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Chapter 10: fighting along the Chickahominy.

The day after Stuart's return I rode over to General Lee's Headquarters and suggested that General Jackson be withdrawn from the Valley to take position on our left, to march against McClellan's right, and was informed that the order for Jackson was sent when Whiting's division was detached and sent to join him.

Then it was that General Lee revealed the plan indicated in his instructions of the 11th, for General Jackson to march down and attack McClellan's rear, while he made a simultaneous attack upon his front. The suggestion was offered that the enemy had probably destroyed the bridges and ferries on the Pamunkey along the line of his rear, which might leave Jackson in perilous condition if the front attack should be delayed; that that attack must be hazardous, as the enemy was in well-fortified positions with four army corps. After deliberation, he changed the plan and accepted the suggestion in favor of combining his fighting columns on the north side of the Chickahominy in echelon march against McClellan's right flank, leaving troops in the trenches in front of McClellan to defend in case of a move towards Richmond.

At the first mention of this march before this conference a change of base was spoken of by General D. H. Hill, [121] but with our troops to be left in the trenches, so near the flank of such a move, and our columns afield, pressing close upon its rear, it was thought impracticable. General D. H. Hill, in view of the possibility, preferred that our attack should be made against the enemy's left by crossing White Oak Swamp below the enemy's left.

Jackson was called in advance of his command to meet the Hills and myself at General Lee's Headquarters for conference on the execution. On the forenoon of the 23d of June we were advised of his approach, and called to Headquarters to meet him. He was there before us, having ridden fifty miles by relay of horses since midnight. We were together in a few minutes after his arrival, in General Lee's private office. The general explained the plan briefly: Jackson to march from Ashland by heights between the Chickahominy and Pamunkey, turning and dislodging the Federal right, thus clearing the way for the march of troops to move on his right; A. P. Hill to cross the upper Chickahominy and march for Mechanicsville, in echelon to Jackson; the Mechanicsville Bridge being clear, D. H. Hill's division and mine to cross, the former to reinforce Jackson's column, the latter to file to the right and march down the river in right echelon to A. P. Hill's direct march through Mechanicsville to Gaines's Mill.

General Lee then excused himself to attend to office business, asking that we talk the matter over for our better comprehension.

Turning to Jackson, I said,--

You have distance to overcome, and in all probability obstacles will be thrown in the way of your march by the enemy. As your move is the key of the campaign, you should appoint the hour at which the connection may be made co-operative.

He promptly responded,--

The morning of the 25th.

I expressed doubt of his meeting that hour, and suggested that it would be better to take a little more time, as the movements of our columns could be readily adjusted to those of his. He then appointed the morning of the 26th.

Upon his return, report was made General Lee that the officers understood, and would be prepared to execute the plans; that General Jackson had appointed the morning of the 26th, when he would lead the march. Verbal instructions were given, followed by written orders, embodying in minute detail the plan already given in general.

The topographical features of the ground about Beaver Dam Creek have been given in a former chapter. Behind it battery epaulements had been skilfully laid and constructed, as well as rifle-trenches. These were occupied by the troops of the Fifth Corps, commanded by General Fitz-John Porter. McCall's division had joined the Army of the Potomac, and was assigned as part of the Fifth Corps, with the divisions of Sykes and Morell. Two of McCall's brigades, J. F. Reynolds's and Seymour's, with thoroughly-equipped artillery, were especially charged with the defences, the Third Brigade, Meade's, in reserve, the other divisions in supporting distance. McCall's advanced brigades had guards at the bridges as far as Meadow Bridge, and a strong outpost at Mechanicsville, under orders to retire when the strength of the enemy's advance was so developed as to warrant their doing so.

Three batteries, two of six guns each and one of four, manned the epaulements at the opening of the fight.

Before sunrise on the 26th of June the division of A. P. Hill was in position at Meadow Bridge; his brigade, under General Branch, and Johnson's battery, seven miles above, at Brook Turnpike Bridge; my division and that of D. H. Hill on the heights overlooking the Mechanicsville Bridge,--all awaiting the approach of the initial column. Not anticipating delay, the divisions had no special cause [123] to conceal their presence, nor did the lay of the ground offer good cover. Morning came, and noon passed.

A few minutes after ten A. M., General Branch received a note informing him that, at the hour of its writing, General Jackson's column was crossing the Central Railroad. He assembled his command, crossed the Chickahominy, and marched down along the route designated for his column, without sending information to the division commander. Of his march he reported,--

Interruption by the enemy, but with no other effect than to retard without checking our march.

Near Crenshaw's the road on which the column commanded by Major-General Ewell [of Jackson's] was advancing and that on which I was advancing approach within one-fourth of a mile of each other. The heads of our columns reached this point simultaneously, and, after a short personal interview between General Ewell and myself, we proceeded on our respective routes.

After dislodging the enemy from several ambuscades with only a small loss to my command, I reached the Meadow Bridge road, when I learned from stragglers that Major-General Hill had crossed the Chickahominy, without opposition, with the remainder of the division and gone on to Mechanicsville, then distant about one and a half miles. A courier from the general soon assured me of the correctness of the information, and, closing in my skirmishers, I made all haste to join him at Mechanicsville. The brigade reached the field almost an hour before sunset. 1

At three o'clock, General A. P. Hill, hearing nothing from Jackson or his brigade under Branch, decided to cross the river and make his move without reference to Jackson or Branch. He crossed and moved down against Mechanicsville, attacked by Field's brigade, Anderson and Archer on Field's left, Pender and Gregg on his right, and six field batteries (four guns each). The outpost was driven in, and Hill prepared and attacked against the front at Beaver Dam Creek. Meanwhile the Mechanicsville Bridge had been cleared, and, after a little delay repairing [124] breaks, D. H. Hill's and Longstreet's divisions crossed.

A. P. Hill's battle soon became firm, but he waited a little for Jackson before giving it full force. Jackson came up, marched by the fight without giving attention, and went into camp at Hundley's Corner, half a mile in rear of the enemy's position of contention. A. P. Hill put his force in severe battle and was repulsed. As D. H. Hill approached, he was called into the fray by the commanding general, then by the President. He sent Ripley's brigade and five batteries, which made the battle strong and hot along the line.

The most determined efforts were against the enemy's right, where General McCall, reinforced by Kern's battery and Griffin's and Martindale's brigades (Morell's division), Edwards's battery, and the Third Regiment of Meade's brigade, beat off the repeated and formidable efforts of A. P. Hill, when he essayed a column against the crossing at Ellerson's Mill, which McCall reinforced by the Seventh Regiment of Meade's, Eastman's battery, and before night the Fourth Michigan, Twelfth New York, and Berdan's Sharp-shooters came in to reinforce the line and relieve regiments exhausted of ammunition. The battle was in close conflict till nine o'clock at night, when Hill was obliged to give over till morning. The Federal reinforcements were not all engaged, and some that were suffered but little; none very severely. McCall replenished ammunition and prepared to renew the fight the next morning.

The Federal loss in the engagement was 361 aggregate.2 No especial account of the Confederate loss was made in separate report, but it could not have been less than two thousand, and may have reached three thousand. [125] General D. H. Hill reported of his Forty-fourth Georgia Regiment, the lieutenant-colonel, Estes (J. B.), wounded, and others, aggregating 334 killed and wounded. Of his First North Carolina Regiment, Colonel Stokes, Major Skinner, six captains, and the adjutant killed, and 133 privates killed and wounded.

During the night General McClellan ordered his troops withdrawn. They retired at daylight on the 27th, leaving a line of skirmishers to cover their march. The skirmishers were not seriously molested, the Confederates being satisfied that the direct assault had failed, and the flanking march non-aggressive. Early in the morning, D. H. Hill was ordered to march to the left to turn the position, and was on the Federal right before their lines were well out of their trenches. He came up with Jackson and led the march of that column from Hundley's Corner. A. P. Hill marched by the direct route to Gaines's Mill, and Longstreet, in reserve, moved by the route nearer the river and Dr. Gaines's house.

D. H. Hill marched by Bethesda Church to Old Cold Harbor. He understood the plan of campaign and promptly engaged the new position along the Chickahominy Heights, on the enemy's right, where he found a well-posted battery of ten guns near swamp lands commanding the only road of approach. He ordered Bondurant's battery into action, but the combat was unequal; the latter was forced to retire, and General Jackson ordered the division back to selected ground parallel to a road over which he supposed that the Federals would presently retreat.

As my division was in reserve, it could only be used in the last extremity. So the driving could only be made by the division of A. P. Hill, while Jackson, with his own, Ewell's, D. H. Hill's, and Whiting's divisions, had more than half of our moving column, organized as our leading battle force, held in ambush for the enemy. [126]

The enemy was found strongly posted upon high ground over the Grapevine Bridge, forming a semicircle, his flanks near the river. A deep and steep chasm in front of his left divided the height upon which he stood from an open plateau over which he must be attacked, if at all, on his left. The side slope leading up to that position was covered by open forest, obstructed and defended by fallen trees. On the crest were felled trees, occasional sand-bags, piles of rails, and knapsacks. Behind these lines were the divisions of Sykes and Morell, with bristling artillery for the first defence, with McCall's division of infantry and a tremendous array of artillery in reserve. Further strength was given to the position by a stream which cut in between the two heights with deep scarped banks. His right was covered to some extent by swamp lands and forest tangles almost as formidable as the approach towards his left. General Fitz-John Porter was the commander on the field.

A. P. Hill came upon a detachment at Gaines's Mill, forced his way across the creek, and followed to the enemy's strong position, where he promptly engaged about the time of D. H. Hill's withdrawal. He found himself fighting not only strong numbers, but against a very strong defensive ground. As General D. H. Hill withdrew, General Porter prepared to follow, but the fierce assaults of A. P. Hill told him that lie must hold his concentration. It was a little after two P. M. when A. P. Hill put all of his force into action and pressed his battle with great zeal and courage, but he was alone. Jackson, finding the fire of the enemy steady and accumulating against A. P. Hill, ordered his troops forward into action. D. H. Hill engaged again at the swamp land, and found that he must capture the battery firing across his advance. With the aid of some of Elzey's brigade he succeeded in this, temporarily, but Sykes doubled on him, recovered it, and put it again into action. Parts of Ewell and Lawton, of Jackson's, came in on D. H. Hill's right. Meanwhile, [127] A. P. Hill had fought to exhaustion, and found himself obliged to put his troops down to hold his line. The enemy putting in his reserves, spliced his thinned ranks with artillery and infantry, and fought a desperate and very gallant battle, calling for troops from across the river.

My division came up near A. P. Hill's rear, being the reserve, and awaited orders. About five o'clock a messenger came from General Lee asking a diversion by part of my troops against the enemy's left to draw off troops from his right, so as to let our left in through his weakening lines. Three brigades were sent to open fire and threaten their left from the forest edge, with orders not to cross the open. These brigades engaged steadily, and parts of them essayed to pass the field in front as their blood grew hot, but were recalled, with orders repeated to engage steadily, only threatening assault. The army all the while engaged in efforts to find a point that could be forced.

Finally, a little before sunset, General Lee sent to me to say that “all other efforts had failed, and unless I could do something, the day was lost.” 3 Pickett's brigade and part of R. H. Anderson's had been drawn up under the crest in rear of A. P. Hill's right, and Kemper's brigade was near, also under cover. Upon the receipt of the last message, Pickett and Anderson were ordered into action as assaulting columns, and Kemper called up. Just as the brigades advanced, General Whiting burst through the woods with his own and Hood's brigades, reported to me that he had lost sight of his commander, General Jackson, in the forest, and asked me to put him into battle. He was ordered to form for assault, and to follow on the left of Pickett's and Anderson's columns, then in motion, as the columns of direction. As my troops reached [128] the crest under which they had rested they came under the full blaze of the battle, but Pickett and Anderson were comparatively fresh, and dashed through the open and down the slope before the fire had time to thin their ranks. The steep descent of the hither slope from its crest soon took them below the fire of the batteries, and A. P. Hill's severe fight had so thinned the enemy's infantry lines of men and ammunition that their fire grew weaker. Whiting's brigade, sore under its recent disastrous effort in the battle of Seven Pines, drifted from my left towards the woodland, but Hood, with his Fourth Texas Regiment and Eighteenth Georgia, obliqued to the right behind that brigade and closed the interval towards Anderson's left, leaving his other regiments, the First and Fifth Texas, on Whiting's left. Hood clambered over the deep ravine with his two regiments and maintained position with the assaulting columns, while the balance of Whiting's division followed in close echelon. As the advanced lines of Pickett, Anderson, and Hood reached and crowned the stronghold of the enemy, Anderson and Pickett moved up in pursuit of the broken lines, and were almost in possession of their massed reserve artillery had it under easy musketry range-when a dash of cavalry admonished them that their ranks, while in order for following the infantry lines, were not in proper form to receive a charge of cavalry. They concentrated well enough to pour a repelling fire into the troopers, but the delay had made time for the retreating infantry to open the field for the reserve batteries, and, night growing apace, they returned to the line of their trophies and used the captured guns against their late owners.

General Whiting asked for another brigade of Jackson's that had reported to me, and turned his forces against the enemy's line on our left. The divisions of Ewell and D. H. Hill advancing at the same time, the general break seemed almost simultaneous, and was claimed by all. [129]

The messages from General Lee were so marked by their prompt and successful execution that, in reporting of the battle, it occurred to me that they could be better noted in his report than in mine, but he adopted the claim of a general and simultaneous break along the line.

A letter from General Porter, written since the war, assures the writer that his guns had become so foul from steady protracted fire that his men had difficulty in ramming their cartridges to the gun-chambers, and that in some instances it could only be accomplished by putting the rammers against trees and hammering them down.

The position was too strong to leave room to doubt that it was only the thinning fire, as the battle progressed, that made it assailable; besides, the repulse of A. P. Hill's repeated, desperate assaults forcibly testified to the fact. It was, nevertheless, a splendid charge, by peerless soldiers. When the cavalry came upon us our lines were just thin enough for a splendid charge upon artillery, but too thin to venture against a formidable cavalry. Five thousand prisoners were turned over to General Lee's provost-guard, a number of batteries and many thousand small-arms to the Ordnance Department, by my command. The Confederate commanders, except A. P. Hill, claimed credit for the first breach in General Porter's lines, but the solid ranks of prisoners delivered to the general provost-guard, and the several batteries captured and turned in to the Ordnance Department, show the breach to have been made by the columns of Anderson, Pickett, and Hood's two regiments. The troops of the gallant A. P. Hill, that did as much and effective fighting as any, received little of the credit properly due them. It was their long and steady fight that thinned the Federal ranks and caused them to so foul their guns that they were out of order when the final struggle came.

Early on the 28th my advance, reaching the river, found the bridges destroyed and the enemy concentrating [130] on the other side. Under the impression that the enemy must reopen connection with his base on the Pamunkey, General Lee sent Stuart's cavalry and part of Jackson's command (Ewell's) to interpose on that line. They cut the line at Despatch Station, where Ewell's division was halted. Stuart, following down towards the depot on the Pamunkey till he approached the White House, cut off a large detachment of cavalry and horse artillery under General Stoneman that retreated down the Peninsula. At night Stuart rested his command, finding supplies of forage and provisions abandoned by the enemy. At the same time fires were seen along the line of supplies, and houses in flames. On the 29th he followed towards the depot, still in flames.

“ The command was now entirely out of rations and the horses without forage. I had relied on the enemy at the White House to supply me with those essentials, and I was not disappointed, in spite of their efforts to destroy everything. Provisions and delicacies of every description lay in heaps, and men regaled themselves on fruits of the tropics as well as the substantials of the land. Large quantities of forage were left also.” 4 On the 28th, Major Meade and Lieutenant Johnson's engineers were sent from my Headquarters to learn of the enemy's operations or movements. Early on the 29th they made their way across the Chickahominy, into the grounds and works of the enemy just left vacant, and sent the first account of the enemy's move on his change of base. The conflagrations of the day before told of speedy change of position in some direction, but this was the first information we had from a reliable source. Their report was sent to General Lee. While planning and ordering pursuit, he received a similar report from General Magruder, coupled with the statement that he was preparing to attack one of the enemy's forts. [131]

General Jackson was ordered to follow on the enemy's rear with his column, including the division of D. H. Hill, crossing the river at Grapevine Bridge, Magruder to join pursuit along the direct line of retreat, Huger to strike at the enemy's flank; meanwhile, Ransom's brigade had joined Huger's division. My division was to cross with A. P. Hill's at New Bridge, march back near Richmond, across to and down the Darbytown road to interpose between the enemy and James River. Stuart was directed to operate against the enemy's left or rear, or front, as best he could.

All the commands, being in waiting, marched at the first moment of their orders.

Jackson was long delayed repairing Grapevine Bridge. He probably knew that the river was fordable at that season, but preferred to pass his men over dry-shod.

General D. H. Hill, of that column, reported,--

Scouts from Hood's brigade and the Third Alabama (Rodes's brigade) succeeded in crossing, and my pioneer corps under Captain Smith, of the Engineers, repaired Grapevine Bridge on the 29th, and we crossed over at three o'clock that night.5

On the 28th the Seventh and Eighth Georgia Regiments were sent out a little before night to ascertain the probable movements of the enemy, and encountered part of W. F. Smith's division, Sixth Corps, meeting the Forty-ninth Pennsylvania and Thirty-third New York Regiments. Colonel Lamar and Lieutenant-Colonel Towers and Adjutant Harper, of the Eighth Georgia Regiment, fell into the enemy's hands, and twenty-nine others of the Seventh and Eighth Regiments were taken prisoners. Just as this affair was well begun a recall of the regiments was ordered; hence the number of casualties. About the same hour a cavalry affair at Despatch Station occurred which resulted to the credit of the Confederates. [132]

At night General McClellan called his corps commanders to Headquarters and announced his plan for change of base to the James River. The Fourth Corps had been ordered to prepare the route of crossing at White Oak Swamp, and pass over to defend it. The Fifth and Slocum's division of the Sixth were to follow at night of the 28th. The Second, Third, and Smith's division of the Sixth Corps were to defend the crossing against pursuit; the Fourth, continuing its move, was to stand at Turkey Bridge, defending the approach from Richmond by the river road; the Fifth to stand at Malvern Hill, with McCall's division across the Long Bridge road, and Slocum's across the Charles City road, defending the avenues of approach from Richmond. On the 29th, Magruder in pursuit came upon Sumner's (Second) corps at Allen's Farm, and, after a spirited affair, found Sumner too strong for him. After his success, Sumner retired to Savage Station, where he joined Franklin with his division under Smith. The Third Corps (Heintzelman's), under misconception of orders, or misleading of staff-officers, followed the marching corps across the swamp, leaving the Second and Smith's division of the Sixth as the only defending forces. At Savage Station, Magruder came upon them and again joined battle, but his force was not equal to the occasion. The commander of his left (D. R. Jones), realizing the importance of action and the necessity for additional troops, called upon General Jackson to co-operate on his left, but Jackson reported that he had other important duties to perform. The affair, therefore, against odds was too strong for Magruder, so that he was forced back without important results for the Confederates, the Federals making safe passage of the crossing and gaining position to defend against pursuit in that quarter.

On the 29th, General Holmes marched down the James River road to New Market with part of Colonel Daniel's [133] brigade and two batteries, and General J. G. Walker's brigade and two batteries, and was there reinforced by part of General Wise's brigade and two batteries, in cooperative position to my division and that of A. P. Hill, on the Darbytown and Long Bridge roads.

On his night march along the Long Bridge road, Fitz-John Porter got on the wrong end and rubbed up against my outpost, but recognized his adversary in time to recover his route and avert a night collision. He posted McCall's division in front of Charles City cross-roads; his divisions under Morell and Sykes at Malvern Hill, and Warren's brigade, near the Fourth Corps, on the river routes from Richmond. As the divisions of the Third Corps arrived they were posted,--Kearny between the Charles City and Long Bridge roads, on McCall's right; Hooker in front of the Quaker road, on McCall's left; Sedgwick's division, Sumner's corps, behind McCall.

Before noon of the 30th, Jackson's column encountered Franklin, defending the principal crossing of White Oak Swamp by the divisions of Richardson and W. F. Smith and Naglee's brigade. About the same time my command marched down the Long Bridge road and encountered the main force of McClellan's army posted at the Charles City cross-roads (Frayser's Farm, or Glendale). My division was deployed across the Long Bridge road in front of the divisions of McCall and Kearny, holding the division of A. P. Hill at rest in the rear, except the brigade under Branch, which was posted off to my right and rear to guard against Hooker's division, standing behind the Quaker road, in threatening position on my right flank. The ground along the front of McCall and Kearny was a dark forest, with occasional heavy tangles, as was the ground in front of Hooker. The front of Slocum, along the Charles City road, was something similar, but offering some better opportunities for artillery practice and infantry tactics. [134]

As Jackson and Franklin engaged in artillery combat, my division advanced under desultory fire of skirmishers to close position for battle, awaiting nearer approach of Jackson and signal of approach of our troops on the Charles City road. In the wait the skirmish-lines were more or less active, and an occasional shot came from one of the Federal batteries.

During the combat between Jackson and Franklin, Sedgwick's brigades under Dana and Sully were sent back to reinforce at the crossing, but upon the opening of the engagement at Frayser's Farm they were brought back on the double-quick.

After a time reports of cannon fire came from the direction of Charles City road, signalling, as we supposed, the approach of Huger's column. To this I ordered one of our batteries to return salutation. The senior brigadier of the division, R. H. Anderson, was assigned to immediate supervision of my front line, leaving his brigade under Colonel M. Jenkins. While awaiting the nearer approach of Jackson or the swelling volume of Huger's fire, the President, General Lee, and General A. P. Hill, with their staffs and followers, rode forward near my line and joined me in a little clearing of about three acres, curtained by dense pine forests. All parties engaged in pleasant talk and anticipations of the result of a combination supposed to be complete and prepared for concentrating battle,--Jackson attacking in the rear, Huger on the right flank, A. P. Hill and myself standing in front. Very soon we were disturbed by a few shells tearing and screaming through the forests over our heads, and presently one or two burst in our midst, wounding a courier and killing and wounding several horses. The little opening was speedily cleared of the distinguished group that graced its meagre soil, and it was left to more humble, active combatants.

Near the battery from which the shots came was R. H. [135] Anderson's brigade, in which Colonel Jenkins had a battalion of practised sharp-shooters. I sent orders for Jenkins to silence the battery, under the impression that our wait was understood, and that the sharp-shooters would be pushed forward till they could pick off the gunners, thus ridding us of that annoyance; but the gallant Jenkins, only too anxious for a dash at a battery, charged and captured it, thus precipitating battle. The troops right and left going in, in the same spirit, McCall's fire and the forest tangle thinned our ranks as the lines neared each other, and the battle staggered both sides, but, after a formidable struggle, the Confederates won the ground, and Randol's gallant battery. Sedgwick's division reinforced the front and crowded back the Confederate right, while Kearny's, reinforced by Slocum, pushed severely against my left, and then part of Hooker's division came against my right. Thus the aggressive battle became defensive, but we held most of the ground gained from McCall.

In his official account, General Heintzelman said,--

In less than an hour General McCall's division gave way. General Hooker, being on his left, by moving to the right repulsed the rebels in the handsomest manner and with great slaughter. General Sumner, who was with General Sedgwick, in McCall's rear, also greatly aided with his artillery and infantry in driving back the enemy. They now renewed the attack with vigor on Kearny's left, and were again repulsed with heavy loss. The attack continued until some time after night.

This attack commenced at four P. M. and was pushed by heavy masses with the utmost determination and vigor. Captain Thompson's battery, directed with great skill, firing double charges, swept them back. The whole open space, two hundred paces wide, was filled with the enemy. Each repulse brought fresh troops.

Seeing that the enemy was giving way, I returned to the forks of the road, where I received a call from General Kearny for aid. Knowing that all of 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 [136] 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. 6

General McCall reported,--

I had ridden into the regiment to endeavor to check them, but with only partial success. It was my fortune to witness one of the fiercest bayonet charges that ever occurred on this continent. Bayonet wounds, mortal and slight, were given and received. I saw skulls smashed by the butts of muskets, and every effort made by either party in this life-and-death struggle proving indeed that here Greek had met Greek. The Seventh Regiment was at this time on the right of the Fourth, and was too closely engaged with a force also of great superiority in numbers to lend any assistance to the gallant few of the Fourth who were struggling at their side. In fine, these few men, some seventy or eighty, were borne bodily off among the rebels, and when they reached a gap in the fence walked through it, while the enemy, intent on pursuing those in front of them, passed on without noticing them.

It was at this moment, on witnessing this scene, I keenly felt the want of reinforcements. I had not a single regiment left to send to the support of those so overpowered. There was no running, but my division, reduced by the furious battles to less than six thousand, had to contend with the divisions of Longstreet and A. P. Hill (considered two of the strongest and best among many of the Confederate army, numbering that day eighteen or twenty thousand men), and it was reluctantly compelled to give way before heavier force accumulated upon them. My right was, as I say, literally forced off the ground by the weight simply of the enemy's column.

His account is incorrect in the estimate of numbers and the two divisions. Hill was not put in until a later hour, and encountered the troops of Kearny and Slocum. Hill's orders were to hold the line gained until Jackson and Huger approached, to warrant more aggressive battle.

Magruder's march had been directed to succor Holmes. [137] In his official account, General Holmes wrote of parts of his cavalry and artillery, “whose conduct was shameful in the extreme.” He reported his casualties:

Daniel's brigade, 2 killed, 22 wounded; Walker's brigade, 12 wounded; artillery, 15 wounded.

The strength of the enemy's position and their imposing numbers were such that to attempt an attack upon them with my small force, unsupported, would have been perfect madness; for to have done this would have required a march of over three-quarters of a mile up a steep hill destitute of cover. I accordingly withdrew about nine P. M. to a position somewhat in advance of that occupied in the morning. 7

In his account of the fight, General Kearny wrote,--

At four P. M. the attack commenced on my line with a determination and vigor, and in such masses, as I had never witnessed. Thompson's battery, directed with great skill, literally swept the slightly falling open space with the completest execution, and, mowing them down by ranks, would cause the survivors to momentarily halt; but, almost instantly after, increased masses came up, and the wave bore on ....

In concluding my report of this battle, one of the most desperate of the war, the one most fatal, if lost, I am proud to give my thanks and to include in the glory of my own division the First New Jersey Brigade, General Taylor, who held McCall's deserted ground, and General Caldwell. 8

A. P. Hill's division was held at rest several hours after the battle was pitched (Branch's brigade on guard on my right retired, and Gregg's on my left). Under our plan, that Huger was to assault the Federal right and Jackson the rear, the battle joined; Hill was to be put in fresh to crown it. As night approached without indications of attack from either of those columns, Hill was advanced to relieve the pressure against my worn troops. At the first [138] dash he again grasped and held Randol's battery, that had been the source of contention from the first onset. Field's brigade pushed on through the enemy's line, and, supported by Pender's and Branch's, drove back reinforcements coming to their succor from one of Sedgwick's brigades; pushed Caldwell's off to Kearny's position, where, with the additional aid of part of Slocum's division, Kearny succeeded in recovering his own ground and in putting Caldwell's brigade into part of McCall's original right, leaving the Confederates holding part of McCall's first line, Field's brigade some little distance in advance of it. Archer and Branch, on Field's right, made strong that part of it. Gregg's brigade on the left made little progress beyond holding most of the ground taken by the first assault. The battle thus braced held its full and swelling volume on both sides. My right, thinned by the heavy fighting and tangled forest, found a way around the left of the contention, then gravitating towards its centre. In this effort Hooker's division came against its right flank. By change of front a clever fight was made, but Branch's brigade, ordered for service at that point, had been withdrawn by General Hill to support his centre, so that Hooker pushed us off into closed ranks along our line in rear and back; but his gallant onset was checked and failed of progress. General Hooker claimed that he threw Longstreet over on Kearny, but General McCall said that by a little stretch of the hyperbole he could have said that he threw Longstreet over the moon. To establish his centre, Hill sent in J. R. Anderson's brigade astride the Long Bridge road, which held the battle till the near approach of night, when McCall, in his last desperate effort to reinforce and recover his lost ground, was caught in the dark of twilight and invited to ride to my Headquarters. Friends near him discovered his dilemma in time to avert their own capture, and aggressive battle ceased. The artillery combat, with [139] occasional exchanges of shots, held till an hour after the beat of tattoo.

It was the Forty-seventh Virginia Regiment that caught and invited General McCall to quarter with the Confederates. Although his gallant division had been forced from the fight, the brave head and heart of the general were not fallen till he found himself on his lonely ride. He was more tenacious of his battle than any one who came within my experience during the war, if I except D. H. Hill at Sharpsburg.

In years gone by I had known him in pleasant army service, part of the time as a brevet lieutenant of his company. When the name was announced, and as he dismounted, I approached to offer my hand and such amenities as were admissible under the circumstances, but he drew up with haughty mien, which forbade nearer approach, so that the courtesies were concluded by the offer of staff-officers to escort him to the city of Richmond.

It was during this affair that General Holmes's division advanced against the Federals at Turkey Bridge with a six-gun field battery and engaged, and was met by the fire of thirty field guns and the gunboat batteries, which drove him to confusion, abandoning two guns. Earlier in the day, Magruder's column had been ordered by a long detour to support the fight at Frayser's Farm, but the trouble encountered by Holmes's division seemed serious, and caused the Confederate commander to divert Magruder's march to support that point, through which a resolute advance might endanger our rear at Frayser's Farm. After night Magruder was called to relieve the troops on the front of my line. His march during the day was delayed by his mistaken guide.

The Confederates claimed as trophies of the battle ten pieces of artillery, some prisoners, and most of the field from which McCall's division had been dislodged. Holmes's division lost two guns in the affair at Turkey [140] Bridge, but other Confederates secured and afterwards made better use of them.

During this eventful day the Federals were anxiously pushing their trains to cover on the river, and before noon of July 1 all, except those of ammunition necessary for immediate use, had safely passed the field selected for their Malvern Hill battle.

1 Rebellion Record, vol. XI. part II. p. 882.

2 Rebellion Record, vol. XI. part II. p. 38.

3 From memory I will say that this message from General Lee was delivered by Captain A. P. Mason.

4 Rebellion Record, vol. XI. part II. p. 517. Stuart.

5 Rebellion Record, vol. XI. part II. p. 627. D. H. Hill.

6 Rebellion Record, vol. XI. part II. p. 100. Heintzelman.

7 Rebellion Record, vol. XI. part II. p. 107.

8 Ibid., pp. 162-164.

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