Appendix to chapter II. of book I., volume II.
Battle of Fair Oaks.THIS volume was already printed when we received some manuscript notes on the battle of Fair Oaks, which General Joseph E. Johnston had the kindness to send us from his retirement in Georgia. Honored by this mark of confidence on the part of the former adversary of the army of the Potomac, we have with the greatest care compared these notes with the numerous official documents from which we have derived the matter of our narrative. We have found in them some details which we regret not having known in time, but nothing to lead us to modify the statements contained in that narrative. In fact, we feel bound to adhere to our own opinion in regard to certain points, not very numerous, however, concerning which we cannot accept General Johnston's assertions. It is therefore out of deference to him that we propose to state in few words the question of fact about which we do not agree. According to General Johnston, the attack of Longstreet or of the Confederate right against Seven Pines was almost immediately followed by that of G. W. Smith on the left, directed against Fair Oaks by the general-in-chief himself, and this attack fell at once upon Couch, who had remained inactive up to that time at Fair Oaks, and upon Sumner, who had already come up to Couch's assistance. If such had been the case, the only fault found with the Confederates, that of a want of unanimity in their attacks, would be without foundation. But we believe that the Southern general, in condensing the incidents of that day into so short a space, has committed two errors in regard to time which completely change the aspect of the battle. 1st. According to his statement, the attack of Longstreet against Casey only preceded that of Smith by one hour or one hour and a half; and the second attack having taken place at half-past 4 o'clock, the first must have been made at three or half-past 3. The most conclusive evidence goes to prove that it commenced before one o'clock. The following is the precise time fixed by the generals of army corps, divisions and brigades who commanded the Federals on this side, in their reports or depositions before the committee on the conduct of the war relative to this matter: Keyes, half-past 12; Casey, forty minutes after twelve; Naglee, about one o'clock.  2d. Couch's division was engaged before the attack of G. W. Smith, his advance having taken position in front of Seven Pines since two o'clock for the purpose of supporting Casey (Keyes' report). Two of his brigades, Peck's and Devens', had been brought into line since half-past 3 o'clock (Naglee's report). It was whilst the latter were engaged on the Nine Mile road that, about half-past 4 o'clock, Johnston, at the head of G. W. Smith's troops, swept down upon Abercrombie's brigade, the third of Couch's division, at Fair Oaks, which rendered it necessary for the Federals to make a change of front (Keyes' report). Shortly after, at five or a quarter-past five o'clock, this attack broke the line which had thus been formed. Couch, four regiments and one battery, was driven back (McClellan's report) north of the railway, where he was soon joined by Sumner (Sumner's deposition before the committee on the conduct of the war).1 At the same time the remainder of Keyes' corps lost possession of Seven Pines (Naglee's report). According to the deposition above quoted, Sumner only effected a junction with Couch after the latter had become separated from the greatest portion of his division, and the sworn statement of several eye-witnesses enables us to fix the hour of six o'clock as the time when Smith, the conqueror of the right wing of that division, met Sumner in the clearing of Allen's farm. These data, which we have only adopted after a careful examination, show, first, that the battle, which was begun by Longstreet before one o'clock, had continued for more than three hours before Johnston ordered Smith to take part in it; second, that the latter at halfpast four o'clock only found a portion of Couch's division at Fair Oaks, the remainder having been engaged for the last hour or two in contending with Longstreet, and that he did not meet Sumner's heads of column until an hour and a half after this attack. We may conclude, therefore, that if the offensive movement of Smith had not been delayed during those three hours, the positions of Fair Oaks and Seven Pines, which fell almost immediately after this movement, would have been captured at three instead of five o'clock, and that Sumner not having yet crossed the Chickahominy at that moment, Smith, instead of being obliged to give him battle, would have completed the defeat of Keyes' and Heintzelman's two corps. We shall not venture further with hypotheses, our object being simply to specify the points of fact concerning which we are at variance with the illustrious general who was wounded at Fair Oaks.
Reports of the Federal and Confederate armies, to explain the second half of volume II.
I. Battle of Perryville, book I., chapter I.
Ii. Battle of Corinth.
Battle of Murfreesborough.
Iv. Battle of Fredericksburg.
Note.—These tables are sometimes incomplete, for they have been prepared from information gathered here and there in the reports of different generals, there being no official records in relation to the subject, except for Lee's army at Fredericksburg.