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[231] combatants from the other side. Birney's brigade was then deployed in line of battle as reserves. Meanwhile two of our batteries opened gingerly, and hurled a few shells over the combatants, to disturb the enemy's supports, but the firing was not effective and it soon ceased. Not long after the fight had extended along the whole line, there was a perceptible change in the enemy's mode of firing. It appeared to me like heavy skirmishing fire, but our own continued in a steady stream and was sustained until the rebels had been driven clear back to their lines. Our gallant fellows, however, pushed forward steadily under a murderous fire, and evinced no symptoms of weakness, while the enemy as constantly retired until they reached the edge of the timber, when they retreated in disorder to their advanced rifle-pits. When about to follow in mad pursuit, our line was suddenly halted by order of superior authority. The lads burst into a series of jubilant cheers of triumph that rang through the forests like a concert of trumpets. Alas! how many of their gallant comrades had been left in the dismal swamps, weltering in their gore.

But there had been an incomprehensible misconception of orders. It might have proved disastrous had not Gen. Grover taken a responsibility. While he was pressing back the enemy, he received an order to recall the troops. Remarking that there was a misunderstanding, he determined to push onward until an explanation could be made. Fortunately, he had time to achieve victory, and somewhat later he was again ordered to fall back. Gen. McClellan, who had remained at headquarters to communicate with General Porter and our left wing, now appeared upon the field, and ordered the reoccupation of the conquered territory. Birney's brigade had already returned to camp, and Grover and Sickles's were resting on our side of the timber, having left a powerful picket in front. Part of Couch's division was sent forward, and a section of De Russy's battery, consisting of two Napoleon guns, was advanced. During the afternoon one ineffectual effort was made by the enemy to recover lost ground, and a desultory picket-firing and considerable sharp-shooting was going on all along the line. The battery was vigorously worked, and the rifle-pits were soon cleaned out. An hour before sunset, a strong force of the enemy suddenly appeared on the left of Hooker, and sharply attacked Robinson's brigade, but they were soon driven back, with mutual loss. At sunset the day was ours, indisputably. Birney's brigade relieved Robinson, and Couch's division remained on the field. We had conquered a better position, and fatigue-parties were ordered to intrench the lines under cover of darkness. It was a dearly-bought victory.

Our new line was established over half a mile in advance of our old intrenchments, in a position which menaced the enemy in his vital points. It was apparent that he must come out and drive us away, or be driven back upon Richmond. During the entire afternoon Gen. McClellan sat upon the parapet of the redoubt — where bullets had whistled rather dangerously during the fight — awaiting developments, and apparently pleased at his success. When the labor of the day closed, it was supposed that a general attack would be made upon us in the morning, and the men were urged to work earnestly in the trenches. Until ten o'clock at night, it was profoundly quiet in every direction. At that hour a thundering volley, commencing at the quadrilateral, rolled along our front, close down to the left of Kearney's line. Bullets rattled through the foliage of the forest like hail. An instant later our troops were swarming at the defences like angry bees. Simultaneously there was a vicious response from our picket supports, and a big battle seemed looming up in the darkness. It was awfully sensational during some three or four minutes, when silence asserted itself again. After that furtive effort to steal revenge for defeat, the rebels concluded to let us alone, and, with the exception of occasional picket-firing, our camps were not disturbed again until about daybreak, when the irritated enemy repeated the experiment of the night before. Unfortunately for both sides, the result was rather sanguinary. Our men had laid upon their arms all night, and at three o'clock were in line of battle, awaiting attack. It did not come — for sufficient reasons, as you will see.

At eight o'clock the mystery was explained. Gen. McClellan had tidings that Stonewall Jackson was moving swiftly down the isthmus, between the Pamunkey and Chickahominy, to crush his right flank. It was necessary to yield part of the fruits of the sanguinary field of Fair Oaks Farm, and dispositions were made to repel any attempt the enemy might make to assist Jackson. Our pickets, powerfully supported, were left upon the conquered field, and to this hour (three o'clock P. M.) no effort had been made to dislodge them. We understand it, however. It is interpreted by an awful cannonading on our right wing, indicating that the hero of the valley has struck against McCall and his Pennsylvania reserves. It is the most terrific cannonading ever heard. We now look for battle to open in front immediately.

The affair of Fair Oaks Farm, considered in the light of a mere victory, although it was bravely won, was most dearly purchased. I am informed that our casualties amount to the shocking total of six hundred and forty men — including the night's tragedies. Of these about sixty were killed, and perhaps seventy-five to one hundred are missing. But the latter may report themselves soon. The enemy had no opportunity to capture prisoners. The rebel loss does not appear to have been half so severe. They had more killed, but fewer wounded. The explanation is obvious. They bushwhacked and our men fought in line of battle. They sought the cover of trees and skirmished successfully, while our troops were exposed. Many of our casualties may be charged to sharp-shooters posted in trees. It is surprising that our officers did not adopt the crafty tactics of the enemy. We captured a

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