Imágenes de páginas
PDF

BATTLE OF G. A. IN ES'S MILL. 155

of the 26th, directing Porter to make as imposing a demonstration and detain the enemy as long as he could, then to withdraw across the Chickahominy with the least possible loss, burn the bridges, and defend the passage till night-fall, he might have gone right over the 25,000 Rebels between him and Richmond, taken that city, and then turned in overwhelming force on the 50,000 Rebels in his rear, pressing Porter. But, deceived and faint-hearted, he stood perplexed and hesitating between the real and overwhelming attack on his right and the imposing but hollow succession of feints and alarms on his left, letting two-thirds of Lee's entire force crush one-third of his own, while 60,000 good men and true stood idle between the Chickahominy and Richmond, watching and guarding against 25,000 Rebels. Only Slocum’s division of Sumner's corps was seasonably sent to the aid of Porter, raising his total force to barely 35,000 men, who were to resist the desperate efforts of 50,000 Rebels, directed by Lee, and led on to assault our position by Longstreet, the Hills, Stonewall Jackson, and Ewell. Though the Rebels had quickly discerned and sharply pursued our withdrawal from the Mechanicsville defenses, arriving in front of our new position soon after noon,” it was 2 P. M. before A. P. Hill, who had been awaiting Jackson's arrival, advanced and opened the battle. The Rebels were received with heroic bravery by Sykes's regulars, who confronted them, by whose fire they were staggered and temporarily repulsed. Meantime, Longstreet, who

had been ordered to make a feint on our left, had perceived the necessity of converting that feint into a determined attack; but, before his dispositions had been completed, Jackson arrived and formed his division on Longstreet's left; while D. H. Hill, on the extreme Rebel left, had forced his way through a swamp and some abatis, driving out our skirmishers; and now Ewell came into action on Jackson's right, and two of Jackson's brigades were sent to the relief of A. P. Hill, who was being worsted. Lee's whole force being thus brought into action, a general advance from left to right was ordered and made, under a terrific fire of cannon and musketry from both sides. Porter had a strong position, on ground rising gradually from the ravine of an inconsiderable stream, screened in part by trees and underbrush, with Morell's and Sykes's divisions in front, and McCall's forming a second line behind them ; and his cavalry, under P. St. George Cooke, in the valley of the Chickahominy, watching for a Rebel advance in that quarter. The siegeguns of Porter's corps, which had been withdrawn across the Chickahominy during the night, were planted in battery on the right bank of that stream, so as to check the advance of the Rebel right, and prevent their turning our left. Porter was unaccountably in want of axes, wherewith to cover his front and right with abatis; his request for them to Gen. Barnard not reaching McClellan till too late. When he next called, they were furnished, but without helves; and, while these were being supplied, the opportunity for using axes was

* June 27.

*—

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic]
[ocr errors]

lost little ground, telegraphed again to McClellan that his position was critical, when French's and Meagher's brigades of the 2d corps were ordered to cross to his support. They moved promptly and rapidly; but, before they could reach the field, the Rebels, rallying all their forces, just at sunset, for a last desperate effort, had stormed our intrenchments both on the left and on the right, and driven back their defenders with mutual carnage, capturing several of our guns. Porter, seeing his infantry beaten, now called into action all his reserved and remaining artillery, and thus bringing at once about 80 guns into action, was covering the retreat of his infantry and dealing fearful retribution on their assailants, whose advance was suddenly checked; when Gen. Cooke, without orders, undertook to charge, with a battalion of cavalry, the right flank of the Rebels advancing on our left, and still 'covered in good part by woods. This charge being met by a withering fire of musketry, amidst the roar of a hundred belching cannon, resulted in instant rout: the frightened horses, whether with or without the consent of their riders, wheeling abruptly and crashing through our batteries; leading our gunners to suppose, for the moment, that they were charged by regiments of Rebel horse. “To this alone,” says Fitz-John Porter, in his report, “is to be attributed our failure to hold the field, and to bring off all our guns and wounded.” In another moment, the cheering

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

157

to the front. Rallying behind these two fresh brigades, our wearied, decimated regiments advanced up the hill down which they had recently been driven, ready to meet a fresh attack, had one been attempted. But the enemy, perceiving that they were confronted by fresh combatants, and not knowing our force, halted for the night on the field they had so hardly won. During that night, our forces were by order withdrawn, unmolested, across the Chickahominy, losing three guns, that were run off a bridge into the stream, in addition to 19 that they had left on the battle-field. Our loss in this action, though not specifically reported, probably exceeded 6,000 killed and wounded: among the former were Cols. Samuel W. Black, 62d Pa., McLean, of the 83d, Gove, of the 22d Mass., Maj. N. B. Rossell, 3d regular infantry, and many other brave and valuable officers. The 11th Pennsylvania Reserves, Col. Gallagher, and 4th N.J., Col. Simpson, while enveloped in the smoke of battle, having too long maintained their position in the farthest front, found themselves at last completely enveloped by overwhelming forces of the enemy, and compelled to surrender; and Gen. John F. Reynolds, of the 1st brigade of Reserves, with his Adjutant, Capt. Charles Kingsbury, were taken prisoners just at dark, riding into a Rebel regiment, which they supposed to be one of their own. Altogether, our losses in this desperate action were hardly less than 8,000 men; those of the Rebels being probably about two-thirds as many."

wounded, and 24 missing: total, 3,284. The other division and corps commanders make no

Gen. McClellan, during and after the close of the eventful 27th, telegraphed to the War Department as follows:

“IIEADQUARTERS ARMY of THE PotoMAC, “June 27–10 A. M. “The night passed quietly. Iuring it, we brought all wagons, heavy guns, &c., to this side, and at daybreak drew in McCall's division about three miles. This change of Position was beautifully executed, under a sharp fire, with but little loss. on the other side are now well in hand, and the whole army so concentrated that it can take advantage of the first mistake made by the enemy. White House yet undisturbed. Success of yesterday complete.” “IIEADQUARTERs ARMY of THE PotoMAC, { “June 27–12 M. “My change of position on the other side just in time. Heavy attack now being Inade by Jackson and two divisions. Expect attack also on this side.”

“SAVAGE's STATION,
“June 28, 1862–12:20 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 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 which 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 or even 10,000 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 material 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 re

[ocr errors]

The troops.

trieve our fortunes; but to do this the Government must view the matter in the same earnest light that I do. You must send me very large rêenforcements, and send them at once. I shall draw back to this side of the Chickahominy, and think I can withdraw all our material. 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 réiterated a truth which to-day has been too plainly proved. If, at this instant, I could dispose of 10,000 fresh men, I could gain the victory to-morrow. I know that a few thousand more men would have changed this battle from a defeat to a victory. As it is, the Government must not, and can not, hold me responsible for the result. I 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. If I save this army now, I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you, or to any other persons in Washington. You have done your best to sacrifice this army. “ G. B. McCLELLAN, Maj.-Gen. “To IIon. E. M. STANToN, “Secretary of War.”

To these reproachful missives, the President thus responded:

“WAs.IIINGTON, June 28, 1862. “Save your army at all events. Will send

rèenforcements as fast as we can. Of course, they can not reach you to-day, to-morrow, or next day. I have not said you were ungenerous for saying you needed réenforcements; I thought you were ungenerous in assuming that I did not send them as fast as I could. I feel any misfortune to you and your army quite as keenly as you feel it yourself. If you have had a drawn battle or a repulse, it is the price we pay for the enemy not being in Washington. We protected Washington, and the enemy concentrated on you. Ilad we stripped Washington, he would have been upon us before the troops sent could have got to you. Less than a week ago, you notified us that réenforcements were leaving Richmond to come in front of us. It is the nature of the case ; and neither you nor the Government that is to blame.

separate report of their losses in this action. Gen. C. M. Wilcox, 4th brigade, Longstreet's division, states his losses at 584, out of a total of 1,850. Among the Rebel killed were Cols. J.

J. Woodward, 10th Ala.; S. T. Hale, 11th Ala.; John Marshall, 4th Texas; among the severely wounded, Cols. Rainey, 1st Texas, and Robinson, 5th Texas.

[ocr errors]

“Please tell at once the present condition or aspect of things.”

Gen. McClellan's army had now been concentrated by the enemy in a very strong position, between the Chickahominy on one side, and our General's elaborate and powerful works facing Richmond on the other. It was still more than 100,000 strong; while, save in his imagination, there were not nearly so many armed Rebels within a circuit of 50 miles. Properly handled, it was abundantly able and willing to meet and beat Lee's entire forces in fair battle; or it might have taken Richmond and the Rebel works below it,” on the James; thus réopening its communications and receiving fresh supplies by that river, most efficiently patroled by our gunboats. One thing it could not do without invoking disaster, and that was to remain cooped up in its intrenchments; since Porter's defeat and retreat across the

Chickahominy had severed its com

munication with its base of supplies at West Point; Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, with the Rebel cavalry, supported by Ewell's infantry, striking and destroying the York River Railroad and severing the telegraph line at Dispatch Station next morning,” and pushing thence down the road toward White House, meeting no serious op* Gen. Magruder, in his official report of his participation in the memorable Seven Days' struggle, says “From the time at which the enemy with

position, but resting at Tunstall's Station for the night, which our force holding White House devoted to the destruction of the vast aggregate of munitions and provisions there stored. Nine large loaded barges, 5 locomotives, with great numbers of tents, wagons, cars, &c., were involved in this general destruction ; while our cavalry, under Stoneman and Emory, fled down the Peninsula, leaving large quantities of forage and provisions to fall into the hands of the enemy. Stuart arrived next morning,” and found nothing prepared to dispute possession with him but a gunboat, which very soon crowded on all steam and hurried off in quest of safety. McClellan decided not to fight, but to fly. Assembling his corps commanders on the evening after Porter's defeat, he told them that he had determined on a flank movement through White Oak Swamp to the James; Gen. Keyes, with his corps, being directed to move at once across the Swamp in the advance, so as to seize and hold the debouches of the roads on the James river side of the Swamp, thus covering the passage of the other troops and trains. Our commander, during the night, removed his headquarters to Savage's Station, thence to superintend the movement of the corps and trains.

drew his forces to this side of the Chickahominy

and destroyed the bridges, to the moment of his
evacuation—that is, from Friday night until Sun-
day morning—I considered the situation of our
army as extremely critical and perilous. The
larger portion of it was on the opposite side of
the Chickahominy; the bridges had been all de-
stroyed; but one was rebuilt, the New Bridge,
which was commanded fully by the enemy's
guns from Golding's; and there were but 25,000

men between his army of 100,000 and Rich-
mond.
“Had McClellan massed his whole force in
column, and advanced it against any point of
our line of battle, as was done at Austerlitz, un-
der similar circumstances, by the greatest Cap-
tain of any age, though the head of his column
would have suffered greatly, its momentum
would have insured him success, and the oc-
cupation of our works about Richmond: and
consequently the city might have been his re-
ward. His failuro to do so is the best ovidence
that our wise commander fully understood the
character of his opponent.”

* June 28. * June 29.

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »