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. General Heintzelman arrived on the field at about three P. M., and the two brigades of his corps, Berry's and Jameson's, of Kearney's division, which took part in the battle of the thirty-first, arrived successively; but the exact times of their arrival in the presence of the enemy I am unable to fix with certainty, and in this report I am not always able to fix times with exactness, but they are nearly exact. Casey's division, holding the first line, was first seriously attacked at about half-past 12 P. M. The One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania volunteers, sent forward to support the pickets, broke shortly, and retreated, joined by a great many sick. The numbers as they passed down the road as stragglers conveyed an exaggerated idea of surprise and defeat. There was no surprise, however. All the effective men of that division were under arms, and all the batteries were in position, with their horses harnessed, (except some belonging to the guns in the redoubt,) and ready to fight as soon as the enemy's forces came in view. Their numbers were vastly disproportionate to the mighty host which assailed them in front and on both flanks. As remarked above, the picket-line being only about a thousand yards in advance of the line of battle, and the country covered with forests, the confederates arriving fresh and confident, formed their lines and masses under the shelter of woods, and burst upon us with great suddenness, and had not our regiments been under arms, they would have swept through our lines and routed us completely. As it was, however, Casey's division held its line of battle for more than three hours, and the execution done upon the enemy was shown by the number of rebel dead left upon the field after the enemy had held possession of that part of it for upward of twenty-four hours. During that time, it is understood, all the means of transport available in Richmond were employed to carry away their dead and wounded. The enemy advancing, as they frequently did, in masses, received the shot and shell of our artillery like veterans, closing up the gaps, and moving steadily on to the assault. From my position in the front of the second line I could see all the movements of the enemy, but was not always able to discover his numbers, which were more or less concealed by the trees, nor could I accurately define the movements of our regiments and our batteries. For the details of the conflict with Casey's line I must refer to his report, and to the reports of Brig.-Gens. Naglee, Palmer and Wessells, whose activity I had many opportunities to witness. When applied to for them, I sent reenforcements to sustain Casey's line until the numbers were so much reduced in the second line that no more could be spared. I then refused, though applied to for further aid. I shall now proceed to describe the operations of the second line, which received my uninterrupted supervision, composed principally of Couch's division.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.