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Chapter 16: the battle of Fair Oaks

By May 16, 1862, McClellan's force was reorganized so as to give to each of his corps commanders two divisions. We moved toward Richmond from our new depot at White House in this order: Porter with the Fifth Corps, Franklin with the Sixth, Sumner with the Second, Keyes with the Fourth, and Heintzelman with the Third. Our first move was to the Chickahominy, a stream flowing from right to left across our line of advance. At first, Heintzelman and Keyes bivouacked near Bottom's Bridge; Sumner's corps, to which I belonged, a few miles up stream; Franklin not far from New Bridge, and Porter near Mechanicsville. Meanwhile the main body of our cavalry, well out, guarded our right and rear with a view to clear the way to McDowell's force, then in front of Fredericksburg, and protect our large depot at the White House and the railroad line from that point to the army..

Porter, with a slight reinforcement to his corps, moved out from our right and fought the successful small battle of Hanover Court House, May 27th, and returned to Mechanicsville. McClellan had placed his own headquarters not far from Franklin, at Gaines Mills. A small detachment of cavalry had reconnoitered through the White Oak Swamp and up the south bank of the Chickahominy to Seven Pines and the Fair [228] Oaks Station, five or six miles from Richmond, and had reported the ground clear of any considerable hostile force. On May 23d, four days prior to Porter's movement, Keyes, and later, the 25th, Heintzelman, had passed over Bottom's Bridge.

McClellan did not like to have his principal supplies dependent on the York River and the railway from the White House landing, and, further, he already meditated working over to the James River to thus secure by the help of the navy a safer base and, as he thought, a better approach to Richmond. He had now over 120,000 men, but his estimate of his enemy on data obtained by his information bureau exceeded that number, so very naturally he wanted on the spot McDowell's entire corps which had been promised. With McDowell present he could move his army so as to draw his supplies from the James at once. Without him and with instructions to cooperate with him, far off on his right, he could not do so. McClellan therefore sent only two corps over the Chickahominy instead of moving there with his whole force. This was called a river, but ordinarily it was no more than a creek with low banks, between which water and swamp varied in width from two to three hundred feet. McClellan and his officers deprecated this division of his army even by so small a river, but it appeared a necessity and they sought to make amends for it by building bridges. Sumner's corps built two, one of which was constructed of large logs by the Fifth New Hampshire of my brigade. General Sumner, seeing the water rising from the rains and hoping to hasten the work, gave the men a barrel of whisky-at the same time answering my objection to its use by saying: “Yes, general, you are right, but it is like pitch on fire [229] which gets speed out of an engine though it burns out the boiler.” The two structures were named Sumner's upper and Sumner's lower bridge. Our engineers farther up, when the south bank had been seized by us, repaired the old bridges and threw across others till the Chickahomi'ny appeared but a slight obstruction.

On May 25th Casey's division of Keyes's corps moved forward to Seven Pines, a “crossroads” on the main pike from Williamsburg to Richmond, where the “nine-mile road” comes from New Bridge into that highway. Keyes, being ordered to hold Fair Oaks Railway station in advance of that position, moved again the 29th, placing Naglee's brigade in advance and bringing up Casey's other two brigades, Wessells's and Palmer's, in support, with pickets out in front of all.

Here Casey's division, really too far forward for safety, fortified as well as it could with the time and implements at hand.

Keyes at first intrenched his other division, Couch's, near Savage Station, but a little later brought it up to the vicinity of Seven Pines and there camped it as a second line to Casey facing toward Richmond. Field works were being constructed to cover every approach, particularly thenine-mile road, which, coming from the New Bridge, was joined by a road from Richmond at the Old Tavern. Couch's division, as a reserved line, was arranged to hold the Seven Pines crossroads. His brigades were Peck's, Abercrombie's, and Devens's. The entire corps of Keyes on the ground did not exceed 12,000 men, who stretched forward for more than two miles and, though partially intrenched, were not within very easy support of each other in case of attack by a larger force. [230] On May 29th and 30th Confederate reconnoissances were made against Keyes's corps in order to ascertain the position and strength of our troops in that vicinity.

Heintzelman,when he had crossed the river with his corps, had moved Hooker's division to the neighborhood of White Oak Swamp Bridge, three miles due south of Bottom's Bridge, and Kearny's division forward on the Richmond road about half as far, stopping it a little short of Savage Railway Station. Heintzelman in his own corps had for duty at the first symptoms of battle about 20,000 men. He was the ranking officer and in command of all the troops south of the Chickahominy. The Eighth Pennsylvania and part of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry were present to watch the flanks of Couch and Casey, but not able to do much in such a thickly wooded region. Casey evidently felt the weakness of his force, for when the Confederate reconnoissance occurred on the 30th he sent at once to Keyes for help. Peck's brigade was placed on his left during that alarm.

Now came during that night a most terrific storm; the rain fell in torrents and it was accompanied by high winds. It was difficult to keep our tents standing and in that peculiarly soft soil the mud deepened and the discomforts were beyond description, so that the soldiers in every camp had little rest while the storm continued. The arms and ammunition were not improved by the pouring rain, though in these respects one side suffered no more than the other. But for some reason those who stand on the defensive are more subject to discouragement and apprehension than those who are in movement.

General Johnston, the Confederate commander, had a few days before planned a combined attack [231] against our troops north of the Chickahominy, similar to that which the Confederates made a month later, but military reasons caused him to change his purpose.

After his reconnoissance of the 30th he was ready to strike on the south bank. The Chickahominy, during the fearful succession of storm bursts, had risen and spread rapidly over all the low ground till the stream had become a broad river.

What could be more favorable to his plan? True, the Confederate artillery might be hindered by the water and soft soil, but seemingly Keyes's corps of the Union army was now isolated and Johnston had in hand five strong divisions. McClellan could reenforce but slowly from the north of the river, for already some of the bridges had been carried away and the others would not long be safe to cross.

The Confederate order of attack was: Hill to concentrate on the Williamsburg road and suddenly, vigorously assail with his division Keyes in front; Hill to be supported by Longstreet, who was to have the direction of all operations from the Williamsburg road to the Confederate right, and whose own division was to follow Hill; Huger's division, starting early, was to move rapidly by the Charles City road, which was southward nearer the James River, and come up in rear of Keyes's position. G. W. Smith with his own and McLane's divisions was intrusted with a double duty to serve as a general reserve and be ready to reenforce Longstreet down thenine-mile road, and also to watch the New Bridge and all other approaches of our corps from the Chickahominy.

Longstreet, despairing of Huger's cooperation, about 12.30 P. M. ordered D. H. Hill to commence the [232] assault. Hill's strong division sprang forward in the road and on both sides of it with lines far overlapping Casey's front. They crowded forward with slight skirmishing, and at first with but few pieces of artillery and with as little noise as possible, hoping for a surprise.

The capture that morning of Lieutenant Washington, one of Johnston's aids, in front of the Union line, and his conduct after capture had satisfied Casey that an attack from some direction was about to be made. After that, General Casey increased his diligence, striving to finish his redoubts and intrenchments and extend his abatis. Large numbers of men were working with spades and axes when not long after noon two hostile shells cut the air and burst in their neighborhood. Thus Casey was warned and in a few minutes his line of skirmishers, with a fresh regiment in immediate support, became engaged.

The assault was so abrupt and overwhelming that but little resistance was made by those in advance of the main line. The pickets and regiment just sent forward, leaving the dead and badly wounded, were quickly swept away by their advancing enemy. They assailed the center and both wings and had sufficient numbers to whip around the flanks.

When Casey found his unfinished trenches too weak and his fighting force too small to hold back Hill's brigades, his artillery and his musketry making but faint impression, he ordered a bayonet charge by four regiments. General Naglee led the charge and succeeded in pressing all the Confederates in sight in the direct front back across the open space to the edge of the woods. That was, however, but a momentary respite; for from those woods Naglee's men received a [233] fire that they could not stand and quickly ran back to their intrenched lines.

Many of Casey's troops being new levies, after they had once had their ranks broken, scattered off to the rear, falling back even beyond Couch's position. Still, most of them preserved a show of order and were subsequently brought up by their officers as far as Seven Pines to renew the struggle.

Hill, while he attacked with three brigades in front, sent Rains with his brigade to work around Casey's left. He went under cover of the marshy forest, turned, and came up behind Casey's intrenchments. He thus had a large brigade enfilading our lines and pelting the backs of our soldiers. After losing heavily and inflicting a great loss upon his assailants Casey ordered the abandonment of that front. Our new regiments, which had fought hard till now, broke up badly in the retreat. A regiment from Peck's brigade, sent forward from the left of Couch, delayed Rains sufficiently to enable Casey's men to retire without destruction. Casey passed Couch and gathered up all the remnants he could behind him at Seven Pines.

The line of rifle pits in front of Seven Pines could not long be held by Couch's division-because Couch had first to reinforce Casey and then by the orders of his corps commander he was obliged to extend too much, even as far as he could reach along the ninemile road. That line of three brigades, Abercrombie's, Devens's, and Peck's, crossed the railroad near Fair Oaks Station. The contest at Couch's new position was at times as fierce as at Casey's, and the line with little or no cover for the defenders was kept till after four o'clock.

As soon as the assailants recovered their breath [234] and were reasonably reorganized by their leaders, they made another vigorous push to complete the destruction of Keyes's corps.

While all this fury of battle was in progress-and over two hours of it had passed-by some extraordinary circumstance Heintzelman, whom McClellan looked to as the veritable commander of all the forces on the Richmond side of the Chickahominy and whose headquarters were near Savage Station, received no word of the hostile attack, until too late to help Casey. At last he was on his way battleward, storming at criminal stragglers and hurrying forward Kearny's division.

With such a battlefield won, with much food, and eight captured cannon and hundreds of prisoners in hand, no wonder there was confidence and enthusiasm in Longstreet's ranks. General Johnston and G. W. Smith at their junction of roads on the Confederate left, had failed to hear the musketry till after 4 P. M., and were at last informed by a returning messenger. Then they moved straight on toward the battlefield. It was a time for a great success which might bring Confederate independence.

Phil Kearny, following his instructions literally, sent Birney's small brigade to the railway, which took post far back of the staggering line of battle.

After Birney had gone Kearny heard of Casey's retreat and Couch's danger, and received Heintzelman's order for the other brigade with him. Passing through throngs of fugitives he joined Berry at the head of the brigade on the Richmond road and urged the utmost haste. He also sent to Bottom's Bridge for Jameson's brigade left there as a guard.

He now came up to Seven Pines with his head of [235] column in an incredibly short time. The impulsive Kearny found Keyes and Casey together. Couch was with Abercrombie over the railway toward the Chickahominy. Kearny quickly took in the situation; the zigzag rifle trench sheltering crowded men, and the open space in front, from beyond which the Confederate riflemen were firing from both the felled and standing timber. Kearny eagerly asked: “Where is your greatest need” Casey, cheered by the newcomers, said: “Kearny, if you will regain our late camp the day will still be ours.” Kearny just then had only the Third Michigan up. The men moved forward with alacrity; they ran over the open space into the timber and began a contest as determined as that of their foes, “heedless,” said their general, “of the shell and ball that rained upon them.” But even when Berry's three other regiments had joined the fiercely fighting line Kearny found that after all his promptness he could effect but little. He gained some ground, then lost it, backing off in fairly good order toward the White Oak Swamp and Hooker, stoutly disputing the ground as he retired.

About the time of Kearny's arrival, Hill's and Longstreet's divisions of Confederates with some reenforcements from their reserves, having four brigade fronts abreast, stretching from the swamps of White Oak to and beyond Abercrombie at the railroad, more than a mile of breadth, came surging on with cheering and musketry, the charge made the more formidable by the rapid use of our captured cannon turned against our irregular masses herded together at Seven Pines.

It did not take many minutes to break our very attenuated opposing lines. Couch saw the blackness of [236] the storm as it filled the air with fury and speed. Upon the break in what remained of his division he swung off a few regiments of his right, including Abercrombie's brigade, till they were well north of the railroad and parallel to it, and then retired slowly toward Sumner's upper bridge. In the edge of the wood he made a firm stand to check any hostile advance in that direction. As a thundercloud approaches, but stops at a river and passes harmlessly away, giving but a gentle sprinkling, so did this cloud of insurgents approach Couch and his men, touch the woods, and pass on along the railway beyond him. But this portion of Couch's division was thus hopelessly cut off from the rest of its corps.

Meanwhile, Kearny, finding a safe road via the saw mill back of his line, hastened his men to the rear in that way till he reached the defenses at Savage Station which had been constructed originally by General Couch. To this strong place were gathered all the regiments of Keyes except Couch's detachment, and all of Heintzelman's corps including Hooker, now arrived from White Oak Swamp.

Longstreet's forces, exhausted by six hours fighting, could get no farther. But he knew that for him heavy reinforcements were at hand. Five fresh brigades were partly behind him and partly on his left, extending beyond the Fair Oaks railway station.

As the fresh Confederate troops were coming on cheering and confident there came from their left front, toward the Chickahominy, a sudden check. Some guns of a Union battery opened a cross fire. It was not safe to ignore them and their support. Smith ordered them to be taken at once. Two Confederate brigades attempted that. Then others already somewhat [237] ahead turned back and joined in the attack. Smith became impatient. He went to the railroad to discover what was the matter. The firing grew worse. No such stubborn resistance should come from that quarter. While Smith, and later, Johnston, are examining this flank interruption, I will explain its cause.

Sumner's corps, we know, lay along the Chickahominy, opposite the battlefield. An order from McClellan restraining him from moving without permission was received by Sumner that morning. We heard the first fitful sound from Casey's guns, and before one o'clock we knew that a hard battle was going on. Sumner at once asked, by telegraph, permission to cross the river. He walked up and down like a caged lion. McClellan first telegraphed him to be ready. He was ready. But to save delay he sent Sedgwick's division with three batteries to his upper bridge and our division to the lower. The order to cross came at last at 2.30 P. M. As Sumner with Sedgwick approached, a part of the upper bridge rose with the water, starting to float off with the current. It was difficult to keep the green logs in place by ropes and withes; great cracks appeared. The engineer officer met Sumner and remonstrated: “General Sumner, you cannot cross this bridge!”

“Can't cross this bridge I I can, sir; I will, sir l”

“Don't you see the approaches are breaking up and the logs displaced It is impossible!”

“Impossible Sir, I tell you I can cross. I am ordered.”

The orders had come and that ended the matter with Sumner.

When men and horses were once on the bridge they pressed down the logs and accomplished the task more [238] easily than the engineer had believed possible. Beyond the bridge the water was sometimes up to the thighs of Sedgwick's men. Our lower bridge was worse. As soon as French's brigade had crossed, the bridge began to break so much that Richardson turned my brigade, followed by Meagher's, to the upper one. The water was now deeper on the flats and the mud was well stirred up from the bottom.

Kirby's battery of six light twelve-pounder smoothbore brass guns, following Sedgwick's leading brigade, had found the road a veritable quagmire. By unlimbering at times and using the prolonges, the cannoneers being up to their waists in water, at 4.45 P. M. three pieces with one caisson were landed on harder ground and put in place for action. A little later came two or more, and the sixth gun was at last dragged out by an abundance of men. Our other batteries were too late for the action.

Couch had sent to Sumner for help, and of his emotion, as he saw our troops approaching, he has made this record: “I felt that God was with us and victory ours!”

We found this command, four regiments and a battery, astride a country road leading from Fair Oaks Station via Mr. Courtney's and Dr. Kent's houses to the meadow near our bridges, and holding on persistently against the fire of flankers of Smith's Confederate column. Of Sedgwick's leading brigade under General Gorman, Sully's regiment, the First Minnesota, went to the right to secure that flank and the other three to the left of Couch's line. Kirby's guns, as fast as they arrived, and two guns under Lieutenant Fagan, of a Pennsylvania battery on the ground, went into action at once, facing toward Fair Oaks, [239] i. e., in front of the left of Couch's line with their own right at the corner of a grove; behind this grove Couch's infantry line extended. Sedgwick's second brigade, W. W. Burns in command, was formed in reserve and the two regiments present of the third brigade, General Dana commanding, extended the front farther to the left from the flank of Gorman.

Soon the firing was tremendous. This was the interruption — the check to the advance of the Confederate left — which came to them so suddenly. Then there was a brief pause, when General Whiting with his own, Pettigrew's, and Hampton's brigades faced to the left and attacked our troops in line of battle from the ninemile road. They advanced straight toward Sumner, firing as they came and shouting.

Our infantry returned the fire in volleys, while the artillery discharges were continued with extraordinary rapidity and accuracy. This fearful fire stopped that first Confederate advance.

Failing in the attempt directly upon the battery, the Confederates tried to reach it through the woods on its right. But limbers brought up ammunition from the caissons buried in the mud of the swamp and returned for more. Each discharge buried the guns, trails and all, to the axles in the soft soil. Yet, by the help of infantry men standing in rear, the pieces on the left of battery were carried forward and the front changed to the right to meet the Confederates' flank move as they emerged from the woods, and bring upon their front a tremendous fire of canister.

At the same time the infantry on the left of the battery, under Sumner's personal direction, was advanced, and charged the right of the Confederates as they came on. Two guns only could be soon enough [240] extricated from the mud to follow up the enemy's retreat.

At the same time a fourth Confederate brigade, Hatton's, was put in, and in the woods advanced to within a few yards of the Union line, but made no impression.

Thus, all Smith's wing of the Confederate army that night within reach as reinforcements for Longstreet, except Hood's brigade, was diverted, and in this engagement of an hour and a half lost 1,283 men, including the brigade commanders, Hampton and Pettigrew, seriously wounded; the latter was left unconscious on the field and captured, and General Hatton killed.

About sunset General Johnston himself was struck from his horse, severely wounded by a fragment of a shell, and carried from the field. The command of the entire Confederate army then devolved on General G. W. Smith; the defeat of his troops by Sumner did not soften the responsibility of the morrow.

Our change from the lower to the upper bridge and the difficulties of the march brought my brigade to the battlefield nearly two hours after Sumner's and Sedgwick's timely arrival.

As we approached the front a thick mist was setting in and a dark, cloudy sky was over our heads, so that it was not easy at twenty yards to distinguish a man from a horse. The heavy firing was over. As soon as Sedgwick's advance had pushed the enemy back beyond Fair Oaks Station, Lieutenant Nelson A. Miles, whom I had sent on ahead, returned from the battle, meeting me near the edge of a swampy opening over which the Confederates had charged and been swept back by the countercharge. [241] Miles, guiding us, remarked: “General, you had better dismount and lead your horses, for the dead and wounded are here.”

A peculiar feeling crept over me as I put my feet on the soft ground and followed the young officer. Some stretchers were in motion. A few friends were searching for faces they hoped not to find. There were cries of delirium, calls of the helpless, the silence of the slain, and the hum of distant voices in the advancing brigade, with an intermittent rattle of musketry, the neighing of horses, and the shriller prolonged calls of the team's mules, and soon the moving of lanterns guiding the bearers of the wounded to the busy surgeons: all these things made a weird impression and a desire to be freed from following in the wake of the ravages of war.

I remember that the call of one poor fellow was insistent. He repeatedly cried: “Oh, sir kind sir! Come to me!” I walked over to where he lay and asked: “What regiment do you belong tot”

He answered: “The Fifth Mississippi.”

I then said: “What do you want”

He replied: “Oh, I am cold!”

I knew it was from the approach of death, but noticing that he had a blanket over him I said: “You have a good warm blanket over you.” He looked toward it and said gently: “Yes, some kind gentleman from Massachusetts spread his blanket over me, but, sir, I'm still cold.”

A Massachusetts soldier had given his only blanket to a wounded man — a wounded enemy.

We silently passed on to our allotted lines. I pondered over my instructions, prepared orders for others, and then, with mingled hope and apprehension [242] and conscious trust in God, lay down to dream of home. Only one of my regiments (the Fifth New Hampshire) was called to the front that evening. The Confederate and Union men were so mixed up by the conflict at dark that they often during the night unwittingly walked into the wrong camp. It had been a costly day to us, but the left wing of our army was not destroyed, and the Confederate casualties were as many as ours. We waited for the morrow to renew the strife, believing that we had come to a decisive battie, maybe the last great struggle of the war.

The sudden check by Sumner and the desperate wounds of Johnston had produced an astounding effect upon the Confederates. At 4 P. M. they were confident, jubilant; at dark they had lost their head and confusion reigned.

General Smith, regarding the morrow, directed General Longstreet to push his successes of the previous day as far as practicable, pivoting his movement upon the position of General Whiting on his left. Whiting was to make a diversion, and in extreme case to hold at all hazards the junction of the New Bridge and nine-mile road.

That point was so far back that Smith's orders practically meant that Longstreet alone was to finish the battle. Longstreet, though reinforced, had a hard task, especially under his pivotal orders. He did not and could not do else but hold on a while and finally withdraw.

On the morning of June 1st matters had shaped themselves fairly well for us. From right to left in a bend, concave toward Smith and Longstreet, were the divisions of Sedgwick, Richardson, Kearny, and Hooker. Sumner's troops were at the extreme right, [243] parallel to thenine-mile road. The Union line then ran along the railway, and finally crossing the railway and turnpike it continued on by the strong works near Savage Station to White Oak Swamp.

Of our division, on Sedgwick's left, French's brigade of four regiments was the front line, my Fifth New Hampshire still covering the whole front as a picket guard. The remainder of my brigade (the Sixty-fourth New York, Colonel Parker; Sixty-first New York, Colonel Barlow; and the Eighty-first Pennsylvania, Colonel Miller) formed a second line a few hundred yards back.

General Meagher's brigade of three regiments made a third line, and Hazzard's, Frank's, and Petit's batteries, belonging to the division, were located on convenient knolls near the front. Thus at dawn we stood ready for work.

As soon as it was light the Fifth New Hampshire, under Colonel Cross, advanced slowly till it had seized the woods beyond the railroad near Fair Oaks Station. Hazzard quickly found a favorable place for the batteries, whence by a cross fire he commanded all the open spaces, over which the enemy would have to approach us. The guns and battery men were shielded by epaulements hurriedly thrown up.

The first noisy collision of this Sunday morning was about five o'clock; it became a smart reveille to all; first, a brisk skirmish, a few bullets whizzing through the tree tops. Colonel Cross had every man ready. The artillery officers with good field glasses were watching. There was always a strange thrill of interest at such a time. The movement was, however, only a Confederate reconnoissance. The reconnoiterers were hunting for the Fair Oaks Railroad Station, [244] which, unknown to them, had changed occupants. For a brief period their cavalry and infantry showed in the openings along our front, but everywhere found themselves met by Cross's skirmishers, whose steady firing, supported by the rapid cross fire of our batteries, drove them beyond range.

This event increased our caution. Too long an interval between French and Birney, of Kearny's division, was reported-only pickets connecting. French then gained ground to the left, thinning his ranks and taking greater distance from Sedgwick. Still he could not reach far enough, so by Richardson's order I sent Colonel Miller with the Eighty-first Pennsylvania. Miller promptly deployed his men and moved forward till abreast of Colonel Brooke, who commanded French's left regiment. The reason for not connecting with Birney's brigade, now under command of Colonel Ward, was that it was much farther back from the enemy than French expected to find it, and the underbrush was too thick to see very far.

Sumner was now the senior officer south of the Chickahominy, but in command of his own corps only, and Heintzelman commanded his part of the line. The commander of the whole battle was McClellan at his headquarters several miles away. The day's work resulted in spasmodic activities at several points of our front, and no general aggressive movement even after the Confederate partial attacks had been repulsed.

The Fifth New Hampshire was relieved from the skirmish line and placed in reserve. There were but a few minutes to wait. Upon French's left front there came a Confederate attack with two deployed brigade fronts, Armstead's and Pickett's. They moved at a quick walk and, owing to prevalence of the woodland, [245] drew wonderfully near before they were discovered. Along the whole of our front line they opened a heavy rolling fire of musketry within fifty yards. French's men instantly returned the fire, and the contest for over an hour was as severe as any in the war.

At this time Miller, of my brigade, who, as we have seen, was to the left of French, saw through the trees the coming troops. He gave the word “Ready!” when some officer near him said: “No, no, colonel, they are our men” Probably thinking them detached from Ward, Miller in his strong voice commanded: “Recover arms!” and called out: “Who are youth” They cried: “Virginians!” and instantly fired a volley which killed Colonel Miller and so many of his men that the regiment lost its continuity. A captain, Robert M. Lee, Jr., sprang upon a stump near at hand and rallied six companies. At once I sent Lieutenant N. A. Miles to look up the other four. He soon found them and brought them together at the railroad where there was an open space, and then led them again into action.

It was at this period of the conflict that Richardson sent to me to fill the interval made worse by the loss of Miller. I brought the two regiments into line at the railroad — the Sixty-first on the right and the Sixtyfourth to its left.

Just as we were ready to advance, the enemy's fire began to meet us, cutting through the trees. My brown horse was wounded through the shoulder, and I had to dismount and wait for another. Turning toward the men, I saw that some had been hit and others were leaving their ranks. This was their first experience under fire. I cried out with all my might: “Lie down” Every man dropped to the ground; then my [246] staff and the field officers aided me in sheltering the men by forming line behind the railroad embankment, but we could not fire yet without the danger of pouring shot into French's line.

In five minutes I had mounted my large gray horse, my brother riding my third and only other one, a beautiful “zebra.” In order to encourage the men in a forward movement I placed myself, mounted, in front of the Sixty-fourth New York, and my aid, Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, in front of the Sixty-first. Every officer was directed to repeat each command. I ordered: “Forward!” and then “March!” I could hear the echo of these words and, as I started, the Sixty-fourth followed me with a glad shout up the slope and through the woods; the Sixty-first followed my brother at the same time. We moved forward finely, taking many prisoners as we went and gaining ground leftward, until we came abreast of French's division.

Before reaching French's line I was wounded through the right forearm by a small Mississippi rifle ball. Lieutenant Howard just then ran to me on foot and said that the zebra horse was killed. He took a handkerchief, bound up my arm, and then ran back to the Sixty-first.

As the impulse was favorable to a charge I decided to go on farther, and, asking Brooke's regiment on French's left to lie down, called again: “Forwardl” And on we went, pushing back the enemy and breaking through his nearest line. We pressed our way over uneven ground to the neighborhood of the crossroads at Seven Pines, where our men the day before had left their tents standing. Behind those tents was found a stronger force of Confederates, kneeling and firing. [247] We approached within thirty or forty yards and, halting on as favorable ground as possible, promptly and efficiently returned their fire.

When at last we halted near the standing tents and I had passed to the rear of the line which was rapidly firing, my gray had his left foreleg broken and, though I was not then aware of it, I had been wounded again, my right elbow having been shattered by a rifle shot. Lieutenant Howard was missing.

Lieutenant William McIntyre, of the Sixty-fourth, seeing the condition of my horse, seized me, and put me in a sheltered place on the ground. I heard him say: “General, you shall not be killed.” McIntyre himself was slain near that spot, giving his life for mine. The bullets were just then raining upon our men, who without flinching were firing back. As a faintness warned me, I called to Colonel Barlow, who was not far away, to take command. He answered me in a clear, cool voice: “Shall I take command of the whole brigade, sir?” I replied: “No, only of this portion.” It would have broken Cross's heart to have forgotten even at such a time his seniority, and the colonel of the Sixty-fourth was also Barlow's senior, but he had failed in the necessary physical strength that day.

Barlow took command and stood his ground until Brooke, to whom I spoke on my way to the rear, brought up his line. After a little further conflict in that vicinity the Confederates gave way and along our division front the victory was complete.

Meanwhile, to the eastward the enemy passing through the thickets beyond my left flank crossed the railroad, encountering only such slight opposition as the remnants of the Eighty-first Pennsylvania under [248] Lee and Miles could administer, caught sight of the right of Ward's brigade and opened upon them a brisk fusillade. Ward threw back the right of my old regiment, the Third Maine, and moved his other regiments so as to come forward in echelon. He began by firing volleys, then inclining more to the right charged furiously. This was done at the same time Lieutenant Howard and I were leading our two regiments into the melee. Ward's vigorous onset cleared that important quarter of the pressing enemy.

To the left of Ward came Hooker, his front making a right angle with the railroad. lie was ready for his part. His advance on account of thickets and swamps was slow but positive.

Thus our division and portions of two others were brought into the Sunday battle. Finally, from the right of Richardson to the left of Hooker had been made a general advance, and the whole obscure and dreadful field of both days compassed by our men. Why was not that Confederate retreat followed up and the fruits of victory secured? After weighing with care the many reasons which our commanding general has left recorded for not at this time pushing forward his whole strength, I still think that his headquarters were too far away, and that just then and there he lost a great opportunity.

General French's medical director, Surgeon Gabriel Grant, close up to the troops, was operating under fire1 beside a large stump. IIe there bound up my arm. I found my brother shot through the thigh, just able to limp along by using his empty scabbard for a cane. He had a fox-skin robe, which had been on his saddle, thrown across his free arm. [249]

“Why weary yourself, Charlie, with that robe” I asked.

“ To cover me up if I should have to stop,” he smilingly answered.

Dr. Grant dressed his leg and provided him with a stretcher. I preferred to walk. En route I encountered a soldier among the wounded with his fingers broken and bleeding. He cried out with rain. Seeing me he drew near with sympathy. “You are worse off than I,” he said, and putting his arm around me he let me share his strength. We wounded wanderers at last found Courtney's house, a half mile or more north of the Fair Oaks Station.

Dr. Hammond, my personal friend, met me near the house, saw the blood, touched my arm, and said with feeling: “General, your arm is broken.” The last ball had passed through the elbow joint and crushed the bones into small fragments. He led me to a negro hut, large enough only for a double bed. Here I lay down, alarming an aged negro couple who feared at first that some of us might discover and seize hidden treasure which was in that bed.

My brigade surgeon, Dr. Palmer, and several others soon stood by my bedside in consultation. At last Dr. Palmer, with serious face, kindly told me that my arm had better come off. “All right, go ahead,” I said. “Happy to lose only my arm.”

“Not before 5 P. M., general.” “Why not?” “Reaction must set in.”

So I had to wait six hours. I had received the secone wound about half-past 10. I had reached the Courtney house about eleven, and in some weakness and discomfort occupied the negro cabin till the hour [250] appointed. At that time Dr. Palmer came with four stout soldiers and a significant stretcher. They placed me thereon, and the doctor put around the arm close to the shoulder the tourniquet, screwing it tighter and tighter above the wound. They then bore me to the amputating room, a place a little grewsome withal from arms, legs, and hands not yet all carried off, and poor fellows with anxious eyes waiting their turn.

On the long table I was nicely bolstered; Dr. Grant, who had come from the front, relieved the too-tight tourniquet. A mixture of chloroform and gas was administered and I slept quietly. Dr. Palmer amputated the arm above the elbow. When I awoke I was surprised to find the heavy burden was gone, but was content and thankful.

1 For this, Dr. G. Grant received the Congress Medal of Honor.

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