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Doc. 17.-battle of Fair Oaks, Va. Fought May 31 and June 1, 1862.


General McClellan's despatches.

New-Bridge, June 5--10.30 A. M.
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.
my telegraphic despatch of June 1st, in regard [73] to the battle of Fair Oaks,1 was incorrectly published in the newspapers. I send with this a correct copy, which I request may be published at once. I am the more anxious about this, since my despatch, as published, would seem to ignore the services of Gen. Sumner, which were too valuable and brilliant to be overlooked, both in the difficult passage of the stream and the subsequent combat. The mistake seems to have occurred in the transmittal of the despatch by the telegraph.

G. B. Mcclellan, Major-General Commanding.

Field of battle, June 1, 12 o'clock.
To Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.
We have had a desperate battle, in which the corps of Gens. Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes have been engaged against greatly superior numbers.

Yesterday, at one o'clock, the enemy, taking advantage of a terrible storm which had flooded the valley of the Chickahominy, attacked our troops on the right bank of that river. Casey's division, which was the first line, gave way, unaccountably and discreditably. This caused temporary confusion, during which some guns and baggage were lost. But Heintzelman and Kearney most gallantly brought up their troops, which checked the enemy. At the same time, however, General Sumner succeeded, by great exertions, in bringing across Sedgwick's and Richardson's divisions, who drove back the enemy at the point of the bayonet, covering the ground with his dead.

This morning the enemy attempted to renew the conflict, but was everywhere repulsed.

We have taken many prisoners, among whom are Gen. Pettigrew and Col. Long.

Our loss is heavy, but that of the enemy must be enormous. With the exception of Casey's division, our men have behaved splendidly. Several fine bayonet charges have been made. The Second Excelsior made two to-day.

Geo. B. McClellan, Major-General Commanding.


Official report of General Keyes.

Headquarters Furth corps, June 13, 1862.
Brig.-Gen. S. Williams, Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac:
sir: The following is my report of the operations of the Fourth corps in the battle of the thirty-first May and first June:

The Fourth corps, being in the advance, crossed the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge, the twenty-third of May, and encamped two miles beyond. Two days later I received orders to advance on the Williamsburgh read, and take up and fortify the nearest strong position to a fork of roads called the Seven Pines. The camp I selected, and which was the next day approved by Major-Gen. McClellan, stretches across the Williamsburgh road between Bottom's Bridge and Seven Pines, and is distant about a mile from the latter. I caused that camp to be fortified with rifle-pits and breastworks extending to the left about eight hundred yards, and terminating in a crotchet to the rear. Similar works, about three hundred yards further in advance, were constructed on the right, extending toward the Richmond and West-Point Railroad.

Having been ordered by Gen. McClellan to hold the Seven Pines strongly, I designed to throw forward to that neighborhood two brigades of Casey's division, and to establish my picket-line considerably in advance, and far to the right.

The lines described above are those upon which the main body of the troops engaged near the Seven Pines spent the night of the thirty-first after the battle.

Examinations having been made by several engineers, I was ordered on the twenty-eighth of May to advance Casey's division to a point indicated by a large wood-pile and two houses, about three fourths of a mile beyond the Seven Pines, (but which, in fact is only half a mile,) and to establish Couch's division at the Seven Pines.

Accordingly, Casey's division bivouacked on the right and left of the Williamsburgh road and wood-pile, and Couch established his division at the Seven Pines, and along theNine-mile road. Both divisions set to work with the few intrenching tools at hand to slash the forests and to dig a few rifle-pits. Casey erected a small pentangular redoubt, and placed within it six pieces of artillery.

The country is mostly wooded, and greatly intersected with marshes. TheNine-mile road, branching to the right from the Seven Pines, slants forward, and at the distance of a mile crosses the railroad at Fair Oaks. A mile beyond it reaches an open field, where the enemy was seen in line of battle on the twenty-ninth and thirtieth days of May.

Casey's pickets were only about one thousand yards in advance of his line of battle, and I decided, after a personal inspection with him, that they could go no further, as they were stopped by the enemy in force, on the opposite side of an opening at that point. I pushed forward the pickets on the railroad a trifle, and they had been extended by Gen. Naglee to the open field where the enemy was seen in line of battle, and thence to the right bank of the Chickahominy. After a thorough examination of my whole position, I discovered that, on the thirtieth of May, the enemy were, in greater or less force, closed upon the whole circumference of a semi-circle, described from my headquarters, near Seven Pines, with a radius of two miles.

A considerable space about the fork of the road at Seven Pines was open, cultivated ground, and there was a clear space a short distance in front of Casey's redoubt at the wood-pile. Between the two openings we found a curtain of trees, which were cut down to form an abattis. That line of abattis was continued on a curve to the right and rear, and across theNine-mile road.

When the battle commenced, Casey's division was in front of the abattis, Naglee's brigade on the right, having two regiments beyond the railroad, [74] Palmer's brigade on the left, and Wessell's brigade in the centre.

Couch's division was on the right and left of the Williamsburgh road, near the forks, and along theNine-mile road. Peck's brigade was on the left, Devens's brigade in the centre, and Abecrombie's on the right, having two regiments and Brady's battery across the railroad near Fair Oaks, thus forming two lines of battle.

Col. Gregg, with the Eighth Pennsylvania cavalry, was in the action, but owing to the nature of the ground could not be much employed. A part of the Eighth Illinois cavalry was with me as an escort. Lieut. Granger acted as my aid, and several private soldiers of that regiment followed me throughout the day.

Through all the night of the thirtieth of May there was raging a storm, the like of which I cannot remember. Torrents of rain drenched the earth. The thunder-bolts rolled and fell without intermission, and the heavens flashed with a perpetual blaze of lightning. From their beds of mud and the peltings of this storm, the Fourth corps rose to fight the battle of the thirty-first of May, 1862.

At about ten o'clock A. M., it was announced to me that an Aid-de-Camp of Major-Gen. J. E. Johnston, C. S. A., had been captured by our pickets on the edge of the field referred to above, beyond Fair Oaks Station. While speaking with the young gentleman, at the moment of sending him away, a couple of shots, fired in front of Casey's headquarters, produced in him a very evident emotion. I was perplexed because, having seen the enemy in force on the right, where the aid was captured, I supposed his chief must be there. Furthermore, the country was more open in that direction, and the road in front of Casey's position was bad for artillery. I concluded, therefore, in spite of the shots, that if attacked that day, the attack would come from the right.

Having sent orders for the troops to be under arms precisely at eleven o'clock A. M., I mounted my horse and rode along theNine-mile road to Fair Oaks Station. On my way I met Col. Bailey, Chief of Artillery of Casey's division, and directed him to proceed and prepare his artillery for action. Finding nothing unusual at Fair Oaks, I gave some orders to the troops there, and returned quickly to Seven Pines. The firing was becoming brisk, but there was yet no certainty of a great attack.

As a precaution, to support Casey's left flank, I ordered Gen. Couch to advance Peck's brigade in that direction. This was promptly done, and the Ninety-third Pennsylvania, Col. McCarter, was advanced considerably beyond the balance of that brigade.

At about half-past 12 P. M. it became suddenly apparent that the attack was real and in great force. All my corps was under arms and in position. I sent immediately to Gen. Heintzelman for reenforcements, and requested him to order one brigade up the railroad. My messenger was unaccountably delayed, and my despatch appears not to have reached its destination until much later than it should have done.

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