Carolina Cavalry, and two guns each of the Beaufort Artillery and DePass's Battery, and three guns of the Lafayette Artillery. It is believed, however, that this force exceeded the total as given. General Smith posted his main body at the earthwork supporting the guns in position, a heavy line of skirmishers on either flank and a small reserve, giving Colonel Colcock the executive command.
Our skirmishers, on turning the bend of the road, were at once met by a heavy fire which drove them to cover General Hatch, perceiving that the enemy held a strong position, directed General Potter to put his troops into line, and the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York formed on the left of the road, then the Fifty-sixth New York and the One Hundred and Fifty-seventh New York on the extreme left. To the right of the road he sent the One Hundred and Forty-fourth New York and Twenty-fifth Ohio. Lieut. George H. Crocker, with the section of Battery B, Third New York, was ordered into battery at the turn. Although it is difficult to establish the relative time of events, it is believed that these dispositions having been made, the Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops, Col. James C. Beecher, charged up the road. It went forward with a cheer, but receiving a terrible fire, after severe loss, was forced to retire and form in support of the artillery.
Colonel Hartwell, commanding the Second Brigade, with eight companies of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts under Lieut.- Col. Charles B. Fox, hearing volley firing breaking the pervading stillness, moved rapidly to the front. There the leaders filing along the wood-road, three companies became separated from the regiment when Colonel Hartwell ordered a charge in double column. Twice forced to fall back by the enemy's fire, their brave colonel giving the command, "Follow your colors!" and himself leading on horseback, the Fifty- fifth turned the bend, rushed up the road, and in the face of a deadly fire advanced to the creek But it was fruitless, for the pitiless shot and shell so decimated the ranks that the survivors retired after losing over one hundred men in five minutes, including Color Sergeant King, killed, and Sergeant-Major Trotter, Sergeant Shorter, and Sergeant Mitchell, wounded. Colonel Hartwell, wounded and pinned to the ground by his dead horse, was rescued and dragged to the wood by the gallant Lieut. Thomas F. Ellsworth of his regiment. Captains Crane and Boynton were both killed after displaying fear less gallantry. The One and Twenty-seventh New York supported this charge by an advance, but after the repulse retired also. On the right the Twenty-fifth Ohio and Thirty-second United States Colored Troops, swinging to the left, moved from the wood-road, forcing the enemy's left back to their works, but being met by a murderous fire, were brought to a stand, sustaining their position with great tenacity under severe losses for a considerable time. To this line the Battalion of Marines from the Naval Brigade was brought up later, forming on the right of the Thirty-second; and the three companies of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts under Maj. William Nutt, which had separated from their regiment, formed to the left of the Twenty-fifth, while the One Hundred and Forty-fourth New York remained in support.
General Smith, on the part of the Confederates, was obliged to put his reserve into action when the full force of our attack was made. A Confederate officer wrote, when the action was at its height: " The noise of the battle at this time was terrific, the artillery crashing away in the centre, while volley after volley of musketry ran down both lines and were reverberated from surrounding forests."
It was 5 a.m. when reveille sounded for the Fifty-fourth, and two hours after, the regiment moved from bivouac; It was the rear-guard, and was directed to secure the communications for the division. The regiment marched rapidly over good roads with a bright sun overhead, making the morning hours delightful. Not a hostile sound reached their ears as the men moved at route step, with only the tinkle, tinkle of pans and cups striking the bayonets, for music. After marching about two and a half miles, we came to the Coosawhatchie cross-road unprotected even by a picket. Lieutenant Colonel Hooper, deeming it imperative that this important point should be covered, detached Captain Pope with Companies C, O, G. and K to remain there until relieved. He then moved on with the other companies to Bolan's church, where Companies A and I under Lieut. Lewis Reed were left to picket the road beyond. Pushing forward again over a road clear of troops, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper proceeded with only Companies E and H. Nearing the front, from which came sounds of battle, some stragglers and soldiers were encountered sitting on or about the fences at the sides of the road. As we approached, they took off their hats, and after hurrahing, shouted, "Here's the Fifty-fourth!" Farther on the sailors were found halted. They were in good spirits, calling out, "Go in, boys! No loading in nine times there!" Still farther onward at about noon Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper was met by Col. William T. Bennett, the chief of General Hatch's staff, to whom application was made for orders. Bennett seemed excited, according to the lieutenant-colonel's account, and said but little else than " Charge! charge!" pointing to the front. Lieutenant- Colonel Hooper naturally asked, " Where ? " but received no other reply than "Charge!" Desirous to render service but realizing the folly of attempting to carry out such orders with but two companies when there was no concerted movement, and the artillery just at that time not being served, Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper moved his men to the left of the road and attempted to enter the wood by company front. Vines and underbrush, however, offered so great obstructions that at last, pushing on ahead, the men, followed him as best they could. He formed line not far from the road on wooded ground sloping to the creek, through the middle of which ran a fence. There the men were ordered to lie down, to avoid the enemy's fire, which at times was sharp, and to which they were directed not to reply, but husband their ammunition. Firing came in their direction too from the rear, and as it was found to proceed from the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York, stationed behind and somewhat to the left, Lieutenant Colonel Hooper sent word of our position, and it was discontinued. Hugging the ground, although the firing in front swelled out at times into volleys, we suffered comparatively little. The whole left was paralyzed, in the position occupied, throughout the action. Such was the nature of the ground that it could have easily been held with a smaller force, and a part of the troops been spared for more enterprising work on the flanks. Meanwhile at the Coosawhatchie cross-road the wisdom of having that point guarded was demonstrated. Captain Pope's account is, "I immediately threw out one company (K) under Leonard on the Coosawhatchie road as skirmishers, and with the others threw up a barricade across the road. Soon Leonard reported la body of cavalry coming down the road, and at the same time a naval ensign with two boat howitzers manned by sailors reported to me, sent back by Hatch from the main force. I was very glad to see them and at once sent word to Leonard to fall back as fast as the Rebel cavalry advanced. This he did; and when within easy range I ordered the ensign to fire. He gave them shrapnel with good aim, and they were apparently surprised, as they had seen nothing of artillery." After this repulse and some time had elapsed Captain Pope was relieved by the Thirty-second United States Colored Troops, and moved on. Halting at the church for dinner just as fires were lighted, heavy volleys were heard, and he again moved forward at the double-quick. Nearing General Hatch and staff, the enthusiastic Capt. T. L. Appleton of "ours" flung up his cap, shouting, "Hurrah! here comes the old Fifty-fourth!" The road was found blocked with ambulances, caissons, and wagons causing the men to be strung out. It; was about 1:30 p.m. Captain Pope continues, saying, "I saw General Hatch speak to Colonel Bennett, chief of staff, who at once rode to me and said, 'Follow me.' I replied, " I would like a moment to close my men up, Colonel," when he said in a most excited manner, "General Hatch's orders are for you to follow me." . . . Well, after Bennett's remark I had only to follow, which I did. Arriving near the section of artillery posted at the intersection of the roads, he halted, and said, 'Go to the rear of that battery, file to the left, and charge.' I obeyed orders, all but charging. Arriving on the right of the battery, I looked round for the first time and found only Lieut. David Reid and eight men. How the shot tore down that hill and up the road! I could see where the Fifty-fifth had charged, and their dead lying there. I went back, and only two men followed me." Lieutenant Reid and Corp. R. M. Foster of Company C were there killed. Captain Pope joined Colonel Beecher, Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops, in the front battle- line, and after nearly an hour, hearing a familiar cheer on the right of the Thirty-fifth, found his companies there. Captain Homans's account is that the four companies were following Captain Pope, when, owing to the blockaded road and the passage of a light battery at full gallop, few were able to cross the road and they lost their leader. In consequence, the column halted, uncertain where to go. Homan's took command and led to the right along the wood road and formed on the right of the Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops. Adjutant Howard, the colors, and guard, owing to a mistaken order, did not follow Lieutenant Colonel Hooper's companies, but joined the four companies when they came up. In the position taken, Homans ordered the men to lie down. Color Sergeant Lenox, writing of that time, says, " We were hurried up and went into the woods on the right side of the road, and took our position near where there were, I think, three pieces of artillery. The gunners had a hard time of it. I believe two of the cannon were disabled. I saw two of the horses struck by shells, and an officer pitching out cartridges with his sword, and in a few minutes the caisson blew up. The woods were so thick in front that the movements of most of the force could not he seen.... Wagner always seemed to me the most terrible of our battles, but the musketry at Honey Hill was something fearful. The so-called 'Rebel yell' was more prominent than I ever heard it."
It is probable that the battery at full gallop which Captain Homans refers to was Battery F. Third New York Artillery, relieving Battery B. which Lieutenant Crocker had fought long and gallantly, although wounded.
Our last regiment to reach the field was Col. H. S. Chipman's One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops. That officer took command of the Second Brigade.
After a severe contest our right fell back to the line of the old dam. Reconnaissances made from this force to the right front found no enemy. As the afternoon wore on, the sounds of battle sometimes stilled down to scattering shots, to rise again into crashes of musketry and cannon discharges. After a while the musket ammunition ran low; and as the supply received was small, it was sparingly used to repel attack. It was reported to General Hatch by deserters that the enemy was receiving reinforcements by railroad; and indeed Gen. B. H. Robertson arrived with the Thirty-second Georgia, a battery, and a company of artillery.
Our Fifty-fourth companies on the wood-road held an angle of the line much exposed to the enemy's fire. They at times blazed away into the woods they fronted. Lieutenant Emerson was severely wounded in the face; and Lieutenant Hallett in the left thigh. Captain Homans received a severe contusion on the inside of the left leg, a pocket-book with greenbacks therein saving him from a mortal wound. Besides the officers, one enlisted man was killed, twenty-one wounded, and three missing. Sergeant-Major Wilson states that sometime in the afternoon, with Sergt. H. J. Carter, Corp. John Barker, and Privates J. Anderson, Thomas Clark, and Peter J. Anderson, all of Company G. he went out from Captain Homans's position, and brought back Lieutenant Reid's and Corporal Foster's bodies. The former was killed by a grape-shot.
Meanwhile Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper with Companies E and H maintained their line unchanged on the left of the main road. During the afternoon Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper made a personal reconnaissance of the ground in front, and returning, sent two notes to General Hatch, saying that with two regiments the enemy's right could be flanked. His suggestion was not acted upon. Lieutenant Chipman was wounded in the left arm, and thirteen enlisted men wounded. At one time that day Colonel Beecher: Thirty- fifth United States Colored Troops, who was wounded, came along in rear of our line acting in a dazed sort of way. Fearing he would be killed, Lieutenant Colonel Hooper sent two men to assist him to the rear.
At about 3:40 p.m., Battery F's section was relieved by two of the heaviest naval howitzers under Lieutenant-Commander Matthews. In hauling back the army guns by hand, the One Hundred and Second United States Colored Troops lost a number of officers and men. When the naval guns began firing, the sailors worked their pieces in a lively manner on their hands and knees. The enemy's fire slackened at 3:30 p.m. They made no serious attempt to advance at any time; neither did we make further aggressive movement. Preparations were made for retirement at dark by General Potter, who bore himself with conspicuous gallantry at the front throughout. He caused a reserve of two regiments supported by artillery to be first posted half a mile in rear; and when darkness covered the field, the retreat began and was executed by means of successive lines. One section of the naval howitzers fired until the ground was abandoned about 7.30 p.m. The retirement was effected without alarm or loss.
When the order came for the Fifty-fourth to move, Captain Pope filed off, meeting Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper's companies, which were coming into the road from the left. Our few ambulances, crowded with sufferers, had departed; and as many wounded remained, the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth were broken squads to remove them were improvised from muskets, shelter tents, and blankets, by which means and bodily help the Fifty-fourth alone carried one hundred and fifty wounded from the field. When we came to Bolan's church, the whole vicinity was weirdly lighted by great fires of fence-rails and brush- wood. A confused turmoil of sounds pervaded the night air, from the rumbling of artillery, the creaking wagons of the train, and the shouts of drivers urging on their animals. The church, cleared of seats, afforded resting-places for the wounded, whom Surgeon Briggs of the Fifty-fourth and his assistants were attending there or outside. Stores of every description were strewn about to make room in the vehicles for their further conveyance to the landing General Potter arrived at Bolan's church about midnight. Having disposed troops to cover it, he addressed himself to the task of further retirement, and did not cease therefrom until 3 p.m., December 1.
After moving back to the church, the Fifty-fourth took a large number of wounded onward, many men making more than one trip. Our regiment bivouacked on the ground occupied the night before. General Hatch's front line was kept at the Coosawhatchie cross-road, where the guns were placed in position, supported by the Naval Brigade and the Thirty-fourth and Thirty-fifth United States Colored Troops.
Regarding this battle, General Potter reports of the troops: "Nothing but the formidable character of the obstacles they encountered prevented them from achieving success." Capt. Charles C. Soule, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts, a participator, in his admirable account of the battle in the Philadelphia "Weekly Times," says. "The generalship displayed was not equal to the soldierly qualities of the troops engaged. There appears to have been a lack of foresight in the preparations." He gives our loss, from official sources, as eighty-eight killed, six hundred and twenty-three wounded (of which one hundred and forty were slight cases), and forty- three missing: a total of seven hundred and fifty-four. Of the Fifty-fourth (with six companies engaged, numbering sixteen officers and three hundred men), the loss was one officer killed and three wounded; and of enlisted men, one killed, thirty-five wounded, and four missing: a total of forty-four. Lieutenant Reid, who was killed, fully expected his fate. He gave last injunctions regarding his family before leaving Morris Island to a brother officer. At Hilton Head he purchased an emblem of the Freemasons, with which order he was affiliated. Lieutenant Chipman wrote:
"I can remember poor Reid that morning before we broke camp at the landing. He was blue enough, and said to me that it was his last day on earth; that he should be killed in the fight. Lieutenant Reid was a faithful, experienced, and brave officer, and met his death in the forefront of battle, his body lying in advance of the artillery pieces until brought back."
The Confederates fought steadily and gallantly. But their position more than counterbalanced our preponderance of numbers. It is doubtful, however, if we had more than thirty- five hundred men engaged. Lieut.-Col. C. C. Jones, Jr., in his " Siege of Savannah," gives their loss as four killed and forty wounded. But the Savannah "Republican" of Dec. 1, 1864, stated, " Our loss was between eighty and one hundred killed and wounded." Our defeat lost us results which are thus summarized by Lieutenant-Colonel Jones " The victory at Honey Hill released the city of Savannah from an impending danger, which, had it not thus been- averted, would have necessitated its immediate evacuation."
As Sherman's army on November 29 was about Louisville, Ga., threatening Augusta, it would seem now that if our movements had been delayed a week, when Sherman was near Savannah, Hardee's whole army might have been captured, as the enemy then would not have dared to detach against Foster, and our force could have cut the railroad, thus preventing escape of the Confederates by the only available route.
It would seem with the light of the present that our position was as strong for us to hold as was the enemy's. This granted, the natural criticism is, Would not the battle have been better fought to have held the position with a portion of our troops and pushed out the main body well on one flank or the other, drawing the enemy from his work to fight us and preserve his communications?