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[221]

Union cavalry generals.

Had it not been for General Philip St. George Cooke and his cavalry, Major-General Fitz-John Porter and his staff would not be enjoying the luxuries portrayed in the lower photograph, taken nineteen days after the battle of Gaines' Mill. The typical old-time Virginia cook, and the pleasant camping-ground on the banks of the river, suggest little of the deadly peril that faced the Federals June 27, 1862. The line of battle formed the arc of a circle, almost parallel to the Chickahominy. During the day the Confederate forces made four desperate assaults on the Union lines, and every available infantryman was brought into action. The only reserve on the left of the line was the cavalry and considerable artillery. As night was falling, the Confederates made a final effort to force the left flank and cut it off from the bridge across the Chickahominy. The artillery was directed to maintain its position, and General Cooke ordered Captain Whiting, commanding the Fifth United States Cavalry, to charge with his troopers. The little force of 220 sabers charged the advancing lines of Confederate infantry; a portion of the line struck the enemy intact and were stopped only by the woods at the bottom of the slope. Their casualties were fifty-five men-but under cover of the charge the artillery was safely withdrawn, and the sacrifice was well worth the results attained.

General Philip St. George Cooke commanding: the first great Federal cavalry charge of the Civil War

General Fitz-John Porter and staff, June, 1862


 

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