Doc. 135.-Colonel Wyman's reconnoissance. June 18, 1862.
battle-ground, Fair Oaks, Thursday, June 19, 1862.Brigadier-General Hooker, commanding division, received orders from Gen. McClellan to make a reconnaissance in front of our picket-lines at Fair Oaks, to the left of the railroad. General Hooker accordingly sent orders to Brig.-Gen. Grover, of the First brigade, to assign one regiment of his force for that purpose. Gen. Grover selected the Sixteenth Massachusetts, Col. P. T. Wyman. This regiment composed part of the late reenforcements in Hooker's division. The object of the reconnoissance was to ascertain the exact character of the ground in front of our picket-line, through the wood, to the left and right of Hooker's front, and to the cleared field, where the rebels were supposed to be in force. At half-past 3 in the afternoon the Sixteenth Massachusetts, under their gallant Colonel, left their camps and marched up the Williamsburgh road to the wood, in front of two houses, called by our men the Twin Houses, now used as temporary hospitals. Our pickets are thrown out some distance in advance of this position, in the wood, reaching the edge of the forest, fronting our picket reserves. Brig.-Gen. Grover ordered Major Lamson, with five hundred men from the First brigade, to act as a support, behind an earthwork to the right of the Williamsburgh road and facing the woods. Generals Hooker and rover, with their staffs, took a position near Major Lamson's force, at the earthwork, while the Sixteenth Massachusetts filed past. The wood was too dense to admit of the regiment marching in with any form save as a dispersed body, advancing as skirmishers, and the underbrush too thick to see any of the men ten feet from each other. The consequence was the commanding officer found great difficulty in delivering his orders in deploying through the forest. After marching about a quarter of a mile, the advance came suddenly upon the pickets of the enemy, who immediately fired upon them. The advance portion of the Sixteenth returned the fire, and the action commenced. The rebels held their ground with remarkable tenacity, and resisted the passage of our troops with a stubbornness unusual in pickets. The fire of the rebels was very strong, their knowledge of the ground and their rifle-pits at almost every step gave them every advantage to repel an advancing force, particularly in attempting to penetrate a wood where the foliage and thick underbrush prevent one from seeing an object a short distance from them. However, nothing daunted with their apparently insurmountable obstacles, the Sixteenth push on under a heavy, galling fire, driving the rebels from their rifle-pits in confusion and with great loss. Never did a regiment advance with more steadiness and unfaltering courage upon a foe. Although this was their initiatory fight, there was a promptness and decision about their manoeuvres worthy of the heroes of a hundred battles. Some of the companies on the left saw the cleared ground on the other side of the wood with the redoubts in full view, lined with the enemy. These earthworks are higher than ours and mount heavy guns. The enemy had five regiments acting as a support to their pickets, resting in battlefront at their works. One was the Fifty-second Virginia, an Alabama regiment, and three from Georgia. The objects of the reconnaissance having been fully attained, though at the sacrifice of many a brave spirit, the order to return was given. The enemy at this time appeared as if preparing to advance, but one swamp was found about thirty yards in width, easy to go round at either side, some wet ground a little to the right of it, but nothing that could be deemed impassable to infantry or even cavalry. There were many bridle-paths, and one or two good wagon-roads found running through the woods, moss grown over. The regiment went out at half-past 3 o'clock  and returned at five. It is to be regretted that many of the dead and wounded were left on the field. Four of the dead of the Sixteenth were brought in and buried in the camp-ground, Rev. A. B. Fuller, chaplain of the regiment, officiating on the sad occasion. Gen. Grover and numerous officers were present. The scene was very impressive.