Doc. 17..-sequel to Gen. M'Call's Report of the Pennsylvania reserves in the Peninsula.1
I regret extremely that justice to myself and to my division should render any further comment of mine on the official statements of General McClellan, in his report of the Peninsula campaign, at all necessary. But having been prompted in self-defence to publish my own report, immediately on observing in a daily journal an extract from that officer's report reflecting on my division, published in advance of the official document printed by order of Congress, and having subsequently discovered in the latter further statements injurious to myself and my command, I was led to open a correspondence with several general officers who served in that campaign. This correspondence has but recently closed. It has brought to light some interesting facts, and I have taken the earliest leisure I could devote to the matter to lay these developments before my countrymen. The services of my division have been either misinterpreted or misunderstood; and consequent misrepresentations, as discreditable to the author as unjust to myself, have been issued to the world in every form of publication by the hundred thousand copies. It is an unpleasant task to revert to this subject, for before the war I had entertained no other feelings than those of amity for General McClellan, and confidence in his ability and integrity. When, however, assertions are made which in my judgment are unsupported by facts, it becomes my duty to “rectify the record.” I now proceed: General McClellan, in his official report, (House Rep. Ex. Doc. No. 15, page 137,) quotes from and indorses General Heintzelman's report, with respect to the operations of my division in the battle of Nelson's Farm, Glendale or New-Market Cross-Roads, as variously called, rather freely, considering that Heintzelman was all the time in my rear, separated by a strip of pine forest from my battle-ground, where he could, from personal observation, know absolutely nothing of what was passing in my division. One of these quotations is the following: “General Heintzelman states that about five o'clock P. M., General McCall's division was attacked in large force, evidently the principal attack; that in less than an hour the division gave way.” ) In order to expose the error here promulgated it is only necessary to cite General McClellan himself. On the same page and the following one of his report, (pp. 137-8,) he makes this statement: “General Sumner says of this battle: ‘The battle of Glendale was the most severe action since the battle of Fair Oaks. About 3 (three) o'clock P. M., the action commenced, and after a furious contest, lasting till after dark, the enemy was routed at all points and driven from the field.’ ” Now it is known beyond the possibility of a cavil that my division was engaged with the enemy, single-handed, for two hours before either Sumner or Hooker saw the enemy at all; for it was not until about 5 (five) P. M. when Seymour's brigade of my division was forced back on Sumner's right and partially on Hooker, that the commands of either of these officers became engaged. That these troops received the shock handsomely, no one has denied; though General Sumner told me in Washington about the early  part of November, 1862, that he believed General Hooker's division would have been driven in by the impetuosity of the enemy, had he not sent the best regiment of his corps (Colonel Owen, Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania volunteers) to the support of that General. This en passant. But what makes the official report of General Heintzelman appear a little singular is the fact that General Hooker, who commanded a division of Heintzelman's corps, in his official report to Heintzelman himself, makes this statement: “About three o'clock the enemy commenced a vigorous attack on McCall.” (See rebellion record, Vol. V. p. 260.) Thus, both Sumner and Hooker being in my immediate vicinity, and their unasked testimony as to the hour at which my division was attacked agreeing with my own official report, it is rendered patent that my division was attacked at three o'clock P. M., and not at five o'clock P. M., as reported by General McClellan. With respect to my division having given way in less than an hour, I need only say that, as the testimony of every officer commanding a regiment and many others of the division proving the assertion to be unfounded, has been published heretofore in my report, I shall now only refer to the frank and manly testimony of General Meade, in a letter to me, dated Camp Warrenton, Virginia, November seventh, 1862: “. . . . It was only the stubborn resistance offered by our division, (the Pennsylvania reserves,) prolonging the contest till after dark, and checking till that time the advance of the enemy, that enabled the concentration during the night of the whole army on James River, which saved it.” (See printed report.) It is thus rendered equally patent that my division did not give way in less than an hour, but fought till night put an end to the battle. The foregoing are my grounds for declaring the aforesaid passage in General McClellan's report to be not in accordance with facts. There is another passage in General McClellan's report — the one immediately preceding that just discussed — in which he makes it appear that “my division was reluctantly compelled to give way before heavier forces accumulated upon them,” and quotes my report. Whether my report was misquoted or miscopied I cannot pretend to say; but I certainly did not intend to convey that idea. What I did mean to convey is this: That the two regiments (Fourth and Seventh) of Meade's brigade, in support of Randall's battery “were reluctantly compelled to give way before heavier force accumulated upon them.” And this will appear to every impartial reader when he reads in the next sentence of my report these emphatic words: “The centre of my division was still engaged.” . . This sentence General McClellan ignores and omits, and of course the impression intended to be left on the public mind is, that I had stated in my report that my division was compelled to give way. This was not my intention, certainly. The truth is, when Randall's battery, on the right of the division, was captured in my presence, I rode to the centre of the division in order to bring up a sufficient force to recover the battery which still lay upon its own ground, some of the guns overturned and surrounded by forty odd dead horses; but I found the centre so hotly engaged as to demand all my attention and solicitude until the attack at that point should be repelled, which in a short time I had the satisfaction to witness, with the capture of the standard of the Tenth Alabama. In the mean time Randall's battery was recaptured by Lieutenant-Colonel Bollinger, of the Seventh, “after one of the guns had been turned upon him and its contents fired into his ranks.” (See his — Bollinger's — testimony in my printed report.) And I now assert that the division was not compelled to give way, as stated by General McClellan. On the same page with the foregoing (137) General McClellan states: “General McCall's troops soon began to emerge from the woods into the open field. Several batteries were in position and began to fire into the woods over the heads of our own men in front. Captain De Russy's battery was placed on the right of General Sumner's artillery, with orders to shell the woods.” It is necessary, in order that the foregoing statement may be understood, to explain to the reader that it is a quotation from General Heintzelman's report, (Heintzelman himself having “placed De Russy's battery,” ) and refers to an earlier part of the action, when Seymour's brigade of my division fell back on Sumner, and before Randall's battery was attacked. Indeed, McClellan's report of this battle is rather obscure and unintelligible to one not present; but the reader is recommended to compare the above from McClellan's report, page 137, with Heintzelman's report in the companion volume rebellion record, p. 276. The history of this affair is as follows: When Seymour's brigade was driven in, the greater part were re-formed by their colonels in rear of their own ground; the lesser part fell back on Generals Sumner and Hooker, carrying with them some (200) two hundred prisoners just taken by them. On the strength of this display of retiring forces, General Hooker reported officially that McCall's “whole division was completely routed,” etc. On the same data, General Sumner told me in Washington, early in November, 1862: “I saw your men coming out of the woods; but in a few minutes I saw they were stragglers, and I thought no more about it.” Sumner was a brave and honorable man; and he would have scorned to say more or less than the truth. Peace to his ashes, in the name of God, amen! In reference to this stage of the battle, when the enemy, following the left portion of Seymour's men, fell upon Sumner and Hooker, the latter states in his report that he “rolled the enemy back, and passing Sumner's front, they were by him hurriedly thrown over on to Kearny.” The gallant General might have said, without much stretch of the hyperbole, that the  enemy was “hurriedly thrown over the moon!” the one being quite as practicable as the other, Kearny being on my right, half a mile from Hooker, (who was on my left,) and six of my regiments and three batteries, Cooper's, Kerns's, and Randall's, in the interval hotly contesting the ground with part of Longstreet's division, which, I am proud to say, after hard fighting, recoiled before the Pennsylvania reserves. The simple fact is, the enemy was thrown over by Sumner (for the meeting with Sumner and Hooker was altogether unexpected by the enemy, and they were disordered by their rencontre with Seymour) on to my centre, as established by the testimony of Colonel Roy Stone heretofore given; and repulsed as I have just stated. In a letter to me, dated Columbus, Ohio, February fourteenth, 1864, in reply to inquiries of mine, General Heintzelman says: “About five o'clock it was reported to me that the Pennsylvania reserves had given way. Knowing that if the enemy made much progress in that direction Kearny's division and the troops on the right of him (Slocum's division, etc.) would be cut off from the rest of the army and from our line of retreat to the James River, I rode forward.” Here is good presumptive proof that the “stubborn resistance” of the reserves prevented McClellan's army being cut in two. Heintzelman's temporary headquarters were at the crossing of Charles City road, about six hundred yards in my rear. On reaching the further edge of the pine woods, in my rear, and seeing my men “emerging from the woods,” and Sumner preparing to resist the advance of the enemy, he directed his chief of artillery to shell the woods in his front, (in my rear,) and his letter then goes on: “I stopped myself at, I suppose, half-way across the open space (on his return to his headquarters) to take another look to be satisfied that the enemy would be checked or driven back. (Where was my division at this time?) Whilst halting here I was struck on the arm by a ball from one of the enemy's sharp-shooters, I presume, in the woods in front; also one of my staff was hit.” How the sharp-shooters got into the woods, in the rear of the Pennsylvania reserves, and in part, at that time, occupied by two regiments of my reserve brigade, it is difficult to see; but as it appears, from his own report, that these wounds were contusions from spent balls, it is presumable that the shots were fired over the heads of my men when engaged at close quarters with the enemy in front of these woods. In order to explain to the reader what was going on in my division at this time, I extract a passage from my letter to General Heintzelman, dated March twenty-ninth, 1864: “Now, my dear General, had you, after posting De Russy's battery, ridden through the narrow strip of woods in front of you, a little to the right of where you saw my men ‘emerging from the woods,’ you would have found me in the open field in front, with the centre of my division; and General Meade, with his brigade, on the right of the division; and six regiments of the Pennsylvania reserves and three batteries, at that very moment, blazing away at the enemy, who was advancing with great steadiness to close quarters, but was driven back with great slaughter from every point of my right and centre. Before you started to return, you placed De Russy's battery on the right of Sumner's artillery, with orders to shell the woods in your front. Soon after this shelling commenced, General Meade rode up to me and reported that ‘ the shells from those batteries were falling among his men,’ and requested me to cause them to cease firing. I immediately sent my aid-de-camp, Captain Scheetz, to state the facts to the officer commanding the battery, and request him to cease firing, as my troops were in his front. In the mean time shells began .o fall about the centre of my division; there is no mistake about this, as some of them exploded over my own head. Captain Scheetz returned and reported that he had delivered my message, but that the officer commanding the artillery refused to stop firing without orders from his own General. I then directed him to seek the General commanding the troops, and repeat my request. The horse of my aid was killed on the way, and he did not find the general. The firing, however, ceased not long afterward, the enemy having been repulsed by me.” It will be seen by the foregoing extract that, while I was steadily resisting a heavy pressure from the enemy in front, I was subjected to “a fire in the rear” from my friends. I trust that this plain and unvarnished explanation of the rather crude passage in General McClellan's report, above quoted, will be sufficiently intelligible to the public and all concerned. Reference may at any time be made to General Meade, and the officers of both his and my own staff. I must still refer to another passage in General McClellan's report. On the same page (137) he says: “Late in the day, at the call of General Kearny, General Taylor's First New-Jersey brigade, Slocum's division, was sent to occupy a portion of General McCall's deserted position, a battery accompanying the brigade. They soon drove back the enemy, who shortly after gave up the attack.” Had this been true, it would have been the most ungenerous and ungrateful expression — the deserted position!--ever used by a commanding general toward a general officer, who had fought his division for four hours against superior numbers, even if overcome. But the check given to Lee by my division on the New-Market road, having, in the judgment of more than one Federal, and at least one confederate general, “saved McClellan's army,” it makes the stigma attempted to be cast on the division the more glaring and unpardonable. I have within a short time been unofficially informed that General McClellan, desirous of smoothing over the unmannered epithet, has written to the Adjutant-General at Washington, requesting leave to change his phraseology to the following, namely: “A portion of General  McCall's position, from which he had been driven by superior numbers.” Previously to this, however, I had, on receiving the official copy of General McClellan's report, written to General Heintzelman, to ask whether this term “deserted,” had also been derived from his report. Heintzelman disclaimed the authorship, and sent me a printed copy of his report of the battle. In this report he says: “Seeing that the enemy were giving way, (this refers to their sudden repulse by Sumner and Hooker, upon whom they unexpectedly came while following Seymour,) I returned to the forks of the (Charles City) road, where later in the day I received a call from General Kearny for aid. Knowing that all General Sedgwick's troops were unavailable, I was glad to avail myself of the kind offer of General Slocum to send the New-Jersey brigade of his division to General Kearny's aid. I rode out far enough on the Charles City road to see that we had nothing to fear from that direction, and returned to see the New-Jersey brigade enter the woods to General Kearny's relief. A battery accompanied this brigade. They soon drove back the enemy. It was now growing dark.” On comparing Heintzelnan's statement just given with that of McClellan given above, it is evident that the latter is a transcript of the former, in part. I would that I might, for General McClellan's credit, say a transcript entire and correct. But I am constrained to say that it is incomprehensible how General McClellan could have happened to substitute General McCall's position for General Kearny's position. Having written to General Heintzelman on this subject, he replied to me in a letter dated Columbus, Ohio, March twenty-fourth, 1864, as follows: “I had some discussion with General Kearny, some time after, he saying that he never asked for reinforcements, though when I recalled what had occurred, he acknowledged that the message he had sent virtually amounted to that. Whether Kearny's division, or any part, was driven back, or if so, how far, I cannot now remember.” From the foregoing it is seen that the First New-Jersey brigade, under General Taylor (Kearny's old brigade) was offered by Slocum for Kearny's support, and reported by Heintzelman to have entered the woods to Kearny's relief, under his own eye. It is therefore incontrovertible that General McClellan's report in this connection is not in accordance with facts. There is still one more remark of General McClellan's that requires my notice. In his letter to the President, dated “Harrison's bar, James River, July fourth, 1862,” (his report, page 142,) he asserts: “We have lost no guns, except twenty-five on the field of battle, twenty-one of which were lost by the giving way of McCall's division under the onset of superior numbers.” The General should have been a little more careful what he wrote to Mr. Lincoln, or perhaps a little more cautious what he published. By turning to page 127 of his report, it will be seen that in the account of the battle of Gaines's Mills he makes this statement: “The number of guns captured by the enemy at this battle was twenty-two, three of which were lost by being run off the bridge during the final withdrawal.” The number of guns, then, lost by McClellan in this battle was nineteen. Soon after I read the letter to Mr. Lincoln above quoted, I wrote to General William F. Barry, General McClellan's chief of artillery during the Peninsula campaign, requesting him to refer to his reports and to inform me how many guns he had reported lost by my division at Gaines's Mills, and received the following reply:
With respect to the guns lost at Nelson's farm or New-Market Cross-Roads, it is a fact well known that after Randall's battery was taken by the enemy and retaken by the reserves, (see Colonel Bollinger's report,) the guns could not be removed for want of horses, forty odd of those belonging to the battery lying dead on the ground; and I am authorized to say that Randall applied to General Heintzelman, after nightfall, for men to drag his guns off the ground, but was refused by that officer on the plea that “it would bring on a renewal of the battle.” For instance, General Meade says to me in a letter dated Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, March second, 1864:Washington, March 10, 1864.My dear General: Your note of seventh instant is just received, and finds me on the eve of departure for the South-west, whither I am ordered for duty with General Grant's armies. I regret extremely that my papers relating to the Peninsula campaign are all packed up, and have been sent away, and that I have no better reference than my memory to enable me to answer your queries. I can, however, state in general terms that the guns lost by field batteries belonging to your division were but a very small portion of the whole number lost at Gaines's Mills. Faithfully yours,
I have always maintained that these guns (Randall's battery) were not lost by the division, but were abandoned by the army. It is notorious that they remained all night in their original position on the field, outside the line of the enemy's pickets, the enemy having withdrawn from the field after dark, and not returning till eight o'clock the next day, when their skirmishers advanced in order of battle, and finding these guns, took possession of them. I have this from Randall, who, being aware of it at the time, applied to Kearny, and, I think, to Heintzelman, for authority and men to drag his guns off, but was refused on the ground it would bring on a renewal of the battle; and at one o'clock the division with the army moved on to Malvern Hill. When I say I had it from Randall, I mean the fact that the enemy did not take possession of them (the guns) the evening of the battle, but fell back and left them for us to drag off if we chose. The fact that they took possession of them the next morning, about eight o'clock, I got from Doctor Collins, Third regiment,  Pennsylvania reserve corps, who remained with the wounded, and saw the advance of the enemy the next day.Again, Mr. J. R. Sypher, of Lancaster, some time since with the army of the Potomac, states that he was told by Randall himself that “he had applied to General Heintzelman for men to drag off his guns, and was refused,” on the grounds stated by General Meade in the foregoing letter. Now here is satisfactory testimony that these guns lay on the outside of the enemy's lines, and were seen there long after sunrise the following morning by Surgeon James Collins, of the Third regiment Pennsylvania reserves, (Meade's brigade,) and by many others who remained to care for our wounded, (as since reported to me,) and were not in possession of the enemy until, by the retreat of McClellan's army, they fell, uncared for, into the hands of the enemy. It must also be remembered that at this time Colonel S. G. Simmons, commanding the First brigade of the reserves, was mortally wounded, General G. G. Meade, commanding the Second brigade, was severely wounded and compelled to leave the field, and General T. Seymour, commanding the Third brigade, was not to be found; while I myself about dark, while moving forward at the head of about five hundred men, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Thompson, of the Third regiment, and being some distance in advance of him, with the purpose of recovering this same battery, had been made prisoner; remembering this, I say, it will be seen that Generals Kearny and Heintzelman were the proper officers to whom Randall should have applied for the means to save his guns, which could without loss have been done after the enemy had retired. I therefore do not hesitate to assert that the six guns of Randall's battery were shamefully abandoned by McClellan's army — not lost by me. As regards the German battery left behind, by whose authority I know not, and found on my ground by me, and unfortunately, as it turned out, assigned by me, in consequence of finding it there, a position in my line of battle, its guns could not have been included in the twenty-one reported by McClellan lost by my division giving way under the onset of superior numbers, for the best of reasons, namely, they did not await the onset, but ingloriously fled with their limbers, leaving their guns behind, and ran over and trampled my men, (four companies Fourth regiment,) placed in their rear for their support and protection. Colonel Roy Stone, commanding the Bucktails, (First regiment reserves,) stating in his report to me: “This advance of the enemy” (when Seymour was driven in) “might have been checked by the Dutch battery belonging to Porter's corps, and temporarily with your division that day, but it was deserted by its gunners on the first appearance of the enemy.” Some of these guns, however, were saved, and brought off. In referring to this incident of the battle, I have not intended to speak slightingly, although the whole affair in that connection was rather ludicrous. To sum up, I think I may say I have established the following points-: First. That my division was attacked at three o'clock P. M., June thirtieth, (battle of Nelson's Farm, or New.Market Cross-Roads,) not at five o'clock, as stated by General McClellan. Second. That it did not give way in less than an hour, as stated by General McClellan, but fought till night-fall, (about four hours,) with what result let the country judge. Third. That the New-Jersey brigade was not sent to occupy a portion of my deserted position, as stated by General McClellan, but was sent to the relief of General Kearny, who had called for aid. Fourth. That General McClellan's report to President Lincoln, that “he had lost but twenty-five guns on the field of battle, twenty-one of which were lost by McCall's division giving way under the onset of superior numbers,” is not in accordance with facts. The statements I have made in the foregoing pages are the record, in part, of the operations of my division in the battle of Nelson's Farm, or New-Market Cross-Roads, well known either to General Meade or to the colonels of regiments and other officers of the division, and can be proved before any military tribunal in the country. On the twenty-sixth of September, 1864, I sent to General McClellan a copy of a letter written to a friend of mine, which letter was in substance and almost in language identical with the foregoing statement in full. This I did, wishing to afford him an opportunity to correct errors in his official report reflecting upon my division and myself, if arising from hastily examined reports of his subordinates, and as hastily written and published in his own. This I should have done at an earlier date had all the materials I desired to collect been earlier in my possession. I indulged the hope that on being made acquainted with the facts here stated, he would have accorded to the Pennsylvania reserves the meed of praise earned with the best blood of the State. This he has declined or failed to do; and I am reluctantly compelled, in justice to my brave associates, to make known their claims to their country's gratitude. My object is vindication and justice, not attack. The reports of General Heintzelman and others I have necessarily referred to, I take it for granted were honestly made, though probably without as strict examination of the subject as should always mark the official reports of military commanders. They have proved their gallantry in the field, and I entertain no unkindly feelings toward them; their errors I have been forced to expose.
George A. Mccall. Belair, October 22, 1862.