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Afterwards he telegraphed:
"The enemy has begun an attack on Smith's left with infantry. I know no details."
Afterwards the following:
"The enemy has opened on Smith from a battery of three pieces, to the right of the White House. Our shells are bursting well, and Smith thinks Sumner will soon have a cross lire upon them that will silence them."
Afterwards, at 5.50 P.m., the following was gent to General Keyes:
"Please send one brigade of Couch's division to these headquarters without a moment's delay. A staff officer will be here to direct the brigade where to go."
Subsequently the following was «ent to Generals Sumner and Franklin:
"Is there any' sign of the enemy being in force in your front? Can you spare any more force to be sent to General Porter? Answer at once."
At 5.15 p. M., the following was received from General Franklin:
"I do not think it prudent to take any more troops from here at present."
General Sumner replied as follows:
"If the general desires to trust the defence of my position to my front Hue alone, I can send French with three regiments, and Meagher with his brigade to the right; every thing is so uncertain, that I think it would be hazardous to do it."
These twb brigade* were sent to reinforce General Porter, as has been observed.
At 5.25, I sent the following to General Franklin:
'n "Tartar ig Jjffrd pressed; It isTftot a question V pfjide^rite but of possibilities.;"' Oun you pbs.^rJ^imrrh'taiVvduf position ufifrT dark with two %ri£aHe's' 1 \ tfavt*JHttfer&l eight: regimerits of Sumner's to sup^dft*TH)Hei\^mie'bH^adeoTC6\icJh to this place; Heintz£lni«n's reserve to go in rear of Sumnfciv'^If possible send a brigade to support PorterV.it shtfuhi follow the regiments ordered from'Stunner.""'' ',;i''"'
At 7.35, the following was sent to General Sumner:
."If it is possible send another brigade to reinforce General Smith. It is said three heavy columns of infantry are moving on iiiro.
From the foregoing despatches it will be seen that all disposable troops were sent from the right bank of the river to reinforce General Porter, and that the corps commanders were
left with smaller forces to hold their position** than they deemed adequate.
To have done more, even though Porter's reverse had been prevented, would have had the still more disastrous result of imperilling the whole movement across the Peninsula.
The operations of this day proved the numerical superiority of the enemy, and made it evident that while he had a large army on the left bank of the Chickahominy, which had already turned our right, and was in position to intercept the communications with our depots at the White House ; he was also in large force between our army and Richmond. I therefore effected a junction of our forces.
This might probably have been executed on either side of the Chiekahominy, and if the concentration had been effected on the left bank, it is possible we might, with our entire force have defeated the enemy there ; but at that time they held the roads leading to the White House, so that it would have been impossible to have sent forward supply trains in advance of the army in that direction, and the guarding of these trains would have seriously embarrassed our operations in the battle. We would have been compelled to fight if concentrated on that bank of the river. Moreover, we would at once have been followed by the enemy's forces upon the Richmond side of the river operating upon our rear, and if in the chances of war we had been ourselves defeated in the effort, we would have been forced to fall back to the White House, and probably to Fort Monroe; and as both our flanks and rear would then have been entirely exposed, our entire supply train, if not the greater part of the army itself might have been lost.
The movements of the enemy showed that they expected this, and as they themselves acknowledged, they were" prepared to cut off our retreat in that direction. I therefore concentrated all our forces on the right bank of the river during the night of the 26th and morning of the 27th, all our wagons, heavy guns, &c, were gathered there.
It may be asked why, after the concentration of our forces on the right bank of the Chickahominy, with a# large.jwt of tjae enemy drawn away'from Richmond, Upon thei opposite side, I diij not, insteatf uf..gjrjjpjng for James river fifteen..mile3 below, -that place, at once march jdawtl-y, o»: Richmond,;,
It will be remembered that at this juncture tho enemy was on our rear, 'and there was every reason to believe that he wouldKsever our com> mwinieations with dur supply depot at the White ition^e. ■• '':•• ■'< '■'■■ '/•■
We Imd'onhnnd but a limited amount of rations, aifd-Tf we 'had: advanced directly on Richmond it -Would'-have'- required considerable time to carrv the strong works around'that place, during wh,icb our men would, have been destitute gf foo<l; and even ;if Riqhmond had fallen ^ejfove pur.^rifis, the enemy could, still have occupied our. .supply, communications between that .place and the gun-boats,* and turned their disaster into victory. If, on the other hand, the enemy had concentrated all his forces at Richmond during the progress of our attack, and we had bee» defeated, we must im all probability have lost our trains before reaching the flotilla.
The battles which continued day after day, in the progress of our flank movement to the James, with the exception of the one at Gaines's mill, were successes to our arms, and the closing j engagement at Malvern hill was the most deci-1 siveofall.
On the evening of the 27th of June I assem- j bled the corps commanders at my headquarters, j and informed them of the plan, its reasons, and j my choice of route and method of execution. j
General Keyes was directed to move his corps, | with its artillery and baggage, across the White \ Oak swamp bridge, and to seize strong positions on the opposite side of the swamp, to cover the passage of the other troops and trains.
This order was executed on the 28th by noon. Before day-break on the 28th I went to Savage's station, and remained there during the day and night, directing the withdrawal of the trains and supplies of the army.
Orders were given to the different commanders to load their wagons with ammunition and provisions, and the necessary baggage of the officers and men, and to destroy all property which could not be transported with the army. Orders were also given to leave with those of the sick and wounded who could not be transported, a proper complement of surgeons and attendants, with a bountiful supply of rations and medical stores.
The large herd of 2,500 beef cattle was, by the chief commissary, Colonel Clark, transferred to the James river without loss.
On the morning of the 28th, while General Franklin was withdrawing his command from Golding's farm, the enemy opened upon General Smith's division from Garnett's hill, from the valley above, and from Gaines's hill on the opposite side of the Chickahominy, and shortly afterwards two Georgia regiments attempted to carry the works about to be evacuated, but this attack was repulsed by the 23d New York, and the 49th Pennsylvania volunteers on picket, and a section of Mott's battery.
Porter's corps was moved across White Oak swamp during the day and night, and took up position? covering the roads leading from Richmond towards White Oak swamp and Long bridge. McCall's division was ordered, on the night of the 28th, to move across the swamp and take a proper position to assist in covering the remaining troops and trains. During the same night the corps of Sumner, Heintzelman, and the division of Smith, were ordered to an interior line, the left resting on Keyes's old.intrenchments, and curving to the right so as to cover Savage's station. General Slocum's division, of Franklin's corps, was ordered to Savage's station in reserve. They were ordered to hold this position until dark of the 29th, in order to cover the withdrawal of the trains, and then to fall back across the swamp and unite with the remainder of the army.
On the 28th I sent the following to the Secretary of War:
"Headquarters, Army Of The Potmac,
*'Savage's Station, June 28, ix(>z—12.20 a.m. I now know the whole history of the day. On
this side of the river, the right bank, we repulsed several strong attacks; on the left bank our men, did all that men could do—all that soldiers could accomplish, but they were overwhelmed by vastly superior numbers soon after I had brought my last reserves into action. The loss on both sides is terrible. I believe it will prove to be the most desperate battle of the war. The sad remnants of my men behave as men—those battalions who fought most bravely, and suffered most, are still in the best order. My regulars were superb; and I count upon what are left to turn another battle in company with their gallant comrades of the volunteers. Had I (20,000) twenty thousand, or even (10,000) ten thousand fresh troops to use to-morrow, I could take Richmond; but I have not a man in reserve, and shall be glad to cover my retreat, and save the materiel and personnel of the army.
"If we have lost the day, we have yet preserved our honor, and no one need blush for the army of the Potomac. I have lost this battle, because my force was too small.
"I again repeat that I am not responsible for this, and I say it with the earnestness of a general, who feels in his heart, the loss of every brave man who has been needlessly sacrificed to-day. I still hope to retrieve our fortunes, but to do this, the government must view thf matter in the same earnest light that I do. You must send me very large reinforcements, and send them at once.
"I shall draw back to this side of the Chickahominy, and think I can withdraw all our materiel. Please understand that in this battle we have lost nothing but men, and those the best we have.
"In addition to what I have already said, I only wish to say to the President, that I think he is wrong in regarding me as ungenerous, when I said that my force was too weak. I merely reiterated a truth, which to-day has been too plainly proved. If at this instant I could dispose of (10,000) ten thousand fresh men, I could gain the victory to-morrow.
"I know that a few thousand more men would have changed the battle from a defeat to a victory; a3 it is, the government must not and cannot hold me responsible for the result.
441 feel too earnestly to-night, I have seen too many dead and wounded comrades, to feel otherwise than that the government has not sustained this army. If you do not do so now, the game is lost.
44 If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you, or to any other persons in Washington.
44 You have done your best to sacrifice this army.
"G. B. Mcclellan,
u Major OeneraL "To Hon. E. M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War."
The headquarters' camp at Savage's station was broken up early on the morning of the 29th,
and moved across White !h;k swamp.
As the essentia! part of this day's operations was the passage of the trains across tho swamp, n\)d their protection against attack fv'bm tho direction of New Market and Richmond, as well as the immediate and secure establishment of our communications with the gun-boats, I passed the day in examining the ground, directing the posting of the troops, and securing the uninterrupted movement of the trains.
In the afternoon I instructed General Keyes to move during the night to James river, and occupy a defensive position near Malvern hill, to secure our extreme left flanks.
General F. J. Porter was ordered to follow him, and prolong the line towards the right. The trains were to be pushed on towards James river in rear of these corps, and placed under the protection of the gun-boats as they arrived.
A sharp skirmish with the enemy's cavalry, early this day on the Quaker road, showed that his efforts were about to be directed towards impeding our progress to the river, and render Buy presence in that quarter necessary.
BATTLE OF ALLEN'S FARM.
General Sumner vacated his works at Fair Oaks on June 29th, at day-light, and marched his command to Orchard station, halting at Allen's field, between Orchard and Savage's stations.
The divisions of Richardson and Sedgwick, were formed on the righ of the railroad, facing towards Richmond, Richardson holding the right, and Sedgwick joining the right of Hemtzelman's corps.
The first line of Richardson's division was held by General French^ General Caldwell supporting in the second. A log building in front of Richardson's division, was held by Colonel Brooks with one regiment, (53d Pennsylvania volunteers), with Hazzard's battery on an elevated piece of ground, a little in rear of Col. Brook's command.
At 9 A. M., the enemy commenced a furious attack on the right of General Sedgwick, but were repulsed. The left of General Richardson was next attacked, the enemy attempting in vain to carry the position of Colonel Brooks. Captain Hazzard's battery, and Captain Pettit's battery, which afterwards replaced it, were served with great effect, while the 53d Pennsylvania kept up a steady fire on the advancing enemy, compelling them at last to retire in disorder. The enemy renewed the attack three times, but were as often repulsed.
BATTLE OP SAVAGE'S STATION.
General Slocum arrived at Savage's station at an early hour on the 29th, and was ordered to cross White Oak swamp and relieve General Reyes's corps. As soon as General Keyes was thus relieved, he moved towards James river, which he reached in safety, with all his artillery and baggage, early on the morning of the 30th, and took up a position below Turkey creek bridge.
During the morning General Franklin heard that the enemy, after having repaired the bridges, was crossing the Chickahominy in large force, and advancing toward Savage's station. He communicated this information to General Sumner at Allen's farm, and moved Smith's division to Savage's station.
A little after noon General Sumner united his forces with those of General Franklin, and assumed command.
I had ordered General Heintzelman, with his corps, to hold the Williamsburg road until dark at a point where were several field works, and a skirt of timber between these works and the railroad; but he fell back before night, and crossed White Oak swamp at Brackett's ford.
General Sumner, in his report of the battle of Savage's station, says: u When the enemy appeared on the Williamsburg road, I could not imagine why General Heintzelman did not attack him, and not till some time afterwards did I learn, to my utter amazement, that General Heintzelman had left the field and reueated with his whole corps (about 15,000 men) before the action commenced. This defection, might have been attended with the most disastrous consequences, and although we beat the enemy signally and drove him from the field, we should certainly have given him a more crushing blow if General Heintzelman had been there with his corps."
General Heintzelman, in the report of the operations of his corps says:
"On the night of the 28th of June I received orders to withdraw the troops of my corps from the advanced position they had taken on the 25th of June, and to occupy the intrenched lines about a mile in rear. A map was sent me showing the positions General Sumner's and General Franklin's corps would occupy. About sunrise the next day our troops slowly fell back to the new position, cautiously followed by the enemy taking possession of our camps as soon as we left them.
"From some misapprehension General Sumner held a more advanced position than was indicated on the map furnished me, thus leaving a space of about three-fourths of a mile between the right of his corps and General Smith's division of General Franklin's corps.
At 11 A. M. on the 29th the enemy commenced an attack on General Sumner's troops, a few shells falling within my lines. Late in the" afternoon reports reached me that the rebels were in possession of Dr. Trent's house, only a mile and a half from Savage's station. I sent several cavalry reconnoissances, and finally was satisfied of the fact. General Franklin came to my headquarters, when I learned of the interval between his left and General Sumner's right, in which space Dr. Trent's house is. Also that the rebels had repaired one of the bridges across the Chickahominy, and were advancing. * * * *
<k I rode forward.to see General Sumner, and met his troops falling back on the Williamsburg road, through my line*. General Sumner informed me that he intended to make a stand at Savage^s station, and for me to join him to determine upon the position. This movement of General Sumner's uncovering my right flank, it became necessary for me at once to withdraw my troops. * * * *
"I rode back to find General Sumner; after some delay, from the mass of troops in the field, 1 found him, and learned that the course of action bad been determined on: so returned to
my command, and to give the necessary orders for the destruction of the railroad cars, ammunition, and provisions still remaining on the ground. * * * *
uTue whole open space near Savage's station was crowded with troops, more than I supposed could be brought into action judiciously, An aide from the commanding general had in the morning reported to me, to point out a road across the White Oak swamp, starting from the left of General Kearney's position and leading by Bracken's ford. * :* * The advance of the column reached the Charles City road at 6)j> p. M., and the rear at 10 p. M., without accident."
The orders given by me to General Sumner, Heiutzelman and Franklin, were to hold the positions assigned them until dark. As stated by General Heintzelman, General Sumner did not occupy the designated position, but as he was the senior officer present on that side of the White Oak swamp, he may have thought that the movements of the enemy justified a deviation from the letter of the orders. It appears from his report that he assumed command of all the troops near Savage's station, and determined to resist the enemy there, and that he gave General Heintzelman orders to hold the same position as I had assigned to him.
The aid sent by me to General Heintzelman, to point out the road across the swamp, was to guide him in retiring after dark.
On reaching Savage's station, Sumner's and Franklin's commands were drawn up in line of battle in the large open field to the left of the railroad, the left resting on the edge of the woods, and the right extending down to the railroad.
General Brooks, with his brigade, held the 'wood to the left of the field, where he did excellent service, receiving a wound, but retaining his command.
General Hancock's brigade was thrown into the woods on the right and front.
At 4 P. M. the enemy commenced his attack in large force by the Williamsburg road. It was gallantly met by General Burns's brigade, supported and reinforced by two lines in reserve, and finally by the New York (>9th, Hazzard's and PettiVs batteries again doing good service. Osborne's and Bramhall's batteries also took part effectively in this action, which was continued with great obstancy until between 8 and 9 P. M., when the enemy were driven from the field.
Immediately after the battle the orders were repeated for all the troops to fall back and cross White Oak swamp, which was accomplished during the night in good order.
By midnight all the troops were on the road to White Oak swamp bridge, General French, with his brigade, acting as rear guard, and at 6 A. M. on the 30 th ail had crossed, and the bridge was destroyed.
On the afiernoon and night of the 29th I gave the corps commanders their instructions for the opera'ions of the following day. As stated before. Porter's corps was to move forward to James river, and with the corps of General Keyes, to occupy a position at or near Turkey b^nd, on a line perpendicular to the river, thus covering the Charles City road to Richmond, opening
communication with the gun-boats, and covering the passage of the supply trains, which were pushed forward as rapidly as possible upon HaxalPs plantation. . The remaining corps were pressed onward, and posted so as to guard the approaches from Richmond as well as the crossing of the White Oak swamp, over which the army had passed.
General Franklin was ordered to hold the passage of White Oak swamp bridge, and cover the withdrawal of the trains from that point. His command consisted of his own corps, with General Richardson's division and General Naglee's brigade placed under his orders for the occasion.
General Slocum's division was on the right of the Charles City road.
On the morning of the 80th I again gave to the corps commanders within reach instruetions for posting their troops. I found that, notwithstanding all the efforts of my personal staff and other officers, the roads were blocked by wagons, and there was great difficulty in keeping the trains in motion.
The engineer officers whom I had sent forward on the 28th to reconnoitre the roads had neither returned nor sent me any reports or guides.
Generals Keyes and Porter had been delayed one by losing the road, and the other in repairing an old road, and had not been able to send me any information. We then knew of but one road for the movement of troops and our immense trains.
It was therefore necessary to post the troops in advance of this road, as well as our limited knowledge of the ground permitted, so as to cover the movement of the trains in rear.
I then examined the whole line from the swamp to the left, giving final instructions for the nesting of the troops and the obstruction of the roads towards Richmond, and all corps commanders were directed to hold their positions until the trains had passed, after which a more concentrated position was to be taken up near James river.
Our force was too small to occupy and hold the entire line from the White Oak swamp to the river, exposed as it was to be taken in reverse by a movement across the lower part of the swamp, or across the Chickahominy below the swamp. Moreover, the troops were then greatly exhausted, and required rest in a more secure position.
I extended my examinations of the country as far as Haxall's, looking at all the approaches to Malvern, which portion I preceded to be the key to our operations in this quarter, and was thus enabled to expedite, very considerably, the passage of the trains, and to rectify the positions of the troops.
Everything being then quiet, I sent aides to the different corps commanders to inform them what I had done on the left, and to bring me information of the condition of affairs on the right. I returntd from Malvern to Haxall's, and, having made arrangements for instant communication from Malvern by signals, went on board of Captain Roger's gun-boat, lying near, to confer with him in reference to the condition of our supply vessels, and the state of things on the river.
It was his opinion that it wonld be necessary for the army to full back to a position below City Point, as the channel there was so near the southern shore that it would not be possible to bring up the transports, should the enemy occupy it. Harrison's Landing was, in his opinion, the nearest suitable point. Upon the termination of this interview, I returned to Malvern hill, and remained there until shortly before daylight.
BATTLE OP NELSON'S FARM.
On the morning of the 30th General Sumner was ordered to march with Sedgwick's division to Glendale ( " Nelson's farm ").
General McCall's division (Pennsylvania reserves) was halted during the morning on the New Market road, just in advance of the point -where a road turns off to Quaker church. His line -was formed perpendicularly to the New Market road, with Meade's brigade on the right, Seymour's on the left, and Reynold's brigade, commanded by Colonel S. G. summons, of the 6th Pennsylvania, in reserve. Randall's regular battery on the right, Kern's and Cooper's batteries opposite the center, and Deitrich's and Kauerhem's batteries, of the artillery reserve, on the left—all in front of the infantry line. The country in General McCall's front was open, intersected towards the right by the New Market road, and a small strip of timber parallel to it. The open front was about 800 yards, its depth about 1,000 yards.
On the morning of the 30th General Heintzelman ordered the bridge at Brackett's ford to be destroyed, and trees to be felled across that road and the Charles City road.
General Slocum's division was to extend to the Charles City road.
General Kearney's right to connect with General Slocum's left.
General McCall's position was to the left of the Long Bridge road, in connection with General Kearney's left. General Hooker was on the left of General McCall.
Between 12 and 1 o'clock the enemy opened a fierce cannonade upon the divisions of Smith and Richardson and Naglee's brigade at White Oak Swamp bridge. This artillery fire was continued by the enemy through the d>\y, and be crossed some infantry below our position. Richardson's division suffered severely. Captain Ayres directed our artillery with great effect. Captain Hazzard's battery, aft<r losing many cannoneers, and Captain Hazzard being mortally wounded, was compelled to retire. It was replaced by Pettit's battery, which partially silenced the enemy's guns.
General Franklin held his position until after dark, repeatedly driving back the enemy in their attempts to cross the White Oak swamp.
At 2 o'clock in the day the enemy were reported advancing in force by the Charles City road, and at half-past 2 o'clock the attack was made down the road on General Slocum's left, but was checked by his artillery. After this the C-iemy, in huge force, comprising the divisions of 'Longstroet and A. P. Hill, attacked General Md'all, whose division, after severe fighting, was compelled to retire.
General McCall, in his report of the battle, says:
44 About half-past two my pickets were driven in by z strong advance, after some skirmishing without loss on our part. At 8 o'clock the enemy sent forward a regiment on the left centre and another on the right centre, to feel for a weak point. They were under cover of a shower of shells, and boldly advanced, but were both driven back, on the left by the 12th regiment, and on the right by the *7th regiment. * * For near two hours the battle raged hotly here. # #* # # * * * *
44 At last the enemy was compelled to retire before the well-directed musketry fire of the reserves. The German batteries were driven to the rear, but I rode up and sent them back. It was however of little avail, and they were soon after abandoned by the cannoneers, * *
The batteries in front of the centre were boldly charged upon, but the enemy was speedily forced back. ****** #»*
"Soon after this a most determined charge was made on Randall's battery by a full brigade advancing in wedge-shape, without order, but in perfect recklessness.
44 Somewhat similar charges had, I have stated, been previously made on Cooper's and Kern's batteries by single regiments without success, they having recoiled before the storm of canister hurled against them.
44 A like result was anticipated by Randall's battery, and the 4th regiment was requested not to fire until the battery had done with them. Its gallant commander did not doubt his ability to repel the attack, and his guns did indeed mow down the advancing host, but still the gaps were closed, and the enemy came in upon a run to the very muzzle of his guns.
44 It was a perfect torrent of men, and they were in his battery before the guns could be removed. Two guns that were indeed successfully limbered had their horses killed and wounded, and were overturned on the spot, and the enemy dashing past drove the greater part of the 4th regiment before them. The left company (B) nevertheless stood its ground, with its captain, Fred. A. Conrad, as did likewise certain men of other companies. I had ridden into the regiment and endeavored to check them, but with only partial success.
* * * * *
44 There was no running; but my division, reduced by the previous battles to less than (6,0(lO) six thousand, had to contend with the divisions of L< ngstreetand A. P. Hill, considered two of the strongest and best among many of'the Confederate army, numbering that day, 18,000 or 20,000 men, and it was reluctantly compelled to give way before heaver force accumulated upon them."
General Heintzelman states- that nbout 5 P.m. General MeCall's division was attacked in large force, evidently the principle attactc; that m less than an hour the division gave way and adds:
44 General IT ,oker, being on his left, by moving to the right repulsed the rebels in the hand