desire for me to cross the Chickahominy, and cooperate with the forces on that side, suggesting Grapevine Bridge as the most suitable point. I asked the courier when it was written. He replied, “At nine P. M;” which point of time was after the heavy firing in the direction of White Oak Swamp Bridge had ceased; and I believed, therefore, that the status of the enemy referred to was after the heavy firing. I therefore started at once for Bottom's Bridge, eleven miles distant, pushing on rapidly myself. Arriving at Bottom's Bridge, I found our troops had passed down. Galloping on to White Oak Swamp Bridge, I found many on the march, and saw at once that from the lack of firing in front, and the rapid rate of march, that the only way I could cooperate with the main body was by retracing my steps. Fortunately, the head of my column had not passed Bottom's Bridge; and crossing at the Forge Bridge to come up on Jackson's left, I wrote a note to General Jackson to apprise him of this intention, and hurried back to carry it out. I found, upon reaching Forge Bridge, a party of Munford's Second Virginia cavalry, who informed me of the route taken by Jackson's column, and pushed on to join him, fording the river. Passing Nance's shop about sundown, it was dark before we reached Rock's house, near which we stampeded the enemy's picket, without giving it time to destroy the bridge further than to pull off the planks. I aimed for Haxall's Landing, but soon after leaving Rock's, encountered picket fires, and, a little way beyond, saw the light of a considerable encampment. There was no other recourse left but to halt for the night, after a day's march of forty-two miles. As it was very dark, very little could be seen of the country around; but I had previously detached Captain Blackford to notify General Jackson of my position, and find where he was. He returned during the night, having found our troops, bat could not locate General Jackson's line. I ascertained, also, that a battle had been raging for some time, and ceased about an hour after I reached this point. My arrival could not have been more fortunately timed ; for, arriving after dark, its ponderous march, with the rolling artillery, must have impressed the enemy's cavalry, watching the approaches to their rear, with the idea of an immense army about to cut off their retreat, and contributed to cause that sudden collapse and stampede that soon after occurred, leaving us in the possession of Malvern Hill, which the enemy might have held next day, much to our detriment. It is a remarkable fact, worthy of the commanding General's notice, that, in taking the position I did in rear of Turkey Creek, I acted entirely from my own judgment; but was much gratified, next day, on receiving his note, to find that his orders were to the same effect, though failing to reach me until the next morning after its execution. Early next morning, I received orders from General Jackson, that unless you had otherwise directed, to take position near his left. Not yet apprised of the enemy's move in the night, I proceeded to execute this order, and, having halted the column near Gatewood's, where Colonels Rosser, Baker, and Goode, with their respective regiments, joined my command, I went forward to reconnoitre. Meeting with General Jackson, we rode together to Dr. Poindexter's, where we met Major Meade and Lieutenant Samuel R. Johnston, of the engineers, who had just made, in the drenching rain, a personal examination of the enemy's position, and found it abandoned. I galloped back to my command, and put it in motion for Haxall's Landing, hoping there to intercept the enemy's column. The Jeff Davis legion preceded, and soon reached the River road, in rear of Turkey Creek, capturing scores of the discomfited and demoralized foe at ever turn — wagons, tents, arms, and knapsacks abandoned; and the general drift of accounts, given by the prisoners, spoke eloquently of the slaughter and rout that will make Malvern Hill memorable in history. Colonel Martin dashed off with a few men towards Haxall's, and, in plain view of the monitor, captured one of her crew on shore, and marched back several other prisoners, the very boldness of the move apparently transfixing the enemy's guns. Appreciating the importance of knowing the enemy's position with reference to Shirley, I endeavored to gain the fork of woods near that point; but it was strongly defended by two regiments of infantry — a prisoner captured near by said Sickles's brigade. The indications were clear, however, that the enemy had gone below that point. The day was consumed in collecting prisoners and arms back toward Malvern Hill, the road from which was thoroughly blockaded, and in harassing the enemy's rear, which, in spite of his good position, was very thoroughly done by Colonel Martin with one of Pelham's howitzers, causing marked havoc and confusion in his ranks. I also reconnoitred in the direction of Charles City Court-House with a view to fall on his flanks if still in motion. The result of the last was to the effect that at ten A. M. no part of his force had reached Charles City Court-House. I therefore sent down that night toward Westover, under Captain Pelham, supported by Irving's squadron First Virginia cavalry, with orders to reach the immediate vicinity of the River road below, so as to shell it if the enemy attempted to retreat that night. A squadron (Cobb's legion) was left near Shirley, and the main body bivouacked contiguous to oat-fields, of necessity our only dependence for forage since leaving the White House; but the regiments were warned that the pursuit might be resumed at any moment during the night, should Captain Pelham's reconnaissance apprise us of a continuance of the retreat. During the night, Captain Pelham wrote to me that the enemy had taken position between Shirley and Westover, near the latter, and described the locality, the nature of Herring Creek on the enemy's right, and indicated the
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Foreign accounts of the fight.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.