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[420] fell sick again, and was nursed by his mother till near the end of April. On the 12th of May he was on the steamer City of Richmond, at Yorktown, bound for West Point and General McClellan. On the 21st of May he wrote: ‘Eight miles from Richmond! in shirt-sleeves, trying to catch the breeze; tanned quite brown; not now the pale, thin, sick boy you nursed so tenderly. General Stoneman and I have seen Richmond from the balloon.’ May 23. ‘To-day, at the crossing of the Chickahominy, at last I was under fire, and do not think I showed fear.’

In the midst of the seven days battle at Richmond, Lieu tenant Birney found time to write to his mother: ‘The nearest shot to me passed under my arm, cutting the body and sleeve of my coat and shirt. I was in the hottest of the fire at Mechanicsville. The fight is still going on. If anything happens to me, let it console you that I am doing my duty in a just cause. You will not be the only sad one.’ General William Birney gives a picture of him in this battle: ‘In the afternoon of the disastrous affair of Gaines's Hill, as my regiment was marching into the fight, I met Fitzhugh. “Ah, brother will,” he cried, “we have the Rebels this time!” “What makes you think so?” said I, “it looks the other way to me.” “They say so at Headquarters,” he answered, “and I know they are in high spirits about it. They say we shall bag at least ten thousand.” In a few hours the Rebels had bagged many of us, myself among the number.’

Colonel David B. Birney having become Brigadier-General, Lieutenant Birney wrote, ‘I hope soon to be brother's Aid.’ August 1, 1862, he was commissioned as ‘Assistant Adjutant-General of the second brigade, of Kearney's division, with the rank of Captain.’ He added to the duties of this position those of Aid in the field. ‘His delivery of orders under fire was clear, concise, and correct.’

In the second battle of Bull Run, Captain Birney's collarbone was broken by the falling of his horse. This was the only hurt he received in two years and a half of dangerous service, during which he participated in more than twenty engagements.

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