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NEW YORK, May 19. — The Herald's correspondent with Butler gives a detailed account of Beauregard's concentrated attack on our forces at Palmer's Creek on the 16th. The entire length of the rebel lines opened with artillery, and shells poured upon our position in showers. A dense fog enveloped the country at the time, and both forces were wrapped in a misty veil. This was the condition of affairs, when the rebels massing their troops took our right under Gen. Heckman, enveloped its flank and took in it reverse. The first blow was dealt with terrific force.
General Heckman's brigade, 18th corps, holding the right, was doubled up and forced back on the next brigade, which was also thrown in to some confusion. Our men did not observe the rebels until they had succeeded in passing a column between Heckman's right and the river, and then taking him in the front and rear, crushed him between their columns, and for a time created some confusion. Heckman made a gallant fight so long as he could, but the enemy came upon him suddenly in such overwhelming numbers that successful resistance was quite impossible. In the darkness and confusion some of the brigade was captured.
After this operation, having forced back the right, a heavy attack was made on the entire line of the 18th corps, with feints along the 10th corps' line, and the entire right-forced back some distance, after several hours of the most severe and sanguinary struggles.
The battle raged with unexampled fury until nearly 12 o'clock, the rebels throwing heavy masses upon our line, and finally forcing it back nearly a quarter of a mile.
Our men fought stubbornly, with few exceptions, and repeatedly checked their advance with terrible slaughter, but not without some loss on our side.
The enemy numbered not less than 15,000, and pushed into the murderous fire with a recklessness and steadiness rarely seen in an attack.
On our right we lost a gun or two, and it is said some light pieces, how many it is difficult to ascertain. Probably four will cover the loss. Finally, after forcing the 18th corps back from its position and regaining the first line of intrenchments, they massed their forces on the 10th corps, to drive it back. They first hurled their column upon Turner's division, which held the right of the corps, its line joining the 18th corps. They formed in beautiful manner, and moved steadily on Burton's brigade on the right and Turner's division, advancing as if on parade, and not firing a single shot. Waiting until it had reached a good distance for effective range, the brigade poured into their lines and opened fire so that the line melted away. The broken line, after vainly endeavoring to advance into the storm of bullets, fled with terrible loss to the woods. Their rear volleys were continuous and heavy as musketry of the brigade could well be, and such as nothing could stand against. The rebels were scattered like chaff, and broke for the woods in a disorganised mass. Under this friendly cover, after great exertion a line of attack was formed, and again the brigade advanced in a splendid style against our lines. Again did they receive a terrible fire and pushed steadily on until one-fourth of them laid killed or wounded on the field, when it broke and quickly rushed to the cover of the woods.
Our boys gave them hearty cheers, and sent a volley after them, which told on them. After being twice bloodily repulsed in this way they moved further to our left, and hurled a column upon Colonel Hawley's brigade. General Terry's division then came up in the same steady and confident manner, and received them by a more rapid and equally deadly fire than they were treated with by Turner.
They broke and ran for the woods, accelerated in their flight by the music of bullets about them. They were determined, however, to break our lines and force it from the position, cost what it would. Again they formed, and strengthened by reinforcements, charged again, and after then minutes' hot work, were disastrously repulsed and driven back at all points. That ended any serious effort on their part to force our position, and leaving their dead and wounded, to the number of 1,000 on the field before our line, they again massed upon Gen. Smith's front and attacked his left.
Gillmore immediately ordered Gen. Turner to attack the enemy in their flank, and ordered Terry to support him. Turner's attack had hardly commenced before Gillmore was ordered by Butler to retire and strengthen Smith's corps, by forming in his rear. Our troops fell back slowly, and in order, repulsing every effort of the rebels to quicken their movements, and making a stand at every favorable position until the enemy ceased to follow, and fell back to their line of intrenchments.
Gillmore then drew off his corps and formed in the support of Smith.
The fighting, which had been going on with more or less violence along the entire line, now ceased at half past two, and preparations were made to draw off our forces from the field and return to our intrenchments.
Artillery was sent to the rear, except a section to cover the rear guard. Ambulances with wounded and supply trains were dispatched to the rear, and finally the entire army fell back, the enemy not pursuing.
The same correspondent says of Kautz's raid upon the Richmond and Danville road, that he tore up several miles of track, destroyed rails and ties, blew up an iron bridge over the Appomattox, at Mattox Station. Sheridan's forces again started on a raid toward Richmond yesterday.
The 15th cavalry will keep railroad communications to Richmond cut for a while.
Another Herald correspondent says that Butler's forces are safely in their intrenchments, and able to withstand an attack from any force the rebels can bring against them.
The object of Butler in making the advance from City Point to Bermuda Hundred was to create a diversion in favor of Grant, and he was successful.
IN THE FIELD, May 17. — General Butler received this morning a paper of the 16th, which acknowledges that Lee met with defeat on Thursday, and states that the slaughter was terrific. No particulars known. The paper adds that Jeff. Davis received a dispatch from Lee, which has been kept secret.
Gen. Kautz's cavalry are now moving upon Roanoke Station, with the intention of destroying the great iron bridge over Staunton river.
If successful, he will return by way of City Point and put an end to any efforts on the port of the rebels to repair destroyed bridges on the Petersburg and Weldon roads.
NEW YORK, May 19, 4:30 A.M. — A special dispatch to the Times, dated headquarters army of the Potomac, Wednesday morning, says the struggle has this moment begun with skirmishing on the right. We expect a great, bloody, and we trust, decisive battle to-day.