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Battle of Gaines's farm.


Brigadier-General Taylor's report.

headquarters First brigade New-Jersey volunteers, camp on James River, July 4, 1862.
H. C. Rodgers, Captain and Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:
My command, by order, left our intrenched camp, on the right bank of the Chickahominy, on Friday afternoon, the twenty-seventh of June, and crossed the said stream by the Woodbury bridge.

The battle begun the day previous, had been renewed at Gaines's Farm, where we arrived about four o'clock P. M. I immediately formed my brigade in two lines, the Third and Fourth regiments in front, and the First and Second regiments in the second line.

My line was scarcely formed when the Third regiment, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Brown, was ordered to advance forward into the woods, where a fierce combat was raging.

Col. Brown immediately formed his regiment in line of battle, led it into the woods and began a rapid fire upon the enemy. As this was the first of my regiments engaged, I will complete my report of it by saying that they continued the fight in the woods until the close of the action. They were all this time under a galling fire, often a cross-fire, but maintained their ground until near sunset, when the whole line fell back. They had at this time expended (a large majority of the men) their last cartridge--sixty rounds to the man. It is but justice to say, that this regiment bore itself most heroically throughout the entire action. Their conduct was all that could be desired. With their comrades falling around, they stood up like a wall of iron, losing over one third of their number, and gave not an inch of ground until their ammunition was expended and the retrograde movement became general. They were under this fire one hour and a half.

The First regiment entered the woods about half an hour after the Third, and remained until the close of the action. Col. Torbert being unwell, the regiment was led by Lieut.-Col. McAllister, and well sustained by his presence and courage. I shall, however, say that Colonel Torbert, [258] though suffering from low fever, followed us to the field and was present.

I take great pleasure in saying — for both these regiments fought under my own eye — that the First regiment showed the same indomitable courage as the Third regiment, exposing themselves to the leaden hail of an often unseen foe, advancing with the Third regiment, and stood steadily under a most galling fire until the close of the action. Their loss was: enlisted men killed, twenty; wounded, eighty; missing, fifty-seven. The loss of commissioned officers was one killed, four wounded and one missing--making a total of one hundred and sixty-three.

I have now to speak of the Second and Fourth regiments, the first of which, under Col. Tucker, numbered only four companies, the other six being on duty in the field-works at Camp Lincoln, and left behind under Lieut-Col. Buck. While absent to the front, these four companies, by order of Gen. Porter, and without my knowledge, were sent into the woods, suffering a most galling fire. Their loss was: enlisted men killed, twelve; wounded, fifteen; missing, forty; making a total of ninety-seven enlisted men. I also regret to record the death of Col. I. M. Tucker, and probably Major Ryerson, both of whom were left upon the field; also Captain Danforth, mortally wounded, and Lieuts. Plewitt, Root and Bogert, severely wounded, and Lieut. Callan missing. They, however, sustained themselves most gallantly, and proved their courage against superior numbers. The fate of the Fourth regiment, Col. Simpson, one of my most efficient regiments, as regards officers and men, was most painful.

At the moment when victory seemed wavering in the balance, an aid of Gen. McClellan took them from my command and ordered them into the woods. All the account I can give of them is, that but one officer (wounded) and eighty-two men have rejoined my command; all the rest, if living, are believed to be prisoners of war.

I learn from those who have come in, that up to the time that the regiment was surrounded they had received from and returned the enemy a most galling fire. I annex a report of the casualties of the day, showing the total loss of my brigade.

In conclusion I would say that, so far as I am at present informed, my officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, nobly performed their duties; and it might, therefore, be invidious to particularize. Still, in justice to the gallant dead, who have devoted their lives to their country, I must record the names of Capt. Brewster, of the First, and Capt. Buckley, of the Third; also, Second Lieut. Howell, of the Third, all officers of distinguished merit.

These officers fought under my eye. As regards the conduct of the Second and Fourth regiments' officers, I am told that it was all that could be desired. But these regiments having been taken from me, I did not see them during the action.

It is eminently due to my staff-officers to say that they carried out my orders intelligently and promptly, and did not hesitate, and were often exposed to the hottest fire of the day.

I will forward a more detailed report in a few days. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, etc.,

George W. Taylor, Brigadier-General.


Colonel Simpson's letter.

military prison Richmond, Va., July 8, 1862.
O. H. P. Champlin, Esq., Buffalo, N. Y.:
dear brother: To relieve my friends of all apprehension about my safety, I write to say that I am now here a prisoner of war, with a large portion of my regiment, and in good health and spirits. My regiment was posted in the wood to sustain the centre in the battle near Gaines's Hill, on Friday, June twenty-seventh, and nobly did it hold its ground till about an hour after the right and left wings of the army had fallen back. Mine (Fourth New-Jersey) and Colonel Gallagher's Eleventh Connecticut reserve, were the last to leave the front, and only did so, when we found that the rest of the army had given way, and we were literally surrounded by the infantry and batteries of the confederate forces.

Being in the woods, and trusting to our superior officers to inform us when to retreat, and not being able to see on account of the woods what was going on towards our right and left, we continued fighting probably an hour after every other regiment had left the ground. The consequence was inevitable. We were surrounded by ten times our number, and though we could have fought till every man of us was slain, yet humanity and, as I think, wisdom dictated that we should at last yield.

Our casualties, so far as known, were as follows:

Officers killed--Captain Meves--1.

Officers wounded--Captain Mulford; Lieutenants Roberts, Eldridge, Hatch, Ridgway, Myers and Shaw--7.

Enlisted men, killed,37
Enlisted men, wounded,104
 
Total killed,38
Total wounded,111
 
Total killed and wounded,149

Besides seventy-five missing, of whom a number probably was killed and wounded. Considering the great jeopardy in which we were, I look upon it as a great mercy we all were not shot down.

Kind remembrances and love to all.

Affectionately, your brother,



General Lee's official report.

headquarters, June 27.
To His Excellency, President Davis:
Mr. President: Profoundly grateful to Almighty God for the signal victory granted us, it is my pleasure and task to announce to you the success achieved by this army to-day.

The enemy was this morning driven from his [259] strong position behind Beaver Creek Dam, pursued to that beyond Powhatan Creek, and finally, after a severe contest of five hours, entirely repulsed from the field.

Night put an end to the contest. I grieve to state our loss in officers and men is great. We sleep on the field and shall renew the contest in the morning.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

R. E. Lee, General.


Lieutenant-Colonel Robertson's report.

headquarters Fifth Texas regiment, June 29, 1862.
W. H. Sellers, A. A. General Texas Brigade:
Major: I have the honor to report the part taken by my regiment, the Fifth Texas volunteers, in the action of the twenty-seventh June, 1862. I was ordered into the action to support that part of the line immediately in front of the house, which stands near the Telegraph road, and which was used as a hospital.

My advance was much impeded by a dense thicket and marsh. Hampton's Legion was upon my left. I reached the line of battle in good order, and found a portion of (I believe) General Ewell's forces maintaining the ground against heavy odds. I opened fire with my regiment, and after firing some thirty minutes it was evident that the fire of the enemy was greatly weakened, and that the time for charging them was near. Having been separated from my brigade and all the officers, I was at some loss about making the charge, until I could do so in conjunction with other parts of the line. I sought the commanders of the forces on my immediate right and left, but found none willing to join me in the charge. About this time the gallant General Ewell came up and ordered a charge, my right was by this time unsupported, and I asked General Ewell to bring me a force to support me, then I would make the charge. He brought up at once a small force; as soon as it got into line on my right, the charge was ordered, and with a hearty cheer the men rushed down the hill, across the branch, up and over the enemy's position, and through his camp. I charged with loaded guns. On reaching the field I discovered a battery on my left, which was hidden from our view at first by the retreating enemy, ordered my men to fire on those around the battery as they ran, which volley cleared the battery and left it in our possession. On emerging from the enemy's camp, through which we had charged, I discovered the Fourth Texas and Eighteenth Georgia charging a battery on a hill to my left. I directed my men to oblique to the right so as to join them, which they did just after the battery was taken.

My men seeing the enemy flying across the field in the direction of the road to the Chicka-hominy, continued the charge over the hill in the direction of a battery the enemy had been playing upon us from the hill beyond. Having left my horse at an impassable branch in the rear, and being much exhausted, about one third of my men got so far ahead of me that it was difficult to stop them. Night was fast closing on us; it was then dark; I thought it proper to recall my men, and from a hill protect the batteries already taken.

On my march back I discovered a fire was being made upon my men from the camp through which we had just charged, and on reaching the crest of the hill, I discovered a regiment of the enemy advancing on us from that camp; we opened fire on them, at the same time advancing upon them. After receiving two or three volleys they threw down their arms and surrendered. It was the Fourth regiment of New-Jersey volunteers. Colonel Simpson and his Lieutenant-Colonel surrendered their swords and two stands of colors. A company was detached and the prisoners marched to the rear, when I formed in line of battle and remained until the arrival of Brigadier-General Hood. The regiment of the enemy taken was larger at least by one hundred men (at the time of its capture) than mine. Throughout the action my officers and men, without exception, conducted themselves in a manner satisfactory, fully sustaining the name and character of the Texas soldiers. When all behaved so well, distinction cannot be made. My color-bearer was shot down and the colors immediately raised by Captain Brantley, of company D, of the colorguard. In the list of casualties I have to report thirteen killed, among them Lieutenant J. E. Clute, company A, who was in command of his company, and fell while leading it to victory; also fifty-nine wounded, among them Captain T. T. Clay, company I, and Lieutenant Wallace, both of them at the head of their companies when wounded, and thirteen missing. For particulars see Adjutant's report already sent in.

Respectfully submitted.

J. B. Robertson, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Fifth Texas Volunteers.

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