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Col. William H. Sinclair Union Army
William Sinclair's soldiers struck the centre of the belt of woods that jutted out from the railroad. As the men disappeared into the foliage they found themselves bogged down in a marshy wetland studded with thick oaks and dwarf pines. Hacking their way forward, momentum carried them to the railroad. Albert Magilton's men followed Sinclair's path and closed to within 100 yards of the First Brigade's rear. Meanwhile, C. Feger Jackson dashed ahead of the other two brigades, traversing cleared ground to the left of the marsh. Arriving at the railroad ahead of Sinclair's men, Jackson's troops met a devastating fire from Confederate infantry posted on the hilltop beyond the tracks. Jackson's men scampered into the ditches along the railroad and returned the fire, shooting over the embankment. The Rebel musketry threw the Union into confusion. C. Feger Jackson's right inclined toward the cover of the marsh while the centre held the railroad grade and the left regiment, the 9th Reserves, lay trapped behind a small stone fence 100 yards shy of the railroad. The general may not have known that the Bucktails plugged the gap between his right regiment, the 11th Reserves, and the center of his brigade. Jackson attempted to reorder his line, riding back and forth, exhorting the troops, "Rally men, rally right here."
Whilst Jackson tried to straighten out his line, Sinclair's men eased across the railroad without encountering any resistance. The Confederates had left a 600-yard space in their front unprotected, surmising that it was
impassible for an organized force. Sinclair's brigade happened into the heart of that gap by luck. Swarming up the wooded hillside, the men could see only a few yards ahead so they proceeded cautiously. Magilton's brigade crowded toward Sinclair's rear, with regiments overlapping both of the First Brigade's flanks. Magilton could not see Sinclair ahead of him but assumed that the forward units covered his entire
front. When the 142nd Pennsylvania, his new regiment on the right, encountered the Rebels north of the marsh, Colonel Magilton ordered it not to return fire. Certain that the 142nd would hurt their friends in
front, Magilton left his right powerless under "a terrific and galling fire." Troops on their left had the benefit of the trees for cover but the 142nd lay "entirely at the mercy of the enemy. . .who took the best advantage of it." The regiment suffered the highest casualties of the division and lost both its major and adjutant to wounds. Major Silas M. Baily's 8th Reserves tried to help the rookies by turning the Rebel defenses along the railroad. Caught in a severe firefight Baily fell wounded and his adjutant was killed. The veterans reported, "Never before had it been subjected to so terrible an ordeal." Regardless of the intense fighting on the division's north flank, Magilton never bothered to ascertain why his right had stalled. At the same time, Magilton's left thronged into C. Feger Jackson's rear, adding to the confusion. Only Sinclair's men appeared to be making any headway.
Sinclair's troops clawed their way through the dense thicket and brush. The uneven ground and undergrowth rapidly destroyed the brigade's alignment. Meade declared that the "regiments separated from brigades, and companies from regiments" as they struggled over the natural obstructions. Adding to the muddle was the lack of a strong directing hand. Colonel Sinclair never made it past the railroad. Receiving a painful wound in the left heel, the colonel had to be borne to the rear. Colonel William McCandless inherited the command, but he had advanced deep into the woods and was unaware of the change.