General Richardson's letter.
Richmond, and, of course, is a strategic point, and therefore necessary to be defended at whatever cost, as the means of feeding this army. An intrenched camp, consisting of an advanced lunette and an abattis supporting it, was found a quarter of a mile in advance of this station, and in it was placed Casey's division of infantry, with some twenty pieces of artillery, and Couch's division in rear of him for support. Further down the railroad was the corps of Heintzelman, the next nearest support being the corps of Sumner, consisting of Sedgwick's and my own division, which had not yet crossed the Chickahominy, and were from six to seven miles distant. The corps of Fitz-John Porter and Franklin were opposite New-Bridge, several miles further up, and had not crossed. This being our situation on the thirty-first of May, 1862. Along toward the middle of the day the enemy, preceded by a column of thirty thousand of the best troops, with the dashing corps of G. W. Smith and Longstreet at its head, commenced a furious assault upon the most salient point of our whole line, namely, the redoubt and intrenched camp of Casey's division. It was, perhaps, the most perfect surprise which ever happened on the continent, and the column moving forward without warning, brushed away the division of Casey like chaff, without waiting even to throw out skirmishers in front and on the flanks of the column. I don't care to know anything of this most disgraceful rout. Suffice it to say, they not only ran then, but have not since been heard from, but have abandoned their whole camp, wagons, teams, and seven pieces of artillery. The division of Couch, in the mean time, formed at this station in order of battle, and had hardly done so when the head of their column appeared in his front also. That division stood up most manfully to their work. In the mean time a despatch from Gen. McClellan, at New-Bridge, glanced on the wires, ordering up Sumner's corps in urgent haste. Sedgwick took the advance, and crossing the river, came into action. One hour and a half before sunset, just as Couch's division were having their left turned, the enemy penetrated between him and the corps of Heintzelman, two miles from him on the railroad. Half an hour more would have cut our column into two, which would have insured the total defeat of our army. The danger was imminent, and the division of Sedgwick, advancing at quick time, came up at this critical period, and formed in line of battle in the edge of the wood at the skirt of the large open field at this point, commencing a fire of canister-shot upon the head of the column from his twenty-four pieces, which staggered it, and the division then moving down in line of battle, completely swept the field, recovering thus much of our lost ground. It was now night. My division came up on the left of Sedgwick, connecting with Birney's brigade, of Heintzelman's corps, on my left. Thus our line was made secure for the night. Sunday, June first. The army had lain on their arms all night in our front, the Fifth Texas, Second Mississippi, and Second Texas regiments bivouacking within half-musket shot of my front and picket, within speaking distance. Every one knew that the struggle would recommence in the morning, and our whole line “stood to arms.” At three o'clock in the morning, before light, the enemy drew in all his pickets. The line of railroad is bordered by woods on both sides, except a few open spaces. There was a large field three fourths of a mile in extent on my right front, and at that point I posted a battery of ten-pound Parrott rifle-guns, directed by Capt. Hazard, Fourth artillery. I also posted the brigade of General French and one regiment of Howard's brigade in my front line. The remaining three regiments of Howard's brigade formed a second line, and Gen. Meagher's brigade, with remaining eighteen pieces of artillery, in third line. The early part of the morning passed away; the enemy made his first appearance on the other side of the large field, his skirmishers forming in line across it and advancing. A large body of cavalry was also seen in the woods on the other side, drawn up in column, as if to head a mass of infantry in column of attack for the assault. This soon drew the fire of our Parrott guns. The line of skirmishers fell back before it; the cavalry broke, and this, which no doubt was intended as the real attack, failed at once, and the head of the column turned down the railroad toward my left. My division, occupying the centre of our whole line of battle, now appeared to be the object of attack, to follow the favorite plan of yesterday. It was now half-past 6 o'clock in the morning. All at once the enemy came upon us in full force on the railroad, which, on my left flank, was crossed by two common wood roads, along which they pushed columns of attack in mass, supported on both flanks by battalions of infantry deployed in line of battle. Generals French and Howard now opened upon them a steady and well-directed fire from their brigades, within half-musket shot. I immediately communicated with those officers my willing intention to furnish them reenforcements as soon as needed. After a close fire of musketry of an hour and a half, without any regiment giving ground on our part, the head of the enemy's column broke their line of battle, wavered, and the rout became general for the time. I had thrown in, in the mean time, the two reserve regiments of Howard, to replace those regiments of the front