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[422] During this operation, our Lieutenant insisted that he had slept better in the open air than ever under any roof.

The great Peninsular campaign followed, beginning in April, 1862. At Yorktown, Lieutenant Patten got his first sight of siege and battle. Thence Sedgwick's division was despatched in the column which occupied West Point; but the Twentieth was only drawn up in support in the action there. The whole of Sumner's corps was now north of the Chickahominy, while those of Keyes and Heintzelman were south of it. By so faulty a disposition the enemy was sure to profit. When, at Fair Oaks, on the 31st of May, the left wing of the army was driven back, the danger was imminent. But Sumner, hearing the thunders of battle from the left bank of the river, and reading the necessities of the hour with the inspiration of a genuine soldier, marched au canon, without waiting for orders. Sedgwick's division was in advance, crossed the swaying and dangerous Chickahominy bridge, made a forced march through the deep mire all day long, and at six at night, after the greatest exertions, reached the scene of action and deployed column. It was not too soon. The enemy, driving all before him, was sweeping down upon our troops with a destructive fire. Sumner at once hurled at him the head of his gallant column, composed of Dana's and Gorman's brigades,—five excellent regiments in all. In Dana's was the Twentieth Massachusetts. The troops streamed with fixed bayonets into the woods, amid great enthusiasm, checked the enemy's course, drove him back in confusion, and saved the day at Fair Oaks. ‘That one act of heroic duty,’ says the historian of the Potomac Army, ‘must embalm brave old Sumner's memory in the hearts of his countrymen.’

Then followed the turning of the right wing of the army at Beaver Dam Creek, and the memorable seven days retreat to the new base on the James. In that terrible time of trial, which brought out from every soldier whatever of virtue there was in him, Patten's gallantry and manliness were so brilliant as to receive special official mention in the report of his commanding officer. In three successive battles, at Gaines's Mill,

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