month, the men lay there, reduced in flesh and strength, in an unfit condition for an active campaign, waiting for the daylight to usher in one of the most trying and notable weeks they were destined to experience,—the Seven Days Battles and the change of base to the James River
There was despondency in all the army.
To be compelled to leave the vantage ground which they had gained was a plain acknowledgment of defeat and did not add to the morale.
During the early night of Saturday, June 28, General Dana
, commanding the brigade, called a conference of the regimental commanders
, at which the situation was discussed.
All the rest of the army had been withdrawn and Dana
's Brigade was left as rear guard, with orders to remain until daylight.
Fortunately a heavy fog settled over both lines, and, at the appointed hour on Sunday, June 29, the brigade withdrew, the enemy not daring to attack as anticipated, owing to their uncertainty as to the circumstances.
As the men marched away from their camping place, great stacks of boxes of hard bread, piles of dried apples, bags of coffee and barrels of whiskey were passed.
They were being burned and destroyed to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.
(It was hard to see so much food abandoned, when the regiment had been on short rations.
A little more issued to the men and less to the flames would have pleased everyone.)
As soon as the fog had lifted, the enemy discovered that the rear guard had left the fortifications at Fair Oaks
They followed from the roads leading out of Richmond
and came up with the forces at Peach Orchard
, one of those long, undulating fields surrounded by woods in which Virginia
abounds, and which are so perfectly fitted for defence.
Regiments of infantry and batteries of artillery filed into this field until it was filled, except for the side toward the enemy and this side was commanded at every point.
The Third Brigade, Second Division, had formed in line of battle on a ridge on the southern side of the field, just at the edge of the wood.
At the right of the Nineteenth Massachusetts was Tompkin
's Battery A, First Rhode Island Artillery.
The men lay here at rest, listening to the crackling of the fire