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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1864 Report

Appendix F

HDQRS. OF THE FIRST BRIGADE, SMITH'S DIVISION,
July 10, 1862.

CAPTAIN: About 8 o'clock on the morning of the 27th of June I was directed with my brigade to take possession of the line of intrenchments overlooking James Garnett's house and the plain surrounding it, which had been thrown up the night previous, and to complete and defend it. The officers of engineers especially in charge of the work were Lieut. Col. B. S. Alexander and Lieut. F. U. Farquhar. I was also directed to hold the skirt of the woods to the right of the work, directly in front of. James Garnett's house, my right flank resting on the valley of the Chickahominy.

About 10 o'clock a.m., the enemy having posted artillery at different points on the plain and threatening to assault the work by a column of infantry then within musket-shot on my left flank, I immediately made preparations to defend the rifle pits, and asked the assistance of some light artillery. In a short time afterward I was directed to abandon the rifle pits except by the pickets, and to confine my operations to defending the skirt of woods before referred to.

Some time after this the enemy commenced a furious cannonading of the camp of the division behind our position, many of the shot passing into and through the woods in which my troops were stationed, inflicting upon us a few losses, but having no other effect. Their artillery was finally silenced by ours, commanded by Lieut.-Col. Getty. Late in the evening the enemy's artillery again fiercely opened, apparently with the view of driving our infantry out of the woods. They met with no success in that respect, and were shortly after silenced by our artillery as before.

Late in the evening, after sundown, a body of the enemy's infantry from Garnett's house commenced an assault upon my command. They drove in my pickets rapidly (the picket lines had been less than 100 yards apart), and advanced to a little crest in the wheat field separating us, about 40 yards distant from my line, and delivered their fire. Our men replied with spirit, and stood bravely up to the work before them. The enemy, taking advantage of the crest in question, was partially sheltered from our fire. The contest of musketry continued until long after dark, when the enemy was repulsed with serious loss. The cartridges of our troops were nearly exhausted at the close of the contest.

The action of itself had the greatest importance, from the fact that the enemy had just gained a success on the other side of the Chickahominy, and from the fact that had he been able to force his way through our lines at the point held by me he would have been enabled to separate the two positions of our army on either bank of the stream.

During the action General Brooks came to my assistance with the Sixth Vermont Volunteers, Col. Lord, and so disposed of that regiment as to take the enemy in rear of their left flank. Three companies got into position just as the firing had ceased. The regiment, however, met some casualties in coming into position. General Brooks also rendered me valuable assistance in taking charge of the right of our line, another of his regiments, the Fourth Vermont Volunteers, Col. Stoughton, being under my orders and stationed at that point.

At the commencement of the action Lieut.-Col. Buck, Second New Jersey Volunteers, commanding the pickets of the New Jersey brigade on my left, threw his reserves into the rifle pits, and, together with a company of Berdan's Sharpshooters, under command of Maj. Gaspard Trepp, performed excellent service during the contest, driving back the enemy's skirmishers, who threatened an advance toward our left flank. They also did considerable execution on the right of the enemy's force attacking me from Garnett's house. The artillery also, under Col. Getty and Capt. Ayres, rendered valuable service in intimidating the enemy's advance upon my left flank. After the action was over I re-established the pickets in their original position, and withdrew my forces to camp.

In this action I have particularly to mention the following-named officers, whose good conduct I was a witness of: Col. A. Cobb, Fifth Wisconsin; Col. W. H. Irwin, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania; Col. F. L. Vinton, Forty-third New York; Col. H. Burnham, Sixth Maine; Col. E. H. Stoughton, Fourth Vermont; Maj. T. M. Hulings, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania; Maj. B. F. Harris, Sixth Maine; Capt. John B. Miles, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, and Capt. J. D. Campbell, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Their commands behaved in the handsomest manner. I do not mention Col. Lord, the gallant commander of the Sixth Vermont Volunteers, as on this occasion he did not get into action save as previously stated, Lieut.-Col. Buck commanding the pickets in the Jersey brigade, and Maj. Gaspard Trepp commanding the Sharpshooters.

To the following members of my staff I am indebted for the gallantry displayed by them: Capt. John Hancock, assistant adjutant-general; First Lieut. W. G. Mitchell, aide-de-camp; First Lieut. Isaac B. Parker, jr., aide-de-camp, and Second Lieut. C. S. McEntee, acting brigade quartermaster. I also desire to mention as having behaved handsomely my orderly, Bugler John Malone, Company B, Sixth Maine Volunteers.

The loss of our troops was as follows:

Killed.Wounded.Missing.Aggregate.
OMOMOMOM
Hancock's brigade6381123102
4th Vermont88
6th Vermont1618

Aggregate (118)7395133118

The enemy's loss was heavy. The loss on both sides would have been much heavier had it not been for our peculiar relative positions and the fact that the contest was principally in the dark and the little space separating us so dense with smoke that nothing could be seen but the flash of musketry. The enemy never advanced beyond the crest referred to, being halted there by our deadly fire. Their lying down behind it prevented heavier losses to them and to us, and the darkness and the danger of our line getting into confusion alone prevented us from driving them from it by an advance. As it was, they were driven back by the fire. The troops opposed to us were from Georgia, under command of General Toombs. The next day our position at Golding's was abandoned during the bombardment of the enemy and a new position taken up between that point and Fair Oaks Station, ready to repel any attempt to debouch troops by Golding's house.

During the abandonment one of my regiments, the Forty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers, forming part of the rear guard, being assaulted by the enemy, assisted in repulsing them handsomely, with the following loss: killed, 3; wounded, 2; missing, 2. Aggregate, 7.

At daylight on the morning of the 29th we proceeded to Trent's, and on arriving there took up a position with the division and held it until the train of the troops preceding us had left. We then proceeded to a point lower down the Chickahominy covering one of our bridges. That position was held until the afternoon, when we fell back to Savage Station, and there remained until the troops on our advanced line had fallen back to that position. We then commenced to march toward White Oak Swamp, but after proceeding about 2 miles the brigade was ordered with the division to return and assist the troops at Savage Station, who in the mean time had been assaulted by the enemy. That duty having been performed and the enemy repulsed, I was ordered to command the advance of the troops through White Oak Swamp. We crossed the bridge about I o'clock a.m. We remained there during the next day, forming a portion of the rear guard of the army. Our troops were held in position all day, ready to repel an attack from the enemy and to prevent them from constructing new bridges or repairing those we had destroyed. About 10 o'clock in the morning the enemy opened a terrific bombardment upon our troops from the heights on the other side of the swamp, and shortly after crossed a corps of sharpshooters. Having been ordered to withdraw my troops at night, I was directed with my brigade to take the advance of the rear guard and to proceed to James River. We arrived at that point at daylight the next morning after a most orderly march. During this day (the 1st of July) we took up a favorable position facing the enemy, and remained there until early the following morning (the 2d), when I again led the advance of our division to a point named Harrison's Landing, lower down the James River.

During this march the rain fell in torrents, the roads were very heavy, and the tired troops suffered a great deal. The night march of the 30th inst., owing to the results of the operations of other troops in our advance during the day and from the supposition that we would probably meet the enemy in force on the route, was full of uncertainty, knowing that in the narrow road we pursued we labored under the greatest disadvantage in case of an attack even from a small force in our front, the wooded nature of the country making it difficult to cause any prompt preparation to meet an assault from that direction.

No phase in war could try the endurance, the discipline, and the patriotism of our men more than the late movement. I am happy to say that they did all that could be expected of the best troops. Our ambulances, wagons, &c., having been sent in advance and separated from us, it was necessary to leave the sick by the road-side, to get along as best they could. Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing on the march subsequent to the 28th was as follows:

Killed.Wounded.Missing.Aggregate.
OMOMOMOM
5th Wisconsin....2727
49th Pennsylvania...2.79
43d New York.....2929
6th Maine...5.2126

Aggregate. (91)...7.8491

The brigade has one gratifying assurance- that although forming a portion of the rear guard the greater portion of the time, our losses from straggling were but few; and it is a matter of congratulation to us that the regiments of the brigade have never met the enemy but to repulse them. I regret to say that a number of officers and soldiers followed the baggage trains during the march under pleas of illness which were not warranted by necessity. Many officers and soldiers of high spirit, who had had but little sleep for days and who were really sick, followed the fortunes of their command, ready to turn upon and repulse the enemy whenever he appeared. To commemorate the services of these officers and soldiers I have had lists prepared of all who, on arriving at this camp, marched out to meet the enemy, and have directed that these lists should form part of the record of each regiment.

It is a matter of regret to me that I cannot do substantial justice to all the deserving men of my brigade. Where so many have deserved so well of their country it is impossible for me to particularize individuals further than I have done, except as has been done by regimental commanders.

To the following members of my staff I am indebted for the most valuable assistance during the march: First Lieut. W. G. Mitchell, aide-de-camp; First Lieut. Isaac B. Parker, jr., aide-de-camp; Second Lieut. C. S. McEntee, acting brigade quartermaster. They showed the greatest intelligence and good conduct.

I herewith mention the names of individuals not mentioned in my personal report, referred to by regimental commanders as having been especially distinguished:

Maj. B. F. Baker, Forty-third New York Volunteers; Maj. C. B. Stoughton, Fourth Vermont Volunteers; Capt. S.C. Gray, Company A, Sixth Maine Volunteers; Capt. J. H. Ballinger, Company C, Sixth Maine Volunteers; Capt. R. W. Young, Company G, Sixth Maine Volunteers; Capt. George Fuller, Company H, Sixth Maine Volunteers; Capt. W. H. Stanchfield, Company I, Sixth Maine Volunteers; Capt. J. H. Platt, Company B, Fourth Vermont Volunteers; Capt. H. L. Terry, Company E, Fourth Vermont Volunteers; Capt. James N. Duffy. Company C, Second New Jersey Volunteers; First Lieut. J. B. McKinley, Company E, Sixth Maine Volunteers; First Lieut. John M. Lincoln, Company F, Sixth Maine Volunteers; First Lieut. G. B. French, Company G, Fourth Vermont Volunteers; First Lieut. S. E. Griffin, Company B, Forty-third New York Volunteers; Second Lieut. W. H. Gilfillan, Company G, Forty-third New York Volunteers; Second Lieut. W. C. Tracy, Company K, Fourth Vermont Volunteers; First Sergt. Theo. Lincoln, jr., Company F, Sixth Maine Volunteers, and Private Matthew Wood, Company F, Sixth Maine Volunteers.

I am, sir, very, respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
WlNF'D S. HANCOCK,
Brig. Gen.. Commanding.

Capt. L. D. H. CURRIE,
Asst. Adj't. General,
Smith's Division.


Legend:

0 - Commissioned Officers

M - Enlisted Men

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