Today in History:

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


through a dense undergrowth and heavy timber toward the open ground beyond the woods. My skirmishers, having driven in the enemy's pickets, soon encountered their supports and reserves and some re-enforcements moving rapidly into position to resist our advance.

Pressing my line forward briskly, the skirmishers falling back in order upon their supports the fire became general and sustained along the line. The resistance of the enemy,although stubborn, sensibly diminished until we reached the clearing on the left of the wood and approached the open ground beyond the woods on the right. Here we encountered their re-enforcements when a brisk engagement resulted in driving the enemy back beyond the clearing on the right and left of the road.

The most serious demonstration made by the enemy was on my right flank, which at one moment was in great danger of being turned, partly by the force which menaced it, but quite as much by a panic which seized the left wing of the right-flank regiment (Colonel Hall's Second Excelsior). At the moment of this occurrence I was proceeding with Colonel Hall to reconnoiter on the right, where, as Colonel Hall reported to me, the enemy were in such force as to make a farther advance hazardous without re-enforcements. I had gone only a few paces beyond the color company when a volley attested the presence of the enemy in that quarter. Some one, whom I could not ascertain, exclaimed in a loud voice, "We are flanked; retreat." Instantly the left wing, including the color company of the Second, broke to the rear in disgraceful confusion. Calling aloud to the rest of the line to hold their ground and keep up their fire, which order was gallantly obeyed by the right wing, under Lieutenant-Colonel Potter, and by the Fourth Regiment, under Captain Donalds, I used my best exertions, aided by Colonel Hall and Major Hammerstein, of General McClellan's staff, to rally the fugitives. This was soon done, although some of the men, including the color-sergeant, had fled to the open ground in the rear, between the woods and the new redoubt. This occurrence was all the more mortifying, as it happened in the immediate presence of the brigadier-general commanding the division, who was in front throughout the day.

The line being reformed was again pressed forward when the brigadier-general commanding the division informed me he had ordered the Second New York from Patterson's brigade to support me on the right. I then hastened to the left and found that the enemy had been pressed back beyond the cleared fields, and my line was strongly posted at the edge of the opening. My left was not supported in sufficient force, Lieutenant-Colonel Wells, of the First Massachusetts, having only a detachment of his regiment [Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania] on Colonel Taylor's left. Extending my left by a further deployment, and requesting Lieutenant-Colonel Wells to take ground in the same direction so as to be within supporting distance of his reserves, and directing that part of the line to advance with my right I returned to the right and formed the Second New York in position, although somewhat to the rear of my line. Throwing this regiment forward the whole line was again advanced, when I was ordered by the brigadier-general commanding the division in consequence of orders just then received by him from Brigadier-General Marcy, chief of staff, to fall back to our defenses.

Leaving a line of skirmishers within supporting distance, I withdrew my command in order, falling back in line of battle to the ground where I had formed my first line early in the morning. The pickets were then established by Patterson's brigade (Colonel Carr commanding) about