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[182]

General Johnston's report of battle of Seven Pines

The following is the official report of General Johnston of the battle designated by the Confederates as Seven Pines and by the Federals, Fair Oaks. It was dated Richmond, June 24, 1862.

General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General: Sir: Before the 30th of May I had ascertained from trusty scouts that Keyes's corps was encamped on this side of the Chickahominy, near the Williamsburg road. On that day Major-General D. H. Hill reported a strong body immediately in his front. On receiving this report, I determined to attack him next morning—hoping to be able to defeat Keyes's corps completely in its more advanced position before it could be reinforced. Written orders were dispatched to Major Generals Hill, Huger and G. W. Smith. General Longstreet being near my headquarters, received verbal instructions. The receipt of orders were acknowledged.

General Hill, supported by the division of General Longstreet (who had the direction of operations on the right), was to advance by the Williamsburg road to attack the enemy in front. General Huger, with his division, was to go down the Charles City road in order to attack in flank the troops who might be engaged with Hill and Longstreet, unless he found in his front force enough to occupy his division. General Smith was to march to the junction of the New-Bridge road and the Nine-Mile road to be in readiness either to fall on Keyes's right flank, or to cover Longstreet's left. They were to move at daybreak. Heavy and protracted rains during the afternoon and night by swelling the streams of the Chickahominy increased the probability of our having to deal with no other troops than those of Keyes. The same cause prevented the prompt and punctual movement of the troops. Those of Smith, Hill, and Longstreet were in position early enough, however, to commence operations by 8 o'clock A. M.

Major-General Longstreet, unwilling to make a partial attack, instead of the combined movement which had been planned, waited from hour to hour for General Huger's division. At length at 2 o'clock P. M. he determined to attack without those troops. He accordingly commenced his advance at that hour, opening the engagement [183] with artillery and skirmishers. By 3 o'clock it became close and heavy.

In the mean time I had placed myself on the left of the force employed in this attack, with the division of General Smith, that I might be on the field where I could observe and be ready to meet any counter-movements which the enemy's general might make against our centre or left. Owing to some peculiar condition of the atmosphere the sound of the musketry did not reach us. I consequently deferred giving the signal for General Smith's advance till about 4 o'clock, at which time Major Jasper Whiting, of General Smith's staff, whom I had sent to learn the state of affairs with General Longstreet's column, returned, reporting that it was pressing on with vigor. Smith's troops were at once moved forward.

The principal attack was made by Major-General Longstreet, with his own and Major-General D. H. Hill's division—the latter mostly in advance. Hill's brave troops, admirably commanded and most gallantly led, forced their way through the abatis which formed the enemy's external defence, and stormed their entrenchments by a determined and irresistible rush. Such was the manner in which the enemy's first line was carried. The operation was repeated with the same gallantry and success as our troops pursued their victorious career through the enemy's successive camps and entrenchments. At each new position they encountered fresh troops belonging to it and reinforcements brought on from the rear. Thus they had to repel repeated efforts to retake works which they had carried, but their advance was never successfully resisted.

Their onward movement was only stayed by the coming of night. By nightfall they had forced their way to the ‘Seven Pines,’ having driven the enemy back two miles, through their own camps, and from a series of entrenchments, and repelled every attempt to recapture them with great slaughter. The skill, vigor, and decision with which these operations were conducted by General Longstreet are worthy of the highest praise. He was worthily seconded by Major-General Hill, of whose conduct and courage he speaks in the highest terms.

Major-General Smith's division moved forward at 4 o'clock—Whitney's three brigades leading. Their progress was impeded by the enemy's skirmishers, which, with their support, were driven back to the railroad. At this point Whitney's own and Pettigrew's brigade engaged a superior force of the enemy. Hood's, by my order, moved on to co-operate with Longstreet. General Smith was desired [184] to hasten up with all the troops within reach. He brought up Hampton's and Hatton's brigades in a few minutes.

The strength of the enemy's position, however, enabled him to hold it until dark.

About sunset, being struck from my horse severely wounded by a fragment of shell, I was carried off the field and Major-General G. W. Smith succeeded to the command.

He was prevented from resuming his attack on the enemy's position next morning by the discovery of strong entrenchments, not seen on the previous evening. His division bivouacked on the night of the 31st within musket-shot of the entrenchments which they were attacking, when darkness stayed the conflict. Major-General Smith directed the attack, and would have secured success if it could have been made an hour earlier.

On the morning of the 1st of June the enemy attacked the brigade of General Pickett, which was supported by that of General Pryor. The attack was vigorously repelled by these two brigades, the brunt of the action falling on General Pickett. This was the last demonstration made by the enemy.

Our troops employed the residue of the day in securing and bearing off the captured artillery, small arms, and other property, and in the evening quietly returned to their own camps.

We took ten pieces of artillery, six thousand muskets, one garrison flag, and four regimental colors, besides a quantity of tents and camp equipage.

Major-General Longstreet reports the loss in his command as being about3,000
Major-General G W Smith reports his loss at1,283
——
Total4,283

That of the enemy is stated in their own newspapers to have exceeded ten thousand--an estimate which is, no doubt, short of the truth. Had Major-General Huger's division been in position and ready for action when those of Smith, Longstreet, and Hill moved, I am satisfied that Keyes's corps would have been destroyed instead of being merely defeated. Had it gone into action even at 4 o'clock the victory would have been much more complete.

Major-Generals Smith and Longstreet speak in high terms of the conduct of their superior and staff officers. [185]

I beg leave to ask the attention of the Government especially to the manner in which Brigadier-Generals Whiting and R. H. Anderson and Colonels Jenkins, Kemper, and Hampton, exercising commands above their grades, and Brigadier-General Rhodes, are mentioned. This and the captured colors will be delivered by A. H. Cole, of my staff.

I have been prevented by feebleness from making this report sooner, and am still too weak to make any but a very imperfect one.

Several hundred prisoners were taken, but I have received no report of the number.

Your obedient servant,

(Signed)

J. E. Johnston, General.

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