previous next

[356] consisting of two (2) brigades, the numerical strength being about thirteen thousand men.

In obedience to these instructions, I caused the pickets and skirmishers to observe the utmost vigilance, attack the enemy's pickets from time to time, and open a frequent fire of artillery on his works, to insure a full knowledge of his position, strength, and movements, as far as it was possible, moving my own headquarters to the line occupied by the troops, and sleeping near them, in order to observe more closely.

After the battle of Friday, the twenty-seventh June, on the opposite bank of the Chickahominy, it was ascertained that the enemy had withdrawn his troops to the right bank, and therefore the whole of his forces were massed in front of our lines, and that he had destroyed the bridges over this river, thereby separating our army and concentrating his own. I immediately ordered, without awaiting instructions, the bridge known as the New Bridge to be rebuilt, which was done by the troops under Brigadier-General Jones, in order to establish at least one line of communication between the two portions of our army. This was completed on Saturday, the twenty-eighth. On the same day Brigadier-General Jones came up to my headquarters, and informed me that Brigadier-General Toombs had ordered an attack on the enemy's line of rifle pits on Goulding's farm, and asked if I had given such an order. Upon my replying in the negative, he said he had not authorized it, and I directed him at once to countermand it, it being in violation of orders previously received from General Lee, and at the moment reiterated through Captain Lathrobe, of Brigadier-General Jones's staff, just from General Lee, to the effect that I should not make any attack on the enemy in my front unless absolutely certain of success, except in cooperation with the movements of the Commander-in-Chief. I was the more anxious to have this order countermanded, as, if this attack were unsuccessful, it might lead to an advance of the enemy, to the seizure of Garnett's farm, the turning of the left of our lines, and the fall of Richmond. Brigadier-General Jones sent the countermanding order by Captain Ford, of his staff, and soon after he left, Lieutenant-Colonel Lee reported to me that our men had already attacked and carried the enemy's rifle pits at Goulding's. I immediately sent a message to that effect to General Lee, stating that the works were carried by our troops, who had been ordered by Brigadier-General Toombs to attack, and at the same time directed Captain Dickinson, my Assistant Adjutant-General, to go to the spot and to ascertain further the state of the case.

Proceeding in the direction of Goulding's myself, I met Captain Dickinson returning, who informed me that when he had arrived near Mr. James Garnett's house, he met Colonel Anderson, who was just withdrawing his troops, who informed him that the attack had been made by order of Brigadier-General Toombs without the authority from myself or Brigadier-General Jones, and that it was unsuccessful. This information I also communicated to General Lee, by whom I was ordered to obtain a report on the subject from Brigadier-General Toombs, and to forward it to the Secretary of War.

Events followed so rapidly on each other that I had not time to obtain this report, and when the operations of the week were ended, I took no further steps, as I knew that both Brigadier-Generals Jones and Toombs would make their written reports on the subject. I beg leave now to refer to that portion of their reports, in further explanation of the circumstances of this affair.

From the time at which the enemy withdrew his forces to this side of the Chickahominy, and destroyed; the bridges to the moment of his evacuation, that is, from Friday night until Sunday morning, I considered the situation of our army as extremely critical and perilous. The larger portion of it was on the opposite side of the Chickahominy; the bridges had been all destroyed; but one was rebuilt, the New Bridge, which was commanded fully by the enemy's guns from Goulding's, and there were but twenty-five thousand men between his army of one hundred thousand and Richmond.

I received repeated instructions during Saturday night, from General Lee's headquarters, enjoining upon my command the utmost vigilance, directing the men to sleep on their arms, and to be prepared for whatever might occur. These orders were promptly communicated by me to the different commanders of my forces, and were also transmitted to General Huger, on my right. I passed the night without sleep, and in the superintendence of their execution.

Had McClellan massed his whole force in column, and advanced it against any point of our line of battle, as was done at Austerlitz, under similar circumstances, by the greatest captain of any age, though the head of his column would have suffered greatly, its momentum would have insured him success, and the occupation of our works about Richmond, and consequently the city might have been his reward. His failure to do so is the best evidence that our wise commander fully understood the character of his opponent. Our relief was therefore great, when intelligence reached us, almost simultaneously, from Colonel Chilton and one of my staff, that the enemy, whose presence had been ascertained as late as three and a half o'clock A. M., had evacuated his works and was retreating. Colonel Chilton, who rode into my camp on Sunday morning, hurried me off to see General Lee, on theNine-mile road, and I gave, while riding with him, the necessary orders to put in motion my whole command, which extended over a distance of some miles, directing Brigadier-General Griffith's brigade, which was nearest to the road, to advance at once from the centre, and ordering Brigadier-General Jones's division, in advancing, to incline towards Fair Oak Station, as I had been informed that Major-General Jackson had crossed, or was crossing, the Grapevine Bridge, and would operate down the Chickahominy. Having overtaken General Lee, we rode together


Creative Commons License
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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Chickahominy (Virginia, United States) (1)
Austerlitz (New York, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 27th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: