The enemy made repeated efforts, from noon to half past two, to ascertain the position of our forces ;  and there was heavy skirmishing along Wood and Stanley’s fronts, as well as along the skirmish line, which, stretching across the gap, connected the left of Newton with the right of Wood.  There was a temporary full along the whole line.

It was about half past three when the enemy’s skirmishers, advancing as if to reconnoiter, gave notice that something was impending.  Our line had halted longer than was expected, and was upon the point of resuming the advance, when this appearance of the rebels determined Newton to remain behind his hastily constructed works on the hill, and Hooker to march his troops at once from the low ground in front of him, so that be might connect with Newton’s right.  The order to advance was scarcely given, when from the high ground all Hooker’s batteries, and part of Howard’s, broke forth in a simultaneous peal of thunder.  The rebel legions were pouring forth from the woods beyond the open fields at the top of the ridge, and pressing forward, rank behind rank, in startling and magnificent array, seemed resolved to crush at one blow whatever might oppose them.  This spectacle the artillerists upon the elevated ground, north of the creek, could plainly see, but the infantry, climbing up the bill on the south side, could not.  A moment later, and a savage yell upon the left, followed by the clang and clatter of ten thousand muskets, announced that Newton’s division had been assailed by the foe.  On Newton’s front the enemy did not wait to push forward a skirmish line, but charged at once in lines of battle two and three deep.  Our skirmishers in advance of our hastily constructed works were driven in with the velocity of a whirlwind, and as they rushed back in disordered haste, came near throwing into confusion the extreme right of Newton, and for a moment caused it to give way.

Meantime, Brig. Gen. Geary’s division [John W. Geary] of Hooker’s corps, which was considerably in advance of both Williams’ division [Alpheus S. Williams] on the right, and Ward’s (Butterfield’s) on the left [William T. Ward, Daniel Butterfield], was struck by the rushing storm, and temporarily shattered.  Both his right and his center brigades were pushed from their positions, after a short and desperate resistance, and hurled down the hill nearly to the banks of the creek.  Gen. Ward’s division was still advancing up the hill side, when the wary old Kentuckian, who at present leads it, saw, as he then supposed, both Geary on his right and Newton on his left overthrown.  He was about to detach three or four regiments to their assistance, when, to his astonishment, the whole scene was changed as if by magic.  Newton’s line became firm as a rock, and, without another sign of wavering, continued to pour into the rebel host a steady, uninterrupted and deadly fire.  Even the stragglers from his skirmish line were rallied and did excellent service in a manner I shall mention presently.  At the same time Geary’s disordered regiment’s reformed, even under a withering fire from the enemy, while a couple of his batteries, directing their pieces full at the right flank of the lines which had driven us back, tore them in pieces with a tornado of shot and shell.  The indentation to our lines produced by the giving way of Geary’s two brigades, became a pit of death into which hundreds of maddened rebels plunged, only to die or to fall wounded and bleeding upon the sod.  Not another inch did Geary retire, but began slowly to advance, until, when the fight closed, he occupied exactly the same ground as when it began.

It was just as Gen. Ward became convinced all was going well with Newton and Geary, that his own line reached the edge of the kind of table line I have described, only to find itself confronted, at a distance of thirty paces, by the flower of the rebel army !  The fearful tumult that at once burst forth was such that no man could tell which portion of it was the roar of musketry, and which the fierce, indignant, defiant yell that each host hurled at the other.  Both were surprised.  Our men scarcely knew that the enemy had emerged from the opposite woods, when they found themselves full in their presence. The rebels, disappointed elsewhere, supposed they had certainly reached their long-looked-for gap, but found instead a line of battle and a sheet of vindictive fire !  Both lines instantly charged forward, pouring the leaden hail full into each other’s bosoms.  They stood in some places but fifteen feet apart, and still hurled death in each other’s faces.  They charged again, and the men intermingled and fought hand to hand.  In places the lines crossed each other, and then wheeled around only to renew the combat—the rebels facing Atlanta, the soldiers of the Union, Peach Tree Creek !

When the storm broke upon Geary, Gen. Williams’ division had advanced upon the extreme right of Hooker’s corps, almost as far as Geary himself.  The gallant old veteran was struggling through a dense forest, and striving to form connection with Geary on his left, when suddenly the woods in front of him were filled with fierce yells and spurts of fire and whizzing missiles.  But neither Williams nor his division are made of the material which learns easily to quail.  The savage yells of the demons of slavery were answered by the loud shouts of freemen battling for their country and their God.  A bristling line of steel, glittering with fire, everywhere met and checked the rebel advance.  A few rude and unfinished bulwarks of rails, thrown together by the men when they had last halted, furnished but little protection from the pitiless showers of bullets flung from the muskets of the enemy ;  but, in spite of rebel daring, energy and hate, Williams would not yield a foot of ground!