Today in History:

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


any flank movements were from the nature of the ground and position of the enemy hazardous, it became necessary to support our line by pushing forward detachments from the reserves as circumstances and the constant and changing attempts of the enemy to break our lines made expedient. Four companies of the Second New Hampshire Volunteers were ordered to the support of the right of the First Massachusetts and to keep the connection with the Excelsior Brigade on our right, which connection was becoming broken by the more rapid advance of our right, and six companies of the same regiment to the support of the left of the First and the right of the Eleventh, the latter regiment gradually closing on their centers to strengthen their line and fill the places of the killed and wounded. Five companies of the Sixteenth Massachusetts, under Lieutenant-Colonel Meacham, were thrown forward to support our extreme left, which was becoming very much exposed as the division on that flank had not as yet commenced the advance.

Hardly had these re-enforcements got in place when I learned that our right required still further re-enforcements, on account of the increase in distance between it and the left of the Excelsior Brigade. Lieutenant-Colonel Wells, of the First Massachusetts, commanding the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, was ordered to that flank with the remaining seven companies of his regiment, with orders to keep up the connection and to use whatever portion of his force he found necessary to accomplish that object. Colonel Wells was also ordered to fill a break in the line between the left of the First Massachusetts and the re-enforcements from the Second New Hampshire, which he did with two companies. Failing to find the point of connection with the left of the Excelsior Brigade, Colonel Wells advanced three of this companies and covered the whole ground between the right of the Second New Hampshire and the Williamsburg road. This, however, was only a temporary position, and these companies were soon returned and withdrawn, the advance of the Excelsior Brigade making it no longer necessary to extend farther to the right than the ground occupied by the Second New Hampshire.

During all this time since the commencement of the advance the contest had been sharp all along the line, varied by dashes of the enemy to break our front at different points. Every attempt, however, was a failure, and at 11 o'clock a.m. my line occupied the whole ground I was ordered to take and hold, with considerable ground to the right and left of it. The fighting did not, however, cease, and our losses were considerable after our possession of the ground. I must in this connection make special mention of Company B, Captain Littlefield, of the Second New Hampshire Volunteers, which deployed upon a most exposed position in advance of our center, and did signal service in clearing the front of the enemy's sharpshooters, who had made themselves especially annoying. I regret to say that in this gallant service the company lost 2 killed and 14 wounded, 1 mortally.

General Kearny's lines having advanced in the afternoon and received the support of the five companies of the Sixteenth Massachusetts, no longer necessary, they were withdrawn about 4 p.m. At about 5 p.m. I received a request from General Robinson to send him a regiment as a support to a battery at some distance from my left. Though I felt great reluctance in sparing my only remaining reserve, yet thinking that important results might depend upon it, Colonel Wyman was ordered with the seven remaining companies of his regiment to report to General Robinson for that service.