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Manassas to Seven Pines.

by Joseph E. Johnston, General, C. S. A.

Confederate sharp-shooter.

Already in this work [Vol. I., p. 240] I have discussed Mr. Davis's statements in his “Rise and fall of the Confederate Government,” so far as they bore upon the responsibilities of the First Bull Run. I will now consider his remarks upon the operations following the withdrawal from Manassas and including the battle of Seven Pines.

As to the question of the forces on the Peninsula Mr. Davis says: “Early in April General McClellan had landed about 100,000 men at or near Fortress Monroe” [ “Rise and fall,” II. 84]. According to John Tucker, Assistant Secretary of War, 121,000 Federal troops landed before the 5th of April. Mr. Davis further says: “At this time General Magruder occupied the lower Peninsula with his force of seven or eight thousand men” [II., 84]. General Magruder reported that he had eleven thousand men. Mr. Davis also says:

After the first advance of the enemy, General Magruder was reenforced by some troops from the south side of James River, and General Wilcox's brigade, which had been previously detached from the army under General Johnston.

These reenforcements, together, made about five thousand men [II., p. 85]. He says, on the same page:

On the 9th of April, General Magruder's command, thus reinforced, amounted to about 12,000. On that day General Early joined with his division from the Army of Northern Virginia. . . . . This division had about 8000 officers and men for duty. General Magruder's force was thus increased to about 20,000.

The same order detached Early's, D. R. Jones's, and D. H. Hill's divisions from the Army of Northern Virginia, and they were transported as fast as the railroad trains could carry them. The two latter divisions had together about 10,000 men, so that Magruder's army was raised to about 33,000 men, instead of 20,000, as Mr. Davis said.

Coming to the plan of withdrawal Mr. Davis says:

As soon as it was definitely ascertained that General McClellan, with his main army, was on the Peninsula, General J. E. Johnston was assigned1 to the command of the Department of the Peninsula and Norfolk, and directed to proceed thither to examine the condition of affairs there. [203] After spending a day on General Magruder's defensive line, he returned to Richmond and recommended the abandonment of the Peninsula, and that we should take up a defensive position nearer to Richmond “[II., 86].”

The President has forgotten my recommendation, or misunderstood it at the time. I represented to him that General McClellan's design was, almost certainly, to demolish our batteries with his greatly superior artillery, and turn us by the river, either landing in our rear or moving directly to Richmond; so that our attempting to hold Yorktown could only delay the enemy two or three weeks. Instead of that, I proposed that all our available forces should be united near Richmond, Magruder's troops to be among the last to arrive; the great army thus formed about Richmond not to be in a defensive position, as Mr. Davis supposes, but to fall with its whole force upon McClellan when the Federal army was expecting to besiege only the troops it had followed from Yorktown. If the Federal army should be defeated a hundred miles away from its place of refuge, Fort Monroe, it could not escape destruction. This was undoubtedly our best hope [see maps, pp. 167 and 188].

In the conference that followed the President took no part. But the Secretary of War, G. W. Randolph, once a naval officer, opposed the abandonment of the valuable property in the Norfolk Navy Yard; and General Lee opposed the plan proposed, because it would expose Charleston and Savannah to capture. I maintained that if those places should be captured, the defeat of the principal Federal army would enable us to recover them; and that, unless that army should be defeated, we should lose those sea-ports in spite of their garrisons. Mr. Davis says:

After hearing fully the views of the several officers named, I decided to resist the enemy on the Peninsula. . . . Though General J. E. Johnston did not agree with this decision, he did not ask to be relieved. . . .

[II., 87].

Not being in command, I could not be relieved. My assignment was included in the order to oppose McClellan at Yorktown; that order added to my then command the departments of Norfolk and the Peninsula. It is not easy to reconcile this increase of my command by the President, with his very numerous disparaging notices of me.

General Keyes, before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, confirmed my opinion in saying that “Gloucester must have fallen upon our [McClellan's] getting possession of Yorktown, and the York River would then have been open.”

Mr. Davis expresses the opinion that “General McClellan certainly might have sent a detachment from his army, which, after crossing York River, could have turned the position at Gloucester Point” [II., 90]. That would have been needless; the driving us from Yorktown would have compelled us to abandon Gloucester Point. Then [Vol. II., p. 91] he says:

Whether General McClellan . . . would have made an early assault . . . or have waited to batter our earth-works in breach . . . is questionable “[II., 91].”

We did not apprehend

battering in breach, “but believed that the heavy sea-coast rifles to be mounted in the batteries, about completed, would [204] demolish our water-batteries, drive us from the intrenchments at Yorktown, and enable the enemy to turn us by the river. Mr. Davis quotes from one of his dispatches to me:
Your announcement to-day [May 1st] that you would withdraw to-morrow night takes us by surprise, and must involve enormous losses, including unfinished gun-boats. Will the safety of your army allow more time?

[II., 92].”

My own announcement was made April 27th, not May 1st, and reached Richmond in ten hours; so the President had abundant time to prevent the withdrawal. The appearance of the enemy's works indicated that fire from them might open upon us the next morning. The withdrawal just then was to avoid waste of life. With regard to the property abandoned he says:

“The loss of public property, as was anticipated, was great, the steamboats expected for its transportation not having arrived before the evacuation was made. From a narrative by General Early I make the following extract: ‘A very valuable part of the property so lost . . . consisted of a very large number of picks and spades. . . . All of our heavy guns, including some recently arrived and not mounted, together with a good deal of ammunition piled upon the wharf, had to be left behind’ ” [II., 94].

The steamboats he mentions were controlled in Richmond. As to the loss of very valuable picks and spades, Colonel Henry To Douglas, chief engineer at Yorktown, wrote to me, May 12th, 1883:

Region between Washington and Richmond.

I was at Yorktown the evening before the evacuation commenced. I did not see any quantity of picks and shovels there, and cannot understand how they could have accumulated there when they were needed so much from Redoubt Number Five to Lee's Mills — that is, on the extreme right of our line.

General D. H. Hill, who commanded in and near Yorktown, said, in his official report: “We lost very little by the retreat, save some medical stores which Surgeon Coffin deserted in his flight, May 1st. The heavy guns were all of the old navy pattern.” We had very little ammunition on hand at the time. The heavy guns could have been saved only by holding the place, which was impossible.

Mr. Davis says that General Magruder's Absence at this moment was the more to be regretted, as it appears that the positions of the redoubts he had constructed [before Williamsburg] were not all known to the commanding general [205] [II., 94]. The positions of the redoubts were “all known.” But to a body of troops serving merely as a rear-guard, it was necessary to occupy only those nearest the road. A rear-guard distributed in all the redoubts intended for an army could have held none of them. The event showed that the proper redoubts were occupied. It is singular that Mr. Davis's only notice of the conflict at Williamsburg, in which our troops behaved admirably, relates to a detached affair, unimportant, because it had, and could have, no influence upon the real event. Mr. Davis says of General Early's account of his attack upon Hancock at Williamsburg:

He [Early] confidently expresses the opinion that had his attack been supported promptly and vigorously, the enemy's force there engaged must have been captured “[II., 96].”

General Early sent an officer to report that there was a battery in front of him which he could take, and asked authority to do so. The message was delivered to General Longstreet, who referred the messenger to me, we being together. I authorized the attempt, but desired the general to look carefully first. Under the circumstances he could not have expected support, for he moved out of reach of it.

Mr. Davis speaks of the employment of sub-terra shells to check a marching column, and quotes from General Rains as follows:

Fortunately we found in a mud-hole a broken ammunition wagon containing five loaded shells. Four of these, armed with a sensitive fuse-primer, were planted in our rear, near some trees cut down as obstructions to the road. A body of the enemy's cavalry came upon these sub-terra shells, and they exploded with terrific effect

[II., 97].

This event was not mentioned in General D. H. Hill's report, although General Rains belonged to his division, nor was it mentioned by our cavalry which followed Hill's division. Such an occurrence would have been known to the whole army, but it was not; so it must have been a dream of the writer. [But see p. 201.--Editors.]

Mr. Davis says: “The next morning after the battle of the 5th, at Williamsburg, Longstreet's and D. H. Hill's divisions being those there engaged” [II., 98]. But one regiment of Hill's division was engaged.

In the Federal reports of this action, it is treated as a battle in which the whole Confederate army was engaged. It was an affair with our rear-guard, the object of which was to secure our baggage trains. For that it was necessary to detain the Federal army a day, which was accomplished by the rear-guard. In those Federal reports a victory is claimed.2 The proofs [206] are: (1) That what deserves to be called fighting ceased at least two hours before dark, yet the Confederates held the ground until the next morning, having slept on the field, and then resumed their march; (2) that they fought only to protect their trains, and accomplished the object; (3) that although they marched but twelve miles the day after the affair, they saw no indications of pursuit, unless the seeing a scouting party once can so b e called; (4) that they inflicted a loss much greater than that they suffered; (5) and that in the ten days following the fight they marched but thirty-seven miles. They left four hundred wounded in Williamsburg, because they had no means of transporting them. But they captured five cannon and destroyed the carriages of five more, and took four hundred prisoners and several colors.

Mr. Davis says:

“In the meantime, Franklin's division had gone up the York River and landed a short distance below West Point, on the south side of York River, and moved into a thick wood in the direction of the New Kent road, thus threatening the flank of our line of march. [McClellan wrote that the divisions of Franklin, Sedgwick, Porter, and Richardson were sent from Yorktown by water to the right bank of the Pamunkey, near West Point.--J. E. J.] Two brigades of General G. W. Smith's division, Hampton's and Hood's, were detached under the command of General Whiting to dislodge the enemy, which they did after a short conflict, driving him through the wood to the protection of his gun-boats in York River” [II., 98].

The Federal force engaged was very much less than a division.

Mr. Davis says, lower down: “The loss of the enemy [in the battle of Williamsburg] greatly exceeded our own, which was about 1200.” He means exclusive of General Early's loss. According to General McClellan's report his loss was 2228. General Hooker stated under oath that his was 1700.3 But Kearny's, Couch's, and two-thirds of Smith's division, and Peck's brigade were engaged also; a loss of 528 is very small among so many.4

Mr. Davis says:

Soon after General Johnston took position on the north of the Chickahominy, accompanied by General Lee, I rode out to his headquarters. . . . A long conversation followed, which was so inconclusive that it lasted until late in the night, so late that we remained until the next morning. As we rode back to Richmond, . . . General Lee confessed himself, as I was unable to draw from it any more definite purpose than that the policy was to . . . improve his [Johnston's] position as far as practicable, and wait for the enemy to leave his gun-boats, so that an opportunity might be offered to meet him on land “[II., 101].”

I explained that I had fallen back that far to clear my left flank of the navigable water, and so avoid having it turned; that as we were too weak to assume the offensive, and as the position I then held was an excellent one, I intended to await the Federal attack there. These explanations covered the whole ground, so that the President had no cause to complain, especially as he suggested nothing better. And he was satisfied then; for, three days later, he wrote to me by Colonel G. W. C. Lee:

. . . If the enemy proceed as heretofore indicated, your position and policy, as you stated it in [207]

Fort Magruder and other Confederate earth-works in front of Williamsburg. From sketches made May 6, 1862.

William and Mary College, Williamsburg, used as a Union hospital.

our last interview, seems to me to require no modification. “This is the interview called” inconclusive. “Mr. Davis says:
After the repulse of the enemy's gunboats at Drewry's Bluff [May 15th, 1862], I wrote to General Johnston a letter to be handed to him by my aide, Colonel G. W. C. Lee. . . . I soon thereafter rode out to visit General Johnston at his headquarters, and was surprised, in the suburbs of Richmond, . . . to meet a portion of the light artillery, and to learn that the whole army had crossed the Chickahominy

[II., 103].”

The army crossed the Chickahominy immediately after the affair of Drewry's Bluff. So that if Colonel Lee delivered a letter to me then, he of course reported to the President that I had crossed the river. And as the army's nearest approach to Richmond was on the 17th, his meeting with the light artillery must have occurred that day. So one cannot understand his surprise.

He says on the same page:

General Johnston's explanation of this (to me) unexpected movement was, that he thought the water of the Chickahominy unhealthy. . . . He also adverted to the advantage of having the river in front rather than in the rear of him.

The army crossed the Chickahominy because the possession of James River by the enemy suggested the probability of a change of base to that river. And it was necessary that we should be so placed as to be able to meet the United States army approaching either from York River or along the James. Water was not considered, for we did not use that of the Chickahominy; [208] nor the position of the little stream behind us, for we had four bridges over it. The position of Seven Pines was chosen for the center, the right somewhat thrown back. But the scarcity of water induced me to draw nearer to Richmond, which was done on the 17th.

Mr. Davis makes statements [II, 106] regarding the strength of the Army of Northern Virginia, on the 21st and 31st of May; but as he treats the subject more minutely farther on, we will examine what he says [p. 153]:

In the Archives Offices of the War Department in Washington, there are on file some of the field and monthly returns of the Army of Northern Virginia. . . . The following statements have been taken from those papers by Major Walter H. Taylor, of the staff of General Lee. . . .

A statement of the strength of the troops under General Johnston shows that on May 21st, 1862, he had present for duty, as follows: Smith's division, . . . 10,592; Longstreet's division, . . . 13,816; Magruder's division, . . . 15,680 [240 too little.--J. E. J.] ; D. H. Hill's division, . . . 11,151; cavalry brigade, 1289; reserve artillery, 1160;5 total effective men, 53,688.

The above is from Major Taylor's memorandum given the President, made from estimates of brigades, not from returns. Without being accurate, it is not far from the truth; corrected as above, Magruder should be given 15,920 men. Mr. Davis continues:

Major Taylor in his work ( Four years with General Lee ) states: “In addition to the troops above enumerated, . . . there were two brigades subject to his orders, then stationed in the vicinity of Hanover Junction, one under the command of General J. R. Anderson, and the other under the command of General Branch. They were subsequently incorporated into the division of General A. P. Hill.” [Mr. Davis continues]: . . . He estimates the strength of the two at 4000 effective.

. . . Previous to the battle of Seven Pines, General Johnston was reinforced by General Huger's division of three brigades. The total strength of these three brigades, according to the “Reports of the Operations of the Army of Northern Virginia,” was 5008 effectives. Taylor says: “If the strength of these five be added to the return of May 21st, we shall have 62,696 as the effective strength of the army under General Johnston on May 31st, 1862.”

But according to General Huger's report to me, there were 7000 men (instead of 5008) in his three brigades, which does not exceed the ordinary strength of brigades then (that is to say, three average brigades would have had not less than 7000 men); and what Mr. Davis calls two brigades of “4000 effective” were, in fact, Anderson's division sent to observe McDowell's corps at Fredericksburg, and so large that General Lee called it the army of the North, and estimated it as 10,000 men;6 and the second, Branch's brigade, greatly strengthened to protect the railroad at Gordonsville, and estimated by General Lee as 5000 men.7 When these troops were united on the Chickahominy, General Anderson's estimate of their numbers was, of the first, 9000, and of the other, 4000; 20,000 then, and not 9008, is the number to be added [209] to the return of May 21st, 1862, to show the effective strength of that Army May 31st, viz., 73,928, including the correction of the number in Magruder's division.

Referring to our withdrawal from the north side of the Chickahominy to the vicinity of Richmond, Mr. Davis says:

“Remembering a remark of General Johnston's that the Spaniards were the only people who now undertook to hold fortified towns, I had written to him that he knew the defense of Richmond must be made at a distance from it” [II., 120].

Mr. Davis is mistaken. No such letter was sent to me then. We communicated with each other only orally, excepting a note he sent me to point out that I had been absent from a skirmish the day before. He knew that the fact that the enemy was then able to approach Richmond either from York River or by the James compelled me to prepare for either event, by placing the army near the city. A short time before, he wrote: “To you it is needless to say that the defense must be made outside of the city.” His next sentence, approving the course I was pursuing, has been quoted in connection with what the President said of an “inconclusive” conversation with me.

Mr. Davis continues, a little farther down [II., 120]:

Major-General John B. Magruder, C. S. A. From a photograph.

It had not occurred to me that he [Johnston] meditated a retreat which would uncover the capital, nor was it ever suspected, until, in reading General Hood's book, published in 1880, the evidence was found that General Johnston, when retreating from Yorktown, told his volunteer aide, Mr. McFarland, that “he [Johnston] expected or intended to give up Richmond,”

This story of Mr. McFarland is incredible. He, a very rich, fat old man, could not have been an aide-de-camp. As I did not know him at all until four years later, and then barely, he could not have been my aide-de-camp. And lastly, I had no volunteer aide. Besides, the Confederate President had abundant evidence that I had no such expectation, in the fact that, so far from giving up Richmond, I stood between it and the Federal army for three weeks, until I was disabled by desperate wounds received in its defense. Under such circumstances his accusation is, to say the least, very discreditable. E. J. Harvie, late Colonel and Assistant Inspector-General, C. S. A., now in the “War Records” Office, Washington, in answer to my question, “Had I ever a volunteer aide-de-camp named McFarland, or any volunteer aide-de-camp after leaving Manassas, while serving in Virginia?” wrote me, under date of January 28th, 1885, as follows: “To my knowledge, you certainly had not. [210] My position as your staff-officer justifies me in saying that Mr. McFarland was not with you in any capacity.”

Surgeon A. M. Fauntleroy, in answer to my question, “Had I a volunteer aide-de-camp in May, 1862, especially when the army was moving from Yorktown toward Richmond; or did you ever in that time see an old gentleman of Richmond, named McFarland, about my headquarters?” writes:

I never did. I cannot well see how such a person could have escaped my observation, if he was there at any time.

And J. B. Washington, president of the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railway, writes me as follows:

You had not on your staff after leaving Manassas a volunteer aide-de-camp, especially during May, 1862, when the army was between Yorktown and Richmond. I was personally acquainted with Mr. McFarland of Richmond, but never saw him at our headquarters, nor heard of his ever having been there. Having served as aide-de-camp on your staff from May, 1861, to February, 1864, I was in the position to know of the circumstances of which I have written.

Mr. Davis says:

“Seeing no preparation to keep the enemy at a distance . . . I sent for General Lee . . . and told him why and how I was dissatisfied with the condition of affairs. He asked me what I thought it was proper to do. . . . I answered that McClellan should be attacked on the other side of the Chickahominy, before he matured his preparations for a siege of Richmond. To this he promptly assented. . . . He then said: General Johnston should, of course, advise you of what he expects or proposes to do. Let me go and see him. ‘ . . . When General Lee came back, he told me that General Johnston proposed, on the next Thursday, to move against the enemy, as follows: ’ General A. P. Hill was to move down on the right flank and rear of the enemy. General G. W. Smith, as soon as Hill's guns opened, was to cross the Chickahominy at the Meadow Bridge, attack the enemy in flank, and, by the conjunction of the two, it was expected to double him up. Then Longstreet was to cross on the Mechanicsville bridge and attack him in front. From this plan the best results were hoped by both of us” [II., 120].

It is certain that General Lee could have had no such hopes from this plan, nor have been a party to it; for it would not only have sent our army where there was no enemy, but left open the way to Richmond. For the Meadow Bridge is 21 miles from Mechanicsville, and that place about 6 miles above the Federal right. So, after two-thirds of our troops had crossed the Chickahominy, the Federal army could have marched straight to Richmond, opposed by not more than one-fifth of its number in Magruder's and D. H. Hill's divisions. This plan is probably the wildest on record.

As to what is described [II., 121], G. W. Smith's division was never in the place indicated, and General Longstreet's was never on the Mechanicsville road near the bridge, before General Lee crossed the Chickahominy to fight at Gaines's Mills.

A glance at the map will show how singularly incorrect is Mr. Davis's description [II., 122-3] of the vicinity of Seven Pines and of the disposition of the Federal troops.

On the 23d of May, Keyes's Federal corps crossed to the south side of the Chickahominy, and a detachment attacked Hatton's Confederate brigade, which was in observation near Savage's Station. The detachment was driven [211] back, and Hatton's object having been accomplished (to learn whether the enemy had crossed the stream), he was recalled. I was advised to hold that position with the army, but preferred to let the enemy advance, which would increase the interval between his left and the right, which was beyond the Chickahominy. McDowell's corps of 40,000 men8 was then at Fredericksburg, observed by a division under Brigadier-General J. R. Anderson; and a large Confederate brigade, under Brigadier-General Branch, was at Gordonsville.

On the 24th our cavalry was driven across the Chickahominy, principally at Mechanicsville. This extension of the right wing of the enemy to the west made me apprehend that the two detachments (Anderson and Branch) above mentioned might be cut off. They were therefore ordered to fall back to the Chickahominy. Near Hanover Court House the brigade was attacked by Porter's corps and driven off, escaping with a loss of 66 killed, and 177 wounded, as General Branch reported.9 A division was formed of Anderson's and Branch's troops, to the command of which Major-General A. P. Hill was assigned.

That evening General Anderson sent word that his scouts left near Fredericksburg reported that McDowell's troops were marching southward. As the object of this march was evidently the junction of this corps with the main army, I determined to attack McClellan before McDowell could join him; and the major-generals were desired to hold their troops ready to move. But at night, when those officers were with me to receive instructions for the expected battle, General J. E. B. Stuart, who also had a detachment of cavalry observing McDowell's corps, reported that it had returned to Fredericksburg. As my object was to bring on the inevitable battle before McClellan should receive an addition of 40,000 men to his forces, this intelligence made me return to my first design — that of attacking McClellan's left wing on the Williamsburg road as soon as, by advancing, it had sufficiently increased its distance from his right, north of the Chickahominy.

The morning of the 30th, armed reconnoissances were made under General D. H. Hill's direction — on the Charles City road by Brigadier-General Rodes, and on the Williamsburg road by Brigadier-General Garland. The latter found Federal outposts five miles from Richmond — or two miles west of Seven Pines — in such strength as indicated that a corps was near. On receiving this information from General Hill, I informed him that he would lead an attack on the enemy next morning. Orders were given for the concentration of twenty-two of our twenty-eight brigades against McClellan's left wing, about two-fifths of his army. Our six other brigades were guarding the river from New Bridge to Meadow Bridge, on our extreme left. Longstreet and Huger were directed to conduct their divisions to D. H. Hill's position on the Williamsburg road, and G. W. Smith to march with his to the junction [212]

Major-General Benjamin Huger, C. S. A. From a photograph.

of theNine-mile road with the New Bridge road, where Magruder was with four brigades.

Longstreet, as ranking officer of the troops on the Williamsburg road, was instructed verbally to form D. H. HillPs division as first line, and his own as second, across the road at right angles, and to advance in that order to attack the enemy; while Huger's division should march by the right flank along the Charles City road, to fall upon the enemy's flank when our troops were engaged with him in front. Federal earth-works and abatis that might be found were to be turned, G. W. Smith was to protect the troops under Longstreet from attack by those of the Federal right wing across the Chickahominy; and, if such transfer should not be threatened, he was to fall upon the enemy on the Williamsburg road. Those troops were formed in four lines, each being a division. Casey's was a mile west of Seven Pines, with a line of skirmishers a half mile in advance; Couches was at Seven Pines and Fair Oaks — the two forming Keyes's corps. Kearny's division was near Savage's Station, and Hooker's two miles west of Bottom's Bridge — the two forming Heintzelman's corps.

Longstreet's command of the right was to end when the troops approached Seven Pines and I should be present to direct the movements, after which each major-general would command his own division. The rain began to fall violently in — the afternoon of the 30th, and continued all night. In the morning the little streams near our camps were so much swollen as to make it probable that the Chickahominy was overflowing its banks and cutting the communication between the wings of the Federal army. Being confident that Longstreet and D. H. Hill, with their forces united, would be successful in the earlier part of the action against adversaries formed in several lines, with wide intervals between them, I left the immediate control on the Williamsburg road to them, under general instructions, and placed myself on the left, where I could soonest learn of the approach of Federal reinforcements from their right. For this scouts were sent forward to discover all movements that might be made by the enemy.10

The condition of the ground and little streams delayed the troops in marching; yet those of Smith, Longstreet, and Hill were in position quite early enough. But the soldiers from Norfolk, who had seen garrison service only, [213] were unnecessarily stopped in their march by a swollen rivulet. This unexpected delay led to interchange of messages for several hours between General Longstreet and myself, I urging Longstreet to begin the fight, he replying. But, near 2 o'clock, that officer was requested to go forward to the attack; the hands of my watch marked 3 o'clock at the report of the first field-piece.11 The Federal advanced line — a long line of skirmishers, supported by several regiments — was encountered at 3 o'clock. The greatly superior numbers of the Confederates soon drove them back to the main position of Casey's division. It occupied a line of rifle-pits, strengthened by a redoubt and abatis. Here the resistance was very obstinate; for the Federals, commanded by an officer of skill and tried courage, fought as soldiers generally do under good leaders; and time and vigorous efforts of superior numbers were required to drive them from their ground. But the resolution of Garland's and G. B. Anderson's brigades, that pressed forward on our left through an open field, under a destructive fire, the admirable service of Carter's and Bondurant's batteries, and a skillfully combined attack upon the Federal left, under General Hill's direction, by Rodes's brigade in front and that of Rains in flank, were at last successful, and the enemy abandoned their intrenchments. Just then reenforcements from Couch's division came up, and an effort was made to recover the position. Bu t it was to no purpose; for two regiments of R. H. Anderson's brigade reinforced Hill's troops, and the Federals were driven back to Seven Pines.

Keyes's corps (Casey's and Couch's divisions) was united at Seven Pines and reinforced by Kearny's division, coming from Savage's Station. But the three divisions were so vigorously attacked by Hill that they were broken and driven from their intrenchments, the greater part along the Williamsburg road to the intrenched line west of Savage's Station. Two brigades of their left, however, fled to White Oak Swamp.

General Hill pursued the enemy a mile; then, night being near, he reformed his troops, facing toward the Federals. Longstreet's and Huger's divisions, coming up, were formed between Hill's line and Fair Oaks.

For some cause the disposition on the Charles City road was modified. Two of General Huger's brigades were ordered to advance along that road, with three of Longstreet's under Brigadier-General Wilcox. After following that road some miles, General Wilcox received orders to conduct his troops to the Williamsburg road. On entering it, he was ordered to the front, and two of his regiments joined Hill's troops near and approaching Seven Pines.

When the action just described began, the musketry was not heard at my position on theNine-mile road, from the unfavorable condition of the air; and I supposed for some time that we were hearing only an artillery duel. But a staff-officer was sent to ascertain the facts. He returned at 4 o'clock with intelligence that our infantry as well as artillery had been engaged an hour, and all were pressing on vigorously. As no approach of troops from beyond the Chickahominy had been discovered, I hoped that the enemy's [214] bridges were impassible, and therefore desired General Smith to move toward Seven Pines, to be ready to cooperate with our right. He moved promptly along theNine-mile road, and his leading regiment soon became engaged with the Federal skirmishers and their reserves, and in a few minutes drove them off.

On my way to Longstreet's left, to combine the action of the two bodies of troops, I passed the head of General Smith's column near Fair Oaks, and saw the camps of about a brigade in the angle between theNine-mile road and the York River Railroad, and the rear of a column of infantry moving in quick time from that point toward the Chickahominy by the road to the Grapevine ford. A few minutes after this, a battery near the point where this infantry had disappeared commenced firing upon the head of the Confederate column. A regiment sent against it was received with a volley of musketry, as well as canister, and recoiled. The leading brigade, commanded by Colonel Law, then advanced, and so much strength was developed by the enemy that General Smith brought his other brigades into action on the left of Law's. An obstinate contest began,

Lieutenant-General Daniel H. Hill, C. S. A. From a photograph.

and was maintained on equal terms, although we engaged superior numbers on ground of their own choosing.

I had passed the railroad a few hundred yards with Hood's brigade when the firing commenced, and stopped to see it terminated. But being confident that the enemy opposing us were those whose camp I had just seen, and therefore only a brigade, I did not doubt that General Smith was more than strong enough to cope with them. Therefore, General Hood was directed to go on in such a direction as to connect his right with Longstreet's left and take his antagonists in flank. The direction of that firing was then nearly south-west from Fair Oaks. It was then about 5 o'clock.

In that position my intercourse with Longstreet was maintained through staff-officers, who were assisted by General Stuart of the cavalry, which was then unemployed; their reports were all of steady progress.

At Fair Oaks, however, no advantage was gained on either side, and the contest was continued with unflagging courage. It was near half-past 6 o'clock before I admitted to myself that Smith was engaged, not with a brigade, as I had obstinately thought, but with more than a division; but I thought that it would be injudicious to engage Magruder's division, our only reserve, so late in the day.

The firing was then violent at Seven Pines, and within a half hour the three Federal divisions were broken and driven from their position in confusion. [215] It was then evident, however, from the obstinacy of our adversaries at Fair Oaks, that the battle would not be decided that day. I said so to the staff-officers near me, and told them that each regiment must sleep where it might be standing when the firing ceased for the night, to be ready to renew it at dawn next morning.

About half-past 7 o'clock I received a musket-shot in the shoulder, and was unhorsed soon after by a heavy fragment of shell which struck my breast. I was borne from the field--first to a house on the roadside, thence to Richmond. The firing ceased before I had been carried a mile from it. The conflict at Fair Oaks was terminated by darkness only.

Mr. Davis's account of what he saw and did at Fair Oaks (II., 123) indicates singular ignorance of the topography of the vicinity, as well as of what was occurring. He says that the enemy's line was on the bank of the river. It was at right angles to and some three miles from it. He says that soon after his arrival I was brought from the right wounded. This proves that his “arrival” was near sunset. He also describes the moving of reenforcements from the left to the right. This was not being done. The right was abundantly strong. He says that he made a reconnoissance — then sent three couriers one after the other, with an order to Magruder “to send a force” by the wooded path under the bluff, to attack the enemy in flank and reverse. If the first courier had been dispatched before the reconnoissance, and delivered the order to Magruder promptly, his “force,” marching little more than a mile by the straight Nine-mile road, could scarcely have come up before dark. The route described would have been (if found) five or six miles long.

The only thing he ought to have done, or had time to do, was postponed almost twenty hours--the putting General Lee, who was near, in command of the army.

The operations of the Confederate troops in this battle were very much retarded by the broad ponds of rain-water,--in many places more than knee-deep,--by the deep mud, and by the dense woods and thickets that covered the ground.

Brigadier-General Hatton was among the killed, and Brigadier-Generals Pettigrew and Hampton were severely wounded. The latter kept his saddle, and served to the end of the action. Among the killed on the Williamsburg road were Colonels Moore, of Alabama, Jones, and Lomax. In the two days battle, the Confederate loss, so far as the reports indicate, was 6134 (including the loss in G. W. Smith's division, which was 1283); and the Federal loss, according to the revised returns, was 5031.

Prisoners to the number of 350, 10 pieces of artillery, 6700 muskets and rifles in excellent condition, a garrison flag and 4 regimental colors, medical, commissary, quartermaster and ordnance stores, tents and sutler's property, were captured and secured.

The troops on the ground at nightfall were: on the Confederate side, 22 brigades, more than half of which had not been in action; and on the Federal side 6 divisions in 3 corps, two-thirds of which had fought, and half of which [216]

Burying the dead, and burning horses, at the twin houses near Casey's redoubt, after the Second day's fight. From a sketch made at the time.

[217] had been totally defeated. Two Federal divisions were at Fair Oaks, and three and a half at Savage's, three miles off, and half a one two miles nearer Bottom's Bridge. The Southern troops were united, and in a position to over-whelm either fraction of the Northern army, while holding the other in check.

Officers of the Federal army have claimed a victory at Seven Pines. The Confederates had such evidences of victory as cannon, captured intrenchments, and not only sleeping on the field, but passing the following day there, so little disturbed by the Federal troops as to gather, in woods, thickets, mud, and water, 6700 muskets and rifles.12 Besides, the Federal army had been advancing steadily until the

Major-General Gustavus W. Smith, C. S. A. From a photograph.

day of this battle; after it they made not another step forward, but employed themselves industriously in intrenching.

In a publication of mine [ “Johnston's narrative” ] made in 1874, I attempted to show that General Lee did not attack the enemy until June 26th, because he was engaged from June 1st until then in forming a great army, bringing to that which I had commanded 15,000 men from North Carolina under General Holmes, 22,000 from South Carolina and Georgia, and above 16,000 in the divisions of Jackson and Ewell. My authority for the 15,000 was General Holmes's statement, May 31st, that he had that number waiting the President's order to join me. When their arrival was announced, I supposed the number was as stated.

General Ripley, their best-informed and senior officer, was my authority for the 22,000 from South Carolina and Georgia. I thought, as a matter of course, that all of these troops had been brought up for the great crisis. Mr. Davis is eager to prove that but 2 of the 4 bodies of them came to Richmond in time. One who, like me, had opportunity to observe that Mr. Davis was almost invariably too late in reinforcing threatened from unthreatened points, has no apology for the assumption that this was an exception. General Ripley reported officially that he brought 5000 from Charleston, and explained in writing that, arriving before them, he was assigned to the command of [218] the brigade of 2366, his 5000 being distributed as they arrived in detachments. General Lawton stated in writing that he brought about 6000 men from Georgia to the Valley; but as they had never marched before, they were incapable of moving at Jackson's rate, and he estimated that 2500 had been unable to keep their places when they arrived at Gaines's Mill, where, as he states, he had 3500. But the laggards rejoined him in two or three days.

I estimated Jackson's and Ewell's forces at 16,000, because Ewell told me that his was 8000, and Jackson's had been usually about twenty-five per cent. larger. Mr. Davis puts the joint force at 8000. His authority has stated it also at 12,000 (see “Personal reminiscences of General Lee,” p. 6), and this is far below the fact. My object in this is to show that I consulted respectable authorities. Mr. Davis proves that his forces were not well employed.

1 That assignment was made after the conference at Richmond mentioned on page 203.--Editors.

2 General McClellan's statement was as follows:

“Notwithstanding the report I received from General Heintzelman during the night [of the 5th], that General Hooker's division had suffered so much that it could not be relied upon next day, and that Kearny's could not do more than hold its own without reenforcements, being satisfied that the result of Hancock's engagement was to give us possession of the decisive point of the battle-field, (luring the night I countermanded the order for the advance of the divisions of Sedgwick and Richardson and directed them to return to Yorktown. . . . On the next morning we found the enemy's position abandoned, and occupied Fort Magruder and the town of Williamsburg, which was filled with the enemy's wounded. . . . Colonel Averell was sent forward at once with a strong cavalry force to endeavor to overtake the enemy's rear-guard. He found several guns abandoned and picked up a large number of stragglers, but the condition of the roads and the state of his supplies forced him to return after advancing a few miles. . . . The supply trains had been forced out of the roads on the 4th and 5th to allow troops and artillery to pass to the front, and the roads were now in such a state, after thirty-six hours continuous rain, that it was almost impossible to pass even empty wagons over them. General Hooker's division had suffered so severely that it was in no condition to follow the enemy, even if the roads had been good. Under these circumstances an immediate pursuit was impossible.” Editors.

3 The total Union loss was 2283, and Hooker's loss, 1575. See tables, p. 200.--Editors.

4 Peck's brigade (five regiments) belonged to Couch's division and was the only brigade of that division which took part in the battle. Five regiments of Kearny's division (2 of Birney's brigade and 3 of Berry's) and 6 of Smith's division (4 of Hancock's and 2 of Davidson's) were engaged, so the loss (exclusive of Hooker's) of 528 belonged, in fact, to only 16 regiments.--Editors.

5 According to General Johnston's memorandum of May 21st, 1862, “Official Records,” Vol. XI., Part III., p. 531, the reserve artillery numbered 920.--Editors.

6 “I advised you, April 23d, of certain troops ordered to report to General Field, viz.: two regiments from Richmond, two light batteries, a brigade from South Carolina, and one from North Carolina (Anderson's), in all 8000, in addition to those [2500.--J. E. J.] previously there.”--General Lee's letter, May 8th.--“Official Records,” Vol. XI., Part III., pp 500-1.--J. E. J.

7 “ Two brigades, one from North Carolina (Branch's) and one from Norfolk, have been ordered to Gordonsville to reinforce that line.”--General Lee's letter, as above.--J. E. J.

8 McDowell says, May 22d, 1862, “Official Records,” Vol. XII., Part III., p. 214, that he would require subsistence for 38,000 men. This included both effectives and non-effectives. A fair deduction would leave McDowell about 35,000 combatants, to compute by the basis on which the Confederate generals always estimated their strength.--Editors.

9 Exclusive of the loss of the 28th North Carolina, of Lane's command, which as far as reported was 7 killed and 15 wounded.--Editors.

10 The map of Seven Pines, printed with this paper in “The century magazine” for May, 1885, was prepared by the editors, and has been canceled because of incorrectness as to the positions of the opposing forces on the night of May 31st, as well as on the morning of June 1st.--Editors.

11 General D. H. Hill, who directed the onset, says in his report: “At 1 o'clock the signal guns were fired, and my division moved off in fine style.” In their reports, the Union commanders name 12:30 and 1 o'clock as the time of the Confederate attack.--Editors.

12 The Union position at Fair Oaks was, in general, maintained on both days of the battle. Part of the field at Seven Pines was regained on the second day (June 1st) by the troops of General Heintzelman, who reported that “our troops pushed as far forward as the battle-field of the previous day, where they found many of our wounded and those of the enemy.” General Daniel E. Sickles, who led the advance on Seven Pines on the 1st, states in his report that “the fields were strewn with Enfield rifles, marked ‘Tower, 1862,’ and muskets, marked ‘Virginia,’ thrown away by the enemy in his hurried retreat. In the camp occupied by General Casey and General Couch on Saturday, before the battle of Seven Pines, we found rebel caissons filled with ammunition, a large number of small-arms and several baggage wagons.”--Editors.

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