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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1864 Report

Appendix F

Camp near Harrison's Landing, Va.,
July 17, 1862.

Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General,
Army of the Potomac.

GENERAL: I have the honor to make the following report of the actions of the corps under my command between June 27 last and the time of its arrival at this place: On June 26 my command was stationed as follows, viz: Slocum's division was in reserve, encamped on the Courtney Clearing; Smith's division held the extreme right of the line at Golding's, picketing the wood in rear of Garnett's house, Slocum's division picketing to his left and joining on the left the pickets of Sumner's corps. The First Regiment of New York Cavalry was in reserve.

During the night of the 26th of June a redoubt was thrown up on the crest of the wheat field in front of Smith's division. By daylight in the morning it was rendered defensible. The enemy made no attempt to interrupt the work.

On the morning of the 27th of June I was ordered to send General Slocum's division to the east side of the Chickahominy, to report to General F. J. Porter. After the division was put in motion and had partially crossed the order was countermanded and the division returned to camp. The order was reiterated about 2 o'clock, and the division crossed the river by Alexander's Bridge, and very soon became severely engaged with the enemy. A report of its engagement has been made by General Slocum to General Porter. Its loss was very severe. General Smith's force had been increased on the morning of the 27th of June by five reserve batteries, under Lieut.-Col. Getty, five 30-pounder Parrott guns, and five 4-inch siege guns.

The forces of the enemy appeared in motion early in the morning, but no attack was made until about 10.30 a.m., when his artillery opened upon ours from the crest of the hill near Garnett's house. The cannonading was exceedingly severe for about an hour, when the enemy ceased firing. Very little harm was done by the fire. Demonstrations were made by the enemy during the day, and our artillery fired at forces of infantry on the east side of the river, which were moving against General F. J. Porter. This fire was very effective, and forced the enemy to move toward our right instead of keeping along the valley of the river.

About 6.30 p.m. the enemy again opened a very heavy artillery fire, shelling the camps and artillery, but, as in the morning, doing very little damage. This fire lasted nearly an hour.

About sundown a severe infantry attack was made upon General Hancock, who with his brigade held the picket line. The fight lasted about forty-five minutes, when the enemy retired, not having been able to gain an inch of ground. Lieut.-Col. Buck, Second New Jersey Regiment, who commanded the pickets of Slocum's division, fought them with great gallantry, driving the enemy from in front of his position.

On the morning of the 28th of June, finding the enemy in great force at Garnett's, a New battery in the valley of the river and a battery of heavy guns at Gaines' Hill, I withdrew all the force to the edge of the wood inclosing Golding's farm, Slocum's division on the right of the road and Smith's on the left connecting with General Sumner's line. We were severely shelled from all of their batteries just before the movement commenced and while it was going on. Just after the movement was completed two Georgia regiments made an attack upon the pickets. They were handsomely repulsed with great loss with the help of Capt. Mott's battery. A Col., Lieut.-Col., and about 20 privates were taken by our troops.

On the morning of the 29th June I was ordered by the commanding general to move my command as follows, viz: Slocum's division to Savage Station, in reserve; Smith's division to a point near the Chickahominy between the river and Savage Station, joining on the right with McCall's division and on the left with Sumner's corps. General Slocum arrived at Savage Station at an early hour, and was directed by the commanding general to cross the White Oak Swamp. General Smith's division arrived at its position about 7 o'clock in the morning. I immediately sent out cavalry to communicate with General Sumner and General McCall, but could hear nothing of either of them. A staff officer of General Sumner informed me, however, that he was some distance in front of the position in which I understood that he was to have been, and that his right was quite a mile from my left. After holding the position for two hours or more, finding that the enemy was warmly engaged with General Sumner, was crossing in force by a bridge nearly in my front, and that I was unprotected on both flanks, I directed General Smith to fall back upon Savage Station. There I sent word to General Sumner, advising him to fall back to the same point. He immediately marched there with his full force. I understood that General Heintzelman was with his force to occupy the same point, but he proceeded directly across White Oak Swamp.

About 4 o'clock the signal officers reported the enemy advancing on the railroad with infantry and artillery. While General Sumner was engaged in forming his lines to repel the anticipated advance of the enemy we were opened upon by two field pieces from the open ground near the right and rear of the clearing. About the same time a large rifled gun opened on the railroad. The infantry of General Sum ner corps engaged the enemy in the wood at the rear of the opening. After a severe contest, which lasted until after dark, the enemy was driven from his position in the woods.

General Smith's division was about a mile in rear of Savage Station when the engagement commenced. It was immediately recalled, and General Brooks' brigade was thrown into the woods to the left and rear of the position. Here it engaged a force of the enemy until after dark, repelling it and driving it back. General Brooks was wounded in the leg.

General Hancock's brigade was thrown into the wood to the right and front to repel an anticipated attack there, but was not engaged.

Immediately after the repulse of the enemy the whole force retreated across White Oak Swamp, and General Smith's division arrived at its 'position about 4 o'clock.

During the morning of June 30 I posted General Slocum's division on the right of the Charles City road by order of the commanding general. About noon I was directed by the commanding general to assume command at the position guarding the crossing of the swamp, and repaired there at once. I found that a terrific cannonade had been opened by the enemy upon the divisions of General Smith and General Richardson and the brigade of General Naglee. The two latter had been placed under my command by the commanding general. The casualties in General Richardson's division were quite numerous, but I have received no report of the action from him. In General Smith's division and General Naglee's brigade the number lost was insignificant.

The enemy kept up the firing during the whole day and crossed some infantry below our position, but he made no very serious attempt to cross during the day, and contented himself with the cannonading and the firing of his sharpshooters.

Night-fall having arrived, and the wagons having all disappeared, I took the responsibility of moving my command to the James River by a road to the left which had not been much used, and arrived at headquarters safely about daylight. I previously informed General Heintzelman of my determination.

On July 1 the two divisions of my command were posted toward the right of the position near Turkey Creek. They held this position during the day and part of the night, and, in compliance with orders from the commanding general, moved to Harrison's Bar, arriving there early in the morning.

On July 2 I moved my command to the position it now holds.

Too much praise cannot be given to the officers and men of my command for the fortitude and courage shown by them in the fatiguing and distressing marches made in the interval between June 27 and July 2. In General Smith's division every march was made at night. In General Slocum's it was nearly as severe. The nervous excitement of being under fire every day for nearly a week, often without the opportunity of returning the fire, has caused a prostration from which in many cases the men have not yet recovered.

I think that all of the general officers of the two divisions deserve to be made major-generals, and I hope that they will be so made.

Col. Pratt, Col. Bartlett, and Col. Matheson deserve to be made Brig. Gen.s. To the members of my staff, Capts. Richard Arnold, inspector-general; E. Sparrow Purdy, assistant adjutant-general; McMahon, aide-de-camp to the commanding general; Lieut. I. J. Baker, aide-de-camp; Lieut. J. C. Jackson, aide-de-camp, and Capt. W. H. Philip, aide-de-camp, who were with me during the march, and who bravely carried orders under the most trying circumstances, I owe sincere thanks. They all deserve promotion, and will, I hope, obtain it. Surg. J. B. Brown, medical director; Lieut. C. W. Toiles, acting assistant quartermaster, and Lieut. J. Hoff, ordnance officer, efficiently performed their appropriate duties, and I thank them for their energy and perseverance.

I inclose with this the reports of such subordinate commanders as have come in. I respectfully refer to them for the names of the officers who have distinguished themselves.

I have the honor to be,
your obedient servant,
Brigadier Geneneral,
Commanding Sixth Provisional Army Corps.

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