Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][subsumed]

CALLINT CHARGE OF CIV CL-EYS DIVISION TO SAVE THE GING

THE NEW YORK ULIC LIBRARY

ASTOR, LENOX AND TILDEN FOUNDATIONS BATTLE AT FAIR OAKS.

483

that point, and the 31st Pennsylvania, placed infantry in all the rifle pits on the Colonel Williams, on duty there when right and left, pushing some up also to the action commenced. The losses in the abattis, and collecting a large numthe 62d. were not so great as in some of ber of stragglers, posted them in the the other regiments. Its conduct was woods on the left. Scarcely had these good, and its colonel, Lafayette Riker, dispositions been completed, when the whose signal bravery was remarked, met enemy, directly in front, driven by the a glorious death while attacking the en- attack of a portion of Kearney's division emy at the head of his regiment. The on their right, and by our fire upon their 1st United States Chasseurs, Colonel front, moved off to join the masses which Cochrane, fought bravely. By that regi- were pressing upon my right. To make ment an enemy's standard-bearer was head against the enemy approaching in shot down, and the battle flags of the that direction, it was found necessary to 230 North Carollna regiment captured. effect an almost perpendicular change of For further particulars of the conduct of front of troops on the right of the Wilthe 620 New York, and the 1st United liamsburg road. By the energetic assistStates Chasseurs, as well as for the ac- ance of Generals Devens and Naglee, count of those two excellent regiments, Colonel Adams, 1st Long Island, and the 7th Massachusetts and 31st Pennsyl- Captains Walsh and Quackenbush, of the vania, Colonels Russell and Williams, I 36th New York (whose efforts I particrefer to the reports of Generals Couch ularly noticed), I was enabled to form a and Abercrombie. Those regiments, as line along the edge of the woods, which well as Brady's battery, 1st Pennsylva- stretched nearly down to the swamp, nia artillery (which is highly praised), about eight hundred yards from the fork, were hid from my personal observation and along the rear to the Nine Mile road. during most of the action. They acted I threw back the right crochet-wise, and, in concert with the second corps, by the on its left, Captain Miller, 1st Pennsylopportune arrival of which, at Fair Oaks, vania artillery, Couch's division, trained in the afternoon, under the brave Gen- his guns so as to contest the advance of eral E. V. Sumner, the Confederates the enemy. I directed General Naglee to were brought to a sudden stand in that ride along the line to encourage the men quarter. They were also present in the and keep them at work. This line long action of the following day, near Fair resisted the further progress of the enOaks, where, under the same commander, emy with the greatest firmness and galthe victory, which had been hardly con- lantry, but by pressing it very closely tested the day before, was fully com- with overwhelming numbers-probably pleted by our troops.

ten to one—they were enabled finally to At the time when the enemy was force it to fall back so far upon the left concentrating troops from the right, left, and centre as to form a new line in rear. and front upon the redoubt and other Shortly after this attack, I saw General works in front of Casey's headquarters, Devens leave the field wounded ; there and near the Williamsburg road, the was then no general officer left in sight danger became imminent that he would belonging to Casey's division. overcome the resistance there, and ad- “Seeing the torrent of enemies continvance down the road and through the ually advancing, I bastened across to abattis. In anticipation of such an event, the left, beyond the fork, to bring forward I called Flood's and McCarthy's batteries reinforcements. Brigadier-General Peck, of Couch's division, to form in and on at the head of the 102d and 83d Pennthe right and left of the junction of the sylvania regiments, Colonels Rowley and Williamsburgh and Nine Mile roads ; McCarter, was ordered, with the concur

[ocr errors]

9

[ocr errors][merged small]

P. M.

rence of General Heintzelman, to ad- that portion of the line a hundred and vance across the open space and attack fisty yards to my left was crumbling the enemy, now coming forward in away--some falling and others retiring. great numbers. These regiments passed I perceived also that the artillery had through a shower of balls, and formed in withdrawn, and that large bodies of a line having an oblique direction to the broken troops were leaving the centre Nine Mile road. They held their ground and moving down the Williamsburg road for more than half an hour, doing great to the rear. Assisted by Captain Suyexecution. Peck’s and McCarter's horses dam, my assistant adjutant-general, Capwere shot under them. After contend- tain Villarceau, and Lieutenants Jackson ing against enormous odds, those two and Smith of my staff, I tried in vain to regiments were forced to give way; Peck check the retreating current. Passiug and the 102d crossing the Williamsburg through to an opening of our intrenched road to the wood, and McCarter and the camp of the 28th ult., I found General bulk of the 93d passing to the right, Heintzelman and other officers engaged where they took post in the last line of in rallying the men, and in a very short battle, formed mostly after six o'clock, time a large number were induced to

During the time last noticed, Mil- face about. These were pushed forward, ler's battery having taken up a new po- and joined to others better organized, in sition, did first-rate service. As soon as the woods, and a line was formed, stretchPeck had moved forward I hastened to ing across the road in a perpendicular the 10th Massachusetts, Colonel Briggs, direction. General Heintzelman request(which regiment I had myself once before ed me to advance the line on the left of moved), now in the rifle pits on the left the road, which I did, until it came of the Williamsburg road, and ordered within sixty or seventy yards of the them to follow me across the field. Col- opening, in which the battle had been onel Briggs led them on in gallant style, confined for more than two hours against moving quickly over an open space of a vastly superior force. Some of the seven or eight hundred yards, under a 10th Massachusetts, now under the comscorching fire, and forming his men with mand of Captain Miller, the 93d Pennperfect regularity toward the last of the sylvania, Colonel McCarter, of Peck's line last above referred to. The position brigade, the 23d Pennsylvania, Colonel thus occupied was a most favorable one, Neill, of Abercrombie's brigade, a porbeing a wood, without much undergrowth, tion of the 36th New York, Colonel where the ground sloped somewhat ab- Innes, a portion of the 55th New York ruptly to the rear. Had the 10th Mas- and the 1st Long Island, Colonel Adams, sachusetts been two minutes later, they together with fragments of other regiwould have been too late to occupy that ments of Couch's division, still contended fine position, and it would have been im- on the right of this line, while a number possible to have formed the next and last of troops that I did not recognize occuline of battle of the 31st, which stemmed pied the space between me and them. the tide of defeat, and turned it toward “As the ground was miry and encumvictory; a victory which was then begun bered with fallen trees, I dismounted and by the 4th corps, and two brigades from mingled with the troops. The first I Kearney's division from the 3d corps, questioned belonged to Kearney's diviand consummated the next day by Sum- sion, Berry's brigade, Heintzelman's ner and others.

corps; the next to the 56th New York, After seeing the 10th Massachusetts now under command of its Lieutenantand the adjoining line well at work, un- Colonel ; and the third belonged to the der a murderous fire, I observed that 104th Pennsylvania, of Casey's division.

MOVEMENT OF GENERAL SUMNER.

485

I took out my glass to examine a steady two batteries. And, later in the day, compact line of troops, about sixty-five when the enemy were rushing in upon yards in advance, the extent of which our right, Miller threw his case and cantoward our right I could not discover. ister among them, doing frightful execuThe line in front was so quiet I thought tion.” they might possibly be our own troops.

When the attack commenced on The vapors from the swamp, the leaves, Casey's division, General McClellan, in and the fading light (for it was then after camp on the left bank of the Chickahomsix o'clock), rendered it uncertain who iny, was, as he tells us, confined to his they were. So I directed the men to bed by illness, and the first intimation get their aim, but to reserve their fire he received of the affair was the sound until I could go up to the left, and ex- of the musketry. Without waiting to amine; at the same time, that they must hear from Keyes or Heintzelman, he at hold that line, or the battle would be lost. once sent instructions to General Sumner They replied with a firm determination to hold his corps in readiness to move to to stand their ground. I had just time the scene of action. “I did not hear," to put up my glass and move ten paces he continues, anything for a long time towards the left of the line, where my from the field. I think the first I heard horse stood ; but while I was in the act was from General Heintzelman, who reof mounting, as fierce a fire of musketry ported that Casey's division had been was opened as any I had heard during completely broken, and was in full rethe day. The fire from our side was so treat. I ordered Sumner over, as soon deadly that the heavy masses of the en- as I learned that his services were needemy coming in on the right, which had ed, and the affair serious. General Sumbefore been held back for nearly two ner had, fortunately, on the receipt of hours, that being about the time con- the first order, actually stretched his sumed in passing over less than a thou- command out on the road, so the heads sand yards, by about a third part of of columns were at the bridges ready to Couch's division, were now arrested. cross when he received the order. The The last line, formed of portions of main part of his force crossed at the Couch's and Casey's divisions, and a por- bridge near Doctor Lent's farm, and tion of Kearney's division, checked the moved, by the shortest route, upon Fair advance of the enemy, and finally re- Oaks, near which point he came in conpulsed him. And this was the beginning tact with the enemy's left, and drove of the victory which, on the following them some little distance, thus relieving day, was so gloriously completed. Du- the pressure on the right of Heintzelman, ring the action, and particularly during who had moved up to support Keyes.'* the two hours immediately preceding the The movement of General Sumner was final and successful stand made by the not undertaken a moment too soon. In infantry, the three Pennsylvania bat- his spirited account of the affair before teries, under Major Robert M. West the same committee of Congress, he said, (Flood's, McCarthy's, and Millers), in that on receiving the order of General Couch's division, performed most effi- McClellan, "instead of merely preparing cient service. The conduct of Miller's to move, I at once advanced with my two battery was admirable. Having a cen- divisions (Sedgewick's and Richardson's), tral position in the fore part of the halting with the leading company of each action, it threw shells over the heads of division on the bridge. In that way I our own troops, which fell and burst with saved at least an hour of time. The river unusual precision among the enemy's

* Testimony before the War Committee. masses, as did also those of the other | 1863.

March 2,

« PreviousContinue »