Today in History:

76 Series I Volume XI-II Serial 13 - Peninsular Campaign Part II


Reaching Gaines' Mill, the main body of the right a my corps was found in full retreat, making it almost impossible for my

re-enforcements to pass through the masses of congregated troops of the various arms of the service which had fallen back upon a confident space. I therefore ordered the heads of regiments to force their way through any intervals they might find and by the force of the bayonet, which was immediately done and my command extricated. It was deployed in line of battle and advanced to meet the enemy, who was pressing hard upon the rear with artillery, cavalry, and light artillery. When my command was interposed abut three-fourths of a mile beyond Gaines' Mill I sought for and reported to Brigadier-General Porter, and under his instructions moved the two brigades as far as the crests of the hills commanding the position, beyond which our troops were now rapidly reforming. These were occupied during the night by my command. The regulars had not lost their ground, but maintained it on my right until about 9 o'clock at night, when, by direction of General Porter, they were relieved by two of my regiments.

At 12 o'clock at night General Porter returned from the headquarters of the army, and directed me, in the name of the general-in-chief, to hold by line on the front until all the rest of our force had crossed the river. With great difficulty I communicated this to the different commanders of regiments and batteries, but in the course of two hours the whole line was in regular march, without the least confusion. Ascertaining that the object, upon which so much stress had been laid by the general-in-chief, was accomplished, I then directed myself to the withdrawal of my brigade and Meagher's, which, far to the front, lay in close proximity to the enemy - so near that numbers of their men and officers were taken crossing our lines of pickets to communicate with regiments which had bivouacked on our right and left, separated by he darkness of night. I had now, by repeated communications by members of my staff, to prevent the possibility of mistake, so concerted it that at a given notice the entire command by the right flanks of regiments (drawing in pickets) should simultaneously move to the rear to Gaines' Mill. Here they were put on the road in the order of march, and by 4 o'clock of the morning of the 28th of June the rear of French's and Meagher's brigades had recrossed the Chickahominy.

Leaving the Eighty-eight New York (Meather's), under Colonel Baker, to destroy the bridge, which had been previously prepared for the purpose, and communicating with Colonel Hunt, of the Reserve Artillery, a battery of artillery was posted to cover the operation, which was thoroughly effected. Before crossing the river and about daylight a very heavy firing was heard in the direction of Fair Oaks Station, to which point my column was moved with celerity, where I reported to the general commanding the Second Army Corps.

It is needless for me to say anything in praise of my command engaged in this most important duty, considered by all military authority as the highest and most honorable which can be intrusted to troops to perform,nor is necessary to make comparison between the enthusiasm of the Irish Brigade, which had gained universal applause, and the unobtrusive courage of the American soldier, who does his duty cheerfully, although unnoticed. It is sufficient that both brigades made a most rapid march; a most bold deployment in presence of the enemy, effectually checking the career of his victorious pursuit; a most vigilant night, and having accomplished the object successfully retired, entirely deceiving the enemy, who shelled the woods in distrust of