Report of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, C. S. Army, commanding Second Corps, of the battle of Gaines' Mill, engagement at White Oak Swamp Bridge, and battle of Malvern Hill.
PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN--SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XI/2 [S# 13]
HDQRS. SECOND CORPS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
February 20, 1863.
Brig. Gen. R. H. CHILTON,
Asst. Adjt. and Insp. Gen.
GENERAL: I have the honor herewith to submit to you a report of the operations of my corps in the battle of Cold Harbor and other engagements before Richmond.
On June 17 last, leaving the cavalry and Chew's battery under Brigadier-General Robertson near Harrisonburg; Whiting's division, then near Staunton, and Ewell's and Jackson's, near Weyer's Cave, Augusta County, Virginia, moved toward Richmond. Lawton's brigade, subsequently of Jackson's division, being part at Staunton and part near Weyer's Cave, moved with the troops nearest their positions. Subsequently Colonel Munford, with his cavalry, marched in the same direction.
On June 25 we reached the vicinity of Ashland, on the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, about 12 miles from Richmond.
The division of Brigadier-General Whiting embraced the Texas Brigade, General Hood, and the Third Brigade, Colonel Law commanding, with the batteries of Reilly and Balthis.
The division of Major-General Ewell-- the Fourth Brigade, General A. Elzey; the Seventh Brigade, General Trimble; the Eighth Brigade, Col. I. G. Seymour, and the Maryland Line, Col. Bradley T. Johnson, with the batteries of Brockenbrough, Carrington, and Courtney.
Jackson's division-- the First Brigade, General Charles S. Winder; the Second Brigade, Lieut. Col. R. H. Cunningham commanding; the Third Brigade, Col. S. V. Fulkerson commanding, and the Fourth Brigade, General A. R. Lawton, with the batteries of Poague, Carpenter, and Wooding.
On the morning of the 26th, in pursuance of instructions from the commanding general, I took up the line of march for Cold Harbor, Whiting's division in front.
Pursuing the Ashcake road, we crossed the Central Railroad about 10 a.m. Approaching the Totopotomoy Creek, the Federal picket crossed to the south side of the stream and partially destroyed the bridge, and by felling trees across the road farther on attempted to delay our advance. After the Texas skirmishers had gallantly crossed over and Reilly shelled the woods for the purpose of driving the enemy from it, in order that we might safely effect a lodgment beyond the creek, Whiting rapidly repaired the bridge and the march was resumed.
That night the three divisions bivouacked near Hundley's Corner. While there some skirmishing took place with detachments of the enemy, in which Brockenbrough's battery; the First Maryland, Thirteenth Virginia, and Sixth Louisiana Regiments participated.
We were now approaching the ground occupied by that portion of the Grand Army of McClellan which was posted north of the Chickahominy. His right was then resting upon Mechanicsville, from which point his lines extended some miles down the river. As our route that day inclined toward the south and brought us in the direction, but to the left, of Mechanicsville, we distinctly heard the rapid and continued discharges of cannon, announcing the engagement of General A- P. Hill with the extreme right of the enemy.
Early the next morning (27th) the three divisions resumed the march, General Ewell in the lead. After crossing Beaver Dam we halted to dislodge a force of the enemy observed on our right near the intersection of the road then occupied by us with the road leading from Mechan-icsville to Bethesda Church. But the Federals observing the division of General D. H. Hill, then coming into view, and which was advancing from Mechanicsville toward the point of intersection, and at the same time seeing General Ewell moving down from my command, they promptly abandoned their position and fell back. The enemy, seen by us, as before stated, on our right, having fallen back, and the road being open for pressing farther along his rear, the march was resumed toward Walnut Grove Church, where I again halted until General A. P. Hill came up. Continuing to carry out the plan of the commanding general I inclined to the left and advanced on Cold Harbor, while general A. P. Hill moved toward the same point by a different road to the right. The enemy having obstructed the road which I had taken, and adopted the additional precaution to delay my march by defending the obstructions with sharpshooters, it became necessary, for the purpose of saving time, to take a road still farther to the left. The time consumed in this delay threw me in rear of General D. H. Hill, who had moved by Bethesda Church. Upon reaching and passing Cold Harbor about half a mile his division was opened upon by a heavy fire from a position on his right and also from artillery in his front.
Soon after General A. P. Hill became engaged, and being unacquainted with the ground, and apprehensive, from what appeared to me to be the respective positions of the Confederate and Federal forces engaged, that if I then pressed forward our troops would be mistaken for the enemy and be fired into, and hoping that Generals A. P. Hill and Longstreet would soon drive the Federals toward me, I directed General D. H. Hill to move his division to the left of the road, so as to leave between him and the wood on the right of the road an open space, across which I hoped the enemy would be driven. Thus arranged, it was in our power to distinguish friend from foe in case the enemy should be driven as expected. Major-General Stuart, who had been covering my left with his cavalry, was also posted so as to charge should the Federals attempt to retreat to the Pamunkey by Cold Harbor; but it soon becoming apparent, from the direction and sound of the firing, that General A. P. Hill was hard pressed, I ordered a general advance of my entire corps, which commenced with General D. H. Hill upon the left, and extending to the right through Ewell's, Jackson's, and Whiting's divisions, posted from left to right in the order named.
The Federal commander had withdrawn his troops from their positions west of the Powhite, a small tributary of the Chickahominy, and had concentrated them in strong positions near Cold Harbor and east of that creek. The ground which had been selected to receive our attack had natural advantages for defenses and was strengthened by artificial works. His forces were posted upon an elevated ridge running nearly parallel to the Chickahominy, his right resting near McGehee's house, and his left upon an abrupt bluff, surmounted by artillery and protected by a deep ravine and a double line of breastworks for infantry. This position on the ridge was further favored on his right by points still more elevated rising in his rear, well adapted for batteries, from which a destructive fire could be maintained against an advancing line over the heads of his own infantry. In his front was a wood of deep and tangled undergrowth, through which a sluggish stream passed, converting into swamp or marsh the adjacent soil. This natural obstruction was further increased by felled timber, designed to retard the advance of our troops and to keep them as long as possible exposed to fire.
In advancing to the attack General D. H. Hill had to cross this swamp, densely covered with tangled undergrowth and young timber. This caused some confusion and a separation of regiments. On the farther edge of the swamp he encountered the enemy. The conflict was fierce and bloody. The Federals fell back from the wood under the protection of a fence, ditch, and hill. Separated now from- them by an open field some 400 yards wide, he promptly determined to press forward. Before doing so, however, it was necessary to capture a battery on his left which could enfilade his line upon its advance. To effect this he sent two regiments of Elzey's brigade, which had become separated from their command, to go in rear of the battery, and ordered Colonel [Alfred] Iverson, with the Twentieth North Carolina and the First and Third north Carolina Regiments, to make the attack in front. The order was promptly and gallantly obeyed and carried into execution by Colonel Iverson with the Twentieth North Carolina. He was severely wounded in the advance. The battery was captured with severe loss and held for a short time-sufficiently long, however, to enable the division to move on free from its terrific fire, when it was retaken by the enemy. -Again pressing forward, the Federals again fell back, but only to select a position for a more obstinate defense, when at dark-- under the pressure of our batteries, which had then begun to play with marked effect upon the left, of the other concurring events of the field, and of the bold and dashing charge of General Hill's infantry, in which the troops of General C. S. Winder joined-- the enemy yielded the field and fled in disorder.
In the mean time General Ewell, on General' D. H. Hill's right, had moved the Fourth Brigade, General Elzey, to the left of the road passing from Gaines' house to McGehee's, and a portion of the Seventh, General Trimble, and the Eighth Brigade into the wood on the right of that road. Having crossed the swamp and commenced the ascent of the hill, his division became warmly engaged with the enemy. For two hours assailed in front and flank by superior numbers, without re-enforcement, Colonel Seymour, then commanding, having fallen, the Eighth Brigade was drawn from the field, but the line was still held by a portion of General Trimble's. The Fifth Texas and a part of the Hampton Legion now came to his support, and rendered important service in holding the enemy in check until the arrival of General Lawton, of Jackson's division, enabled him to assume the offensive. Lawton, after aiding in clearing the front, wheeled a part of his brigade to the right, attacked the enemy in flank, and opened the way for the remainder of Trimble's brigade, which advanced to the field beyond the woods. General Ewell's troops, having now exhausted their own ammunition and in many cases such as they could gather from the dead and wounded and having been engaged for more than four hours, the most of them withdrew from the field about dusk.
The four brigades of Jackson's division did not act together during the engagement, but were called to separate fields of service. In pursuance of the order to charge the enemy's front, the First Virginia Brigade, commanded by General C. S. Winder, moved forward through the swamp, and upon emerging into the open field its ranks, broken by the obstacles encountered, were reformed. Meeting at that point with the Hampton Legion, First Maryland, Twelfth Alabama, Fifty-second Virginia, and Thirty-eighth Georgia, they were formed upon his line. Thus formed, they moved forward under the lead of that gallant officer, whose conduct here was marked by the coolness and courage which distinguished him on the battle-fields of the valley. The enemy met this advance with spirit and firmness. His well-directed artillery and heavy musketry played with destructive effect upon our advancing line. Nothing daunted by the fall of officers and men, thinning their ranks at every step, these brave men moved steadily forward, driving the enemy from point to point, until he was finally driven from his last position, some 300 yards beyond McGehee's house, when night prevented further pursuit.
In the charge near McGehee's house, Colonel [J. W.] Allen, of the Second Virginia Infantry, fell at the head of his regiment. Five guns, numerous small-arms, and many prisoners were among the fruits of this rapid and resistless advance. General Reynolds and an officer of his staff, who lingered on this side of the river after the Federal troops had crossed over, were among the number of prisoners.
The Second Brigade, by request of General Wilcox, was removed to a point of woods about half a mile from the river. When it reached there the enemy had already been repulsed at that point by a flank movement of Brig. Gen. R. H. Anderson. The Third Brigade was sent to support General Whiting's attack upon the enemy's left, but reached there only in time to witness the evidences of a bloody triumph and the guns of the enemy in possession of the gallant Texas Brigade. Col. S. V. Fulkerson, commanding the brigade, fell mortally wounded shortly after his arrival on the spot. General Lawton, of the Fourth Brigade, after rendering timely and important support, before described, to General Ewell's command, pressed to the brow of the hill, driving the enemy before him, and co operating in that general charge late in the evening that closed the labors of the day.
On my extreme right General Whiting advanced his division through the same dense forest and swamp, emerging from the wood into the field near the public road and at the head of the deep ravine which covered the enemy's left. Advancing thence through a number of retreating and disordered regiments he came within range of the enemy's fire, who, concealed in an open wood and protected by breastworks, poured a destructive fire for a quarter of a mile into his advancing line, under which many brave officers and men fell. Dashing on with unfaltering step in the face of those murderous discharges of canister and musketry General Hood and Colonel Law, at the heads of their respective brigades, rushed to the charge with a yell. Moving down a precipitous ravine, leaping ditch and stream, clambering up a difficult ascent, and exposed to an incessant and deadly fire from the intrenchments, these brave and determined men pressed forward, driving the enemy from his well-selected and fortified position.
In this charge, in which upward of 1,000 men fell killed and wounded before the fire of the enemy and in which fourteen pieces of artillery and nearly a regiment were captured, the Fourth Texas, under the lead of General Hood, was the first to pierce these strongholds and seize the guns. Although swept from their defenses by this rapid and almost matchless display of daring and valor, the well-disciplined Federals continued in retreat to fight with stubborn resistance.
Apprehensive, from their superior numbers and sullen obstinacy, that the enemy might again rally, General Whiting called upon General Longstreet for re-enforcements. He promptly sent forward General R. H. Anderson's brigade, which came in gallant style to his support, and the enemy was driven to the lower part of the plateau. The shouts of triumph which rose from our brave men as they, unaided by artillery, had stormed this citadel of their strength, were promptly carried from line to line, and the triumphant issue of this assault, with the well-directed fire of the batteries and successful charges of Hill and Winder upon the enemy's right, determined the fortunes of the day. The Federals, routed at every point and aided by the darkness of the night, escaped across the Chickahominy.
During the earlier part of the action the artillery could not be effectively used. At an advanced stage of it Maj. John Pelham, of Stuart's Horse Artillery, bravely dashed forward and opened on the Federal batteries posted on the left of our infantry. Reenforced by the guns of Brockenbrough, Carvington, and Courtney, of my command, our artillery now numbered about thirty pieces. Their fire was well directed and effective, and contributed to the successful issue of the engagement.
On the following day, the 28th, General Ewell, preceded by a cavalry force, advanced down the north side of the Chickahominy to Dispatch Station and destroyed a portion of the railroad track.
On the 29th he moved his division to the vicinity of Bottom's Bridge to prevent the enemy crossing at that point, but on the following day was ordered to return to co-operate with the movements of the corps.
The 28th and 29th were occupied in disposing of the dead and wounded and repairing Grapevine Bridge, over the Chickahominy, which McClellan's forces had used in their retreat and destroyed in their rear.
During the night of the 29th we commenced crossing the Chickahominy, and on the following morning arrived at Savage Station, on the Richmond and York River Railroad, where a summer hospital, remarkable for the extent and convenience of its accommodations, fell into our possession. In it were about 2,500 sick and wounded, besides some 500 persons having charge of the patients.
Many other evidences of the hurried and disordered flight of the enemy were now visible-- blankets, clothing, and other supplies had been recklessly abandoned. D.H. Hill, who had the advance, gathered up probably 1,000 stragglers and so many small-arms that it became necessary to detach two regiment, to take charge of them and to see to the security of the prisoners.
About noon we reached White Oak Swamp, and here the enemy made a determined effort to retard our advance and thereby to prevent an immediate junction between General Longstreet and myself. We found the bridge destroyed and the ordinary place of crossing commanded by their batteries on the opposite side, and all approach to it barred by detachments of sharpshooters: concealed in a dense wood close by.
A battery of twenty-eight guns from Hill's and Whiting's artillery was placed by Col. S. Crutch field in a favorable position for driving off or silencing the opposing artillery. About 2 p.m. it opened suddenly upon the enemy. He fired a few shots in reply and then withdrew from that position, abandoning part of his artillery. Captain Wooding was immediately ordered near the bridge to shell the sharpshooters from the woods, which was accomplished, and Munford's cavalry crossed the creek, but was soon compelled to retire. It was soon seen that the enemy occupied such a position beyond a thick intervening wood on the right of the road as enabled him to command the crossing. Captain Wooding's battery was consequently recalled and our batteries turned in the new direction. The fire so opened on both sides was kept up until dark. We bivouacked that night near the swamp.
A heavy cannonading in front announced the engagement of General Longstreet at Frazier's farm and made me eager to press forward; but the marshy character of the soil, the destruction of the bridge over the marsh and creek, and the strong position of the enemy for defending the passage prevented my advancing until the following morning. During the night the Federals-retired. The bridge was rapidly repaired by Whiting's division, which soon after crossed over and continued the pursuit, in which it was followed by the remainder of my corps.
At White Oak we captured a portion of the enemy's artillery, and also found another hospital with about 350 sick and wounded, which fell into our hands.
Upon reaching Frazier's farm I found General Longstreet's advance near the road. The commanding general soon after arrived, and in pursuance of his instructions I continued to press forward. The head of my advancing column was soon fired upon by the enemy, who nevertheless continued to fall back until he reached Malvern Hill, which strong position he held in force. General Whiting was directed to move to the left and take position on the Poindexter farm; General D. H. Hill to take position farther to the right; Taylor's brigade, of General Ewell's division, to move forward between the divisions of Hill and Whiting; the remainder of Ewell's division to remain in rear of the first line. Jackson's division was halted near Willis' Church in the wood and held in reserve.
General D. H. Hill pursued the route indicated, crossing an open field and creek. His troops were then brought in full range of the enemy's artillery and suffered severely. Brigadier-General Anderson was wounded and carried from the field. The division was halted under the cover of a wood, which afforded an opportunity for a more particular examination of the ground in front. The enemy in large force were found strongly posted on a commanding hill, all the approaches to which in the direction of my position could be swept by his artillery and were guarded by infantry. The nearest batteries could only be approached by traversing an open space of 300 or 400 yards, exposed to the murderous fire of artillery and infantry.
The commanding general had issued an order that at a given signal there should be a general advance of the whole line. General D. H. Hill, hearing what he believed to be the signal, with great gallantry pressed forward and engaged the enemy. Not supported by a general advance, as he had anticipated, he soon saw that it was impossible without support to sustain himself long against such overwhelming numbers. He accordingly sent to me for re-enforcements. I ordered that portion of General Ewell's division held in reserve and Jackson's division to his relief; but from the darkness of the night, and the obstructions caused by the swamp and undergrowth, through which they had to march, none reached him in time to afford him the desired support.
General Hill, after suffering a heavy loss and inflicting a severe one upon the enemy, withdrew from the open field. In the mean time the reinforcements ordered-- after struggling with the difficulties of their route, and exposed to the shelling of the enemy, which was continued until about 10 p.m.-- came up too late to participate in the engagement that evening.
On my left General Whiting moved his division, as directed, to a field on the Poindexter farm. Batteries were ordered up. The position of the enemy, as already shown, naturally commanding, was materially strengthened by the judicious distribution of his artillery. The first battery placed in position, finding itself exposed to the superior cross-fire of the enemy, was compelled to retire with loss. Baithis', Peague's, and Carpenter's batteries held their positions and fought well. The position occupied by the artillery rendering infantry support necessary, Whiting formed his line accordingly and, supported by Trimble's brigade on his left and by the Third Brigade of Jackson's division as a reserve, was directed to remain there until further orders. Some of these batteries were well served, and effectually drove back at one time an advance of the enemy upon my center.
Toward night Whiting received orders to send General Trimble's brigade to the support of General D. H. Hill, on the right, which order was promptly executed, but the brigade did not reach its destination until after Hill had withdrawn his division to the woods.
Our troops slept in front of the Federal Army during the night, expecting a renewal of the action; but early the next morning the enemy had withdrawn from the field, abandoning his dead and leaving behind some artillery and a number of small-arms.
I herewith forward to you official reports of the casualties of this corps, from which it will be seen, as far as I have been able to ascertain, that in the battle of Cold Harbor, on June 27, there were 589 killed. 2,671 wounded, and 24 missing; and in the engagement at Malvern Hill, on July 1, 377 killed, 1,746 wounded, and 39 missing.
I regret that I have not before me the data by which to ascertain with absolute precision the losses sustained, respectively, at Cold Harbor and Malvern Hill, or of distinguishing throughout the entire corps the number of officers killed and wounded from the enlisted men. But Brigadier-Generals Garland and Anderson, both since killed, having omitted in their reports to state the separate losses of their brigades in those two actions, and Brigadier-Generals Rodes, Colquitt, and Ripley having omitted to classify their losses as between officers and men, I have, so far as it relates to the two first-named brigades, apportioned the aggregate of the reported losses between Cold Harbor and Malvern Hill according to a probable estimate of the fact, and omitted any statements of the loss of officers as distinguished from men in that division. In the three remaining divisions-- Ewell's, Whiting's, and Jackson's-- the returns show a loss at Cold Harbor of 30 officers killed and 99 wounded; of enlisted men, 305 killed and 1,420 wounded; and at Mal-vern Hill, 3 officers killed and 19 wounded; of enlisted men, 38 killed and 354 wounded. The principal loss sustained by my command at Malvern Bill fell upon the division of Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill.
On July 2, by order of the commanding general, my corps, with the exception of Maj. Gen. D. H. Hill's division, which remained near Malvern Hill, was moved in the direction of Harrison's Landing, to which point the Federals had retreated, under the shelter of their gunboats in the James River.
On the morning of the 3d my command arrived near the landing and drove in the enemy's skirmishers, and continued in front of the enemy until the 8th, when I was directed to withdraw my troops and march to the vicinity of Richmond.
For further information respecting the engagements and officers who were distinguished in them I respectfully call attention to the accompanying reports of division and other commanders. The conduct of officers and men was worthy of the great cause for which they were contending.
The wounded received the special attention of my medical director, Dr. Hunter McGuire.
For the efficiency with which the members of my staff discharged their duties I take pleasure in mentioning Col. S. Crutchfield, chief of artillery; Col. A. Smead, inspector-general; Maj. R. T. Dabney and Capt. A. S. Pendleton, assistant adjutants-general; Capt. J. K. Boswell, chief engineer, and Lieut. H.K. Douglas, assistant inspector general. Cols. A. R. Boteler and William T. Jackson, volunteer aides, and Maj. Jasper S. Whiting, assistant adjutant-general, who were temporarily on my staff, rendered valuable service.
The ordnance department received the special attention of Maj. G. H. Bier. The quartermaster's and commissary departments were well managed by their respective chiefs, Majrs. J. A. Harman and W. J. Hawks.
Undying gratitude is due to God for this great victory, by which despondency increased in the North, hope brightened in the South, and the capital of Virginia and of the Confederacy was saved.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. J. JACKSON,