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CALLS FOR RE-ENFORCEMENTS.

407

· May 28,

1862.

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hundred and fifty. At two o'clock the next morninge McClellan telegraphed to the Secretary of War that Porter had gained “ a truly glorious victory” with his “magnificent division "_“ not a defeat,

. -, but a complete rout”—and that he had “cut all but the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad." He expressed his belief that the Confederates were “concentrating every thing on Richmond,” and that Washington was in no danger; and he told the War Minister that it

“ the policy and duty of the Government” to send him “by water all the well-drilled troops available,” as “the real issue" was “in the battle about to be fought in front of Richmond.” He concluded by saying—“If any regiments of good troops remain unoccupied, it will be an irreparable fault committed.”

Having reason for believing that General Anderson, who was specially charged with confronting McDowell, was still at Ashland, McClellan ordered General Sykes's division of regulars to move on the 28th from New Bridge to Hanover Court-House, to be in a position to support General Porter; and, during that and the following day, expeditions went out in various directions to destroy railway and other bridges, for the purpose of obstructing the passage of re-enforcements and supplies to Johnston's army. The railway bridge over the South Anna was destroyed by a party under Major Williams, and the Richmond and Fredericksburg road was cut. A part of Emory's cavalry, under Captain Chambliss, drove the Confederates from Ashland, and destroyed a railway bridge and broke up the road and the telegraph in that vicinity. When these raids on the Confederate communications were accomplished, Porter withdrew to his camps with the main army, which was lying quietly on the Chickahominy, the extreme right being at Meadow Bridge. McClellan had again telegraphed to his superiors, telling of Porter's "complete victories,” speaking of the greater force than he expected before him, and of the risk he was running in moving at all, and declaring——“I will do all that quick movements can accomplish, but you must send me all the troops you can, and leave to me full latitude as to choice of commanders.”

Three days afterward there were "quick movements” in the Army of the Potomac. The skillful and vigilant Johnston had observed with special satisfaction the perilous situation of that army, cut in twain by the Chickahominy, and its commander's almost timid caution, and he resolved, on the 30th, to strike its portion lying on the Richmond side of the stream, and cut it off before it could be joined by troops on the other side. He ascertained that Casey's division of Keyes's corps held an advanced position on both sides of the Williamsburg road, half a mile

• Yay.

1 The patient President calmly rebuked the General for his forgetfulness of his own dnty in assuming to teach the Government its business, and said " I am very glad of General F. J. Porter's victory; still, if it was a total rout, I am puzzled to know why the Richmond and Fredericksburg railway was not seized again, as you say you have all the railroads but that. I am puzzled to see how, lacking that, you can have any excepting the scrap from Richinond to West Point. The scrap of the Virginia Central, from Richmond to Hanover Junction, without more, is simply nothing. That the whole of the enemy is concentrating on Richmond, I think cannot be certainly known to yon. Saxton at Harper's Ferry informs us that large forces, supposed to be Jackson's and Ewell's, forced his advance from Charlestown to-day. General King telegraphs us froin Fredericksburg, that contrabands give certain information that 15,000 left Hanover Junction Monday morning, to re-enforce Jackson. I am painfully impressed with the importance of the struggle before yon, and shall aid you all I ean, consist. ently with my view of due regard to all points. "-Lincoln's dispatch to McClellan, May 28, 1962.

2 McClellan's dispatch to the Secretary of War, May 23, 1862.

408

PREPARATIONS TO ATTACK THE NATIONALS.

SILAS CABEY.

beyond a point known as the Seven Pines,' six miles from Richmond ;' that Couch’s division of the same corps was at the Seven Pines, his

right resting at Fair Oaks Station, on the Richmond and York River railway; that Kearney's division of Heintzelman's corps was on the same railway, three-fourths of a mile in advance of Savage's Station; and that the division of Hooker of the latter corps was guarding the approaches of the White Oak Swamp, that lay between these divisions and the Chickahominy.

The country thereabout is quite level, and was then mostly wooded and dotted with marshes. In that region the roads radiate from Richmond, and gave Johnston advantages

of position for attack or retreat. In a degree they suggested the points of attack at the time in question, and it was arranged accordingly. General Longstreet was ordered to go out by the Williamsburg road, with his own and D. H. Hill's divisions, the latter in advance, to attack the Nationals in front, while General Huger should move down the Charles City road toward their left flank, and General G. W. Smith should follow the New Bridge road toward the “Old Tavern;" and then take the Nine Mile road toward their right at Fair Oaks Station.

These columns were to move simultaneously at dawn, but the rain May 31,

had made the roads so soft, that it was ten o'clock before Hill's

division began to move toward Keyes's front. General Casey, who was in the advance, had intimations of an intended attack that day, and was vigilant. He was busily engaged in constructing a redoubt, sinking rifle-pits, and forming an abatis ; and when, about eleven o'clock, he was apprised of the approach of the Confederates in force, he ordered his men to take their arms. At the same time two hissing shells came heralding the enemy near, and made the soldiers quicken their abandonment of spades and axes for the weapons of war. They were none too soon in arms, for at a little past noon the Confederates came in heavy force. Casey's picket-line, with the One Hundred and third Pennsylvania, that had been sent to its support, was driven in, and Spratt’s battery, with supporting troops under General Naglee," who were in front of the works, were soon in

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1862.

* This was the name of a country tavern near which were seven large pine trees. Only three were standing when the writer visited the spot, at the close of May, 1866.

2 The advance to this position had been ordered by McClellan a few days before, contrary to the opinion and advice of both Keyes and Casey. See Report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War, i. 21.

3 Casey's pickets had that morning captured Lieutenant Washington, one of Johnston's aids, and he was sent to Keyes. His conduct satisfied the National officers that an attack was about to be made. Besides, it had been reported that the rumbling of cars on the Richmond and York River railroad had been heard all night, indicating the transportation of troops and supplies. 4 These were the One Hundred and fourth Pennsylvania,

W. Davis;

vei M and Ninety-third and One Hundredth New York Volunteers.

BATTLE NEAR THE SEVEN PINES.

409

fierce conflict with the foe. Bates's battery, under Lieutenant Hart, was in the unfinished redoubt. Wessel's brigade was in the rifle-pits, and Palmer's brigade was behind as a reserve. Naglee, with great persistence, kept the Confederates in check for some time by most gallant fighting, and then fell back to the remainder of the division in the rifle-pits, which had been strengthened by the Ninety-third Pennsylvania, of Peck's brigade.

The Confederates soon gained a position on Casey's flanks. Perceiving the peril of his artillery, that officer ordered a bayonet charge to save it. This was gallantly performed by the One Hundredth New York, One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, and the Eleventh Maine, under the immediate direction of General Naglee. The troops sprang forward with a tremendous yell, and drove back the foe to the adjacent woods. From that cover the pursuers were assailed by a most murderous musket-fire, and out of it swarmed the Confederates in overwhelming numbers. The battle raged more furiously than ever, until about three o'clock, when General Rains had got in the rear of the redoubt, and the rifle-pits were nearly enveloped by the multitude of Confederates. Casey's position was no longer tenable, and he ordered his troops to fall back to the second line in possession of Couch. They did so, with the loss of six guns and many gallant officers and men.' The cannon in the redoubt were seized by General Rhodes, and turned upon the fugitives. Notwithstanding the great odds against them,' and the fearful enfilading fires to which they were exposed, Casey's men brought off three-fourths of their cannon.

Early in the action General Keyes had sent to Heintzelman for aid, but because of some unaccountable delay it did not arrive until it was almost too late. Seeing Casey's peril, he ordered forward several of Couch's regiments to his relief. On these (the Fifty-fifth New York, and Twenty-third, Sixty-first, and Ninety-third Pennsylvania) the tempest of battle fell most destructively. These were followed by the Seventh Massachusetts and Sixty-second New York; but all were pressed back to Fair Oaks Station, where they joined the First U. S. Chasseurs, under General John Cochran, and Thirty-first Pennsylvania, who were stationed there, and fought desperately under the orders of Generals Couch and Abercrombie. The embankments of the railway there formed a good breast work for the Nationals.

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VENRY M. NAGLEE.

1 Ainong the officers killed was Colonel James M. Brown, of the One Hundredth New York, and Colonel G. D. Baily and Major Van Valkenburg, of the First New York Artillery. The gallant Colonel Davis, of the One Hundred and Fonrth Pennsylvania, was severely wounded.

2 Cascy's division numbered only a little inore than four thousand inen. The number of the assailants vas estimated at more than thirty thousand.

410

BATTLE NEAR FAIR OAKS STATION.

With the assistance of Generals Devens and Naglee, Keyes formed a line at the edge of the woods, composed of the First Long Island and Thirty-sixth New York.

In the mean time Heintzelman had pressed forward with re-enforcements, and at a little past four o'clock Kearney appeared with Berry and Jameson's brigades. At about the same time General Peck led the Ninety-third and One Hundred and Second Pennsylvania across an open space exposed to an awful shower of balls, to assist the terribly smitten right; and for an hour he sustained a sharp contest near the Seven Pines, when he was forced to fall back. The Tenth Massachusetts had also been led by Keyes to the assistance of the crumbling right, which was heavily pressed by the corps of General G. W. Smith. That officer, who was accompanied by General Johnston, had been held in check by the latter until four o'clock, the Confederate chief waiting to hear the muskets of Longstreet and Hill, which were to be the signal for the flank attack. These sounds did not reach him, but when informed of what his center had been doing, he immediately threw forward Smith's command, which fell upon the Nationals at Fair Oaks Station, and a terrible conflict ensued. The fresh Confederates severed Couch's command, turned his left, interposed between him and Heintzelman, and pushed Kearney back to the border of the flooded White Oak Swamp. It seemed for a time as if the whole Army of the Potomac on the Richmond side of the Chickahominy was doomed to destruction.

At that critical moment relief came. When Heintzelman was informed of the heavy attack on Casey, he sent an officer with the news to Generals

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McClellan and Sumner. The former was at New Bridge, and the latter was between the railway and Bottom's Bridge, at the head of the center of the army. The vigilant Sumner was so deeply impressed with the danger to which the left wing of the army across the Chickahominy would be exposed,

* This is a view on Sykes's farm, in front of the site of the Seven Pines tavern, where Casey's division fought so desperately after the charge of Naglee. This was the appearance of the farm-house and its surroundings when the writer sketched it, on the anniversary of the battle, 1866, from under a tree that was much scarred by the bullets.

SUMNER CROSSES THE CHICKAHOMINY.

411

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in the event of a rain-storm, that, without orders from head-quarters, he had
summoned Colonel E. E. Cross, of the Fifth New Hampshire,' so early as
the 25th, to construct a bridge across the stream nearly in front of his posi-
tion. Fortunately, it was completed on the evening of the 30th, when the
river was high and rising. There was then no other bridge over which the
army might cross, excepting Bottom's and the railway bridge; and this,
known as the Grape-vine bridge, became an instrument of salvation for the
Army of the Potomac.

Being satisfied that the attack on his left wing was serious, General
McClellan ordered Sumner to prepare to move at a moment's warning.
That officer had al-
ready done so, and
when, at half-past
two o'clock, a fur-
ther order reached
him to

the
stream, he was ready
and moved immedi-
ately. By this readi-
ness he saved at
least an hour's time
-an hour most pre-
cious, as

we shall observe presently.

OLS

was
difficult, owing to
the flood. Sedg-

'
wick's division cross-
ed first, closely fol-
lowed by Richard-
son's, and, with the
former, Sumner
reached the field at
the moment when Couch and Heintzelman were separated, and all seemed
lost. Had the precious hour just alluded to been spent in preparation, all
might have been lost.

Sumner now assumed the command. Sedgwick at once formed in line of
battle, in the edge of a wood near Fair Oaks, with the First Minnesota on
the right flank, and soon made the advancing Confederates recoil by hurling
upon them a storm of canister from twenty-four guns. Then moving forward
his whole line, he swept the field and recovered nearly all that Couch had
lost. Meanwhile Gorman's brigade of Sedgwick's division had deployed in
battle line on the crest of a gentle hill, in the rear of Fair Oaks, and swept

OAK

APERCROMBIE

SPRATT

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RICHMOND AND YORK RIVER R.R.

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KEARNEY

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SEVEN PINCE

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* This was one of the most useful and gallant regiments in the service. Cross was both skillful and brave,
and his activity knew no rest. llis men were noted for their skill in building, and had erected a signal-tower
100 feet high in front of Yorktown. They were so noted for their work as soldiers, also, that the regiment
acquired the name of the fighting Fifth.” We shall meet it hereafter.

2 The logs that formed the corduroy approaches to the bridge were all afloat, and were held only by the
stiimps of trees betireen which they lay; and the Grape-vine bridge was beld to its place over the boiling flood
only by ropes attached to trees.

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