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Gaines's Mill, battle of.

In June, 1862, General McClellan transferred his army from the Chickahominy and his stores from the Pamunkey to the James River. He ordered the stores and munitions of war to be sent to Savage's Station, and what could not be removed to be burned, and supplies to be sent to the James as speedily as possible. He also sent his wounded to the same station, and prepared to cross the Chickahominy for the flight with the right wing—a perilous undertaking, for Jackson and Ewell were prepared to fall on Porter's flank. This movement was so secretly and skilfully made, however, that Lee was not informed of the fact until twenty-four hours after it was actually begun on the morning of the 27th. The duty of protecting the stores in their removal was assigned to General Porter. His corps (the 5th) was also charged with the duty of carrying away the siege-guns and covering the army in its march to the James. These troops were accordingly arrayed on the rising ground near Gaines's Mills, on the arc of a circle between Cold Harbor and the Chickahominy, when they were attacked by a Confederate force, in the afternoon, led by Generals Longstreet and A. P. Hill. A few of the siege-guns were yet in position. Morell's division occupied the left, Sykes's regulars and Duryee's Zouaves the right, and McCall's division formed a second line, his left touching Butterfield's right. Seymour's brigade and horse-batteries commanded the rear, and cavalry under Gen. Philip St. George Cooke were on flanking service near the Chickahominy. The brunt of the battle first fell upon Sykes, who threw the assailants back in confusion with great loss. Longstreet pushed forward with his veterans to their relief, and was joined by Jackson and D. H. Hill. Ewell's division also came into action. The Confederate line, now in complete order, made a general advance. A very severe battle ensued.

Slocum's division was sent to Porter's aid by McClellan, making his entire force about 35,000. For hours the struggle along the whole line was fierce and persistent, and for a long time the issue was doubtful. At five o'clock Porter called for more aid, and McClellan sent him the brigades of Meagher and French, of Richardson's division. The Confederates were making desperate efforts to break the line of the Nationals, but for a long time it stood firm, though continually growing thinner. Finally a furious assault by Jackson and the divisions of Longstreet and Whiting was made upon Butterfield's brigade, which had long been fighting. It gave way and fell back, and with it several batteries. Then the whole line fell back. Porter called up all of his reserves and remaining artillery (about eighty guns), covered the retreat of his infantry, and checked the advance of the victors for a moment. Just then General Cooke, without orders, attacked the Confederate flank with his cavalry, which was repulsed and thrown into disorder. The horses, terrified by the tremendous roar of nearly 200 cannon and the rattle of thousands of muskets, rushed back through the Union batteries, giving the impression that it was a charge of Confederate cavalry. The artillerists recoiled, and Porter's whole force was pressed back to the river. While flying in fearful disorder, French and Meagher appeared, and gathering up the vast multitude of strugglers, checked the flight. Behind these the scattered brigades were speedily formed, while National batteries poured a destructive storm of shot and shell upon the head of the Confederate column. Seeing fresh troops on their front, and ignorant of their number, the Confederates fell back and rested upon the field they had won at a fearful cost. In this battle the Nationals [6] lost about 8,000 men, of whom 6,000 were killed or wounded. The loss of the Confederates was about 5,000. General Reynolds was made prisoner. Porter lost twenty-two siege-guns. During the night he withdrew to the right side of the Chickahominy, destroying the bridges behind him.

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