Reports of Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker, U.S. Army, commanding Second Division, of the engagement at Oak Grove, or King's School. House, and battles of Glendale, or Nelson's Farm (Frazier's Farm), with resulting correspondence, and Malvern Hill. PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN--SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES
HDQRS. HOOKER'S DIVISION, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
Near Harrison's Landing, James River, Va., July 14, 1862.
Capt. CHAUNCEY MCKEEVER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that instructions were received through the headquarters Third Corps on the night of the 24th ultimo to push forward the line of pickets covering the advance of the army before Richmond, and early the following morning chiefs of the First and Second Brigades were directed to establish their lines of battle immediately in rear of the then existing line, preparatory to commencing the movement. The Second Brigade, under Brigadier-General Sickles, was drawn up across the Williamsburg road, and the First Brigade, under Brigadier-General Grover, on its left, and extending well to the south. The Third Brigade, under Colonel Carr, was posted behind our lines of defenses, to hold them or to furnish supports for other brigades, as circumstances might require.
For half a mile to the front of our line of battle heavy forest covered the ground, and running through the middle of this was a belt of swampy soil, on each side of which was an almost impenetrable undergrowth. From the great difficulty of relieving pickets across the swamp, in many places waist-deep, the latter had tacitly become the dividing section between the advanced pickets of the two armies, and any invasion of it was regarded as an aggressive encroachment by the opposing force, and repelled, if practicable, at once. Beyond this forest, in the direction of Richmond, was a cleared field of a little greater width, on the western margin of which were encamped up to a recent date two divisions of the rebel army. The swamp and the jungles presented formidable obstacles to an advance, the latter by affording places of concealment for masses of the enemy close by, while to penetrate it discovered the approach and position of the advancing force.
At 8 o'clock the advance commenced along the entire line by sending forward skirmishers, while the supports and reserves followed them within easy supporting distance. Grover's skirmishers became engaged at once, and as the fire from the enemy increased they were strengthened from time to time sufficiently to insure a vigorous and successful advance along his whole line. The Fifth New Jersey Regiment, Carr's brigade, under Major Henry, rendered good service in this movement. Owing to the obstacles to be overcome, Sickles' brigade was slower to come up with the enemy, but a rattling musketry fire soon announced that the enemy were in his front, and no less prepared to resist his advance. Still the brigade pressed forward until it had almost reached the outer edge of the woods, when the increased fire of the enemy satisfied me that our right was outnumbered. This was between 9 and 10 o'clock, and Colonel Carr was directed to re-enforce it with the Seventh New Jersey Regiment, under Colonel Revere, which was promptly executed, and that regiment was posted on the right of the Second Brigade, and again the whole line pressed forward in the face of a galling fire and an obstinate resistance on the part of the enemy. Grover, on the left, had fought his way up to the line, and reported that he had established his picket upon it. In connection with this service I desire to call the attention of the commander of the corps to the brilliant conduct of the First Massachusetts, and to Company B, Captain Littlefield, Second Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers, as reported by their brigade commander.
At this moment, about 11 o'clock, from some misapprehension of my true condition at general headquarters, orders were sent to withdraw my command from the contest, and at the same time Brigadier-General Birney, at the head of his brigade, gallantly tendered me his services, which from the character of my instructions I was constrained to decline, and the brigade returned to its camp.
Suddenly the major-general commanding the army, appearing on the field and learning the state of affairs, gave directions for me to resume and finish the duty assigned me the night previous. The Second New York Regiment, Carr's brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel Olmsted, took the place of the Seventh Regiment New Jersey Volunteers, which had been withdrawn from the advance during the suspension of our operations, and the line again moved forward under a severe fire from our adversaries, when Olmsted's regiment established itself on the right of the line which we were to occupy. About this time Palmer's brigade, from Couch's division, came up, and soon after a section of Do Russy's Napoleons arrived, and on being judiciously posted and brought into action by that brave and accomplished officer, they opened with canister to the right and left of the Williamsburg road and literally swept the jungles of rebels. A part of Palmer's brigade had been assigned the section as support, while the remaining regiments deployed and took the advance of the infantry on this part of the field and immediately moved forward to the outer edge of the woods.
I respectfully call the attention of the commander of the corps to the report of Brigadier-General Palmer of the services of his command. As it has not been received by me, I can only add my testimony to that of others to their courage and good conduct.
After the undergrowth had been cleared of rebels the section opened fire with great effect on the rebel encampment on the side of the field opposite their position. These pieces were worked under the immediate charge of Lieutenant Henderson, and this young officer deserves especial mention for the skill and intrepidity he displayed in the performance of his duty. At 7 o'clock my command was withdrawn and our new line turned over to Brigadier-General Palmer to defend for the night.
In this affair our loss was 28 killed, 262 wounded, and 19 missing. The reports of brigade and regimental commanders are herewith transmitted. In all of our encounters with the enemy my brigade commanders have uniformly rendered me, by their zeal, activity, and intelligence, a generous support, but on this field, from its character, I was more than ever indebted to them. To them should be accorded the merit of our success, and to their prudence and excellent arrangement the limited loss with which it was achieved. I desire to make especial mention of Brigadier-General Sickles for his great gallantry in rallying a part of the Seventy-first New York Regiment and returning it to action after it had given way, and Brigadier-General Grover, for the skillful disposition of his force and his gallant use of it in accomplishing our object. I desire also to call especial attention of the major-general commanding the Third Corps to all the commanders of the regiments of the First and Second Brigades ; to Colonel Revere, of the Seventh New Jersey Regiment; Major Henry, Fifth New Jersey, and Lieutenant-Colonel Olmsted, of the Second New York Regiment. It was on their courage and intelligence that our success in a great measure depended. Especial attention is also invited to the gallant and meritorious services of Lieutenant-Colonel Potter, Seventy-first New York Volunteers, Major Stevens, Seventy-second New York Volunteers, and to Captain Donalds, of the Seventy-third New York Volunteers, whose heroic conduct was conspicuous throughout the day.
Surgeon Prentice, of the Seventy-third New York, was with the advance the greater part of the day, and too much praise cannot be awarded him for his unwearied devotion to the wounded. His soldier-ship in the intervals of his professional duties were no less the subject of admiration.
Many other names among my officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates have claims to honorable mention, as will be found in the accompanying reports.
I must again tender my sincere thanks to Captain Dickinson, assistant adjutant-general, Lieutenants Lawrence and Candler, aides-de-camp, and Lieutenant Austin, officers of my staff, for their faithful and devoted services during these operations.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant.
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
HDQRS. HOOKER'S DIVISION, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Harrison's Landing, James River, Va., July 15, 1862.
Capt. CHAUNCEY MCKEEVER,
Third Army Corps.
In obedience to instructions my command was withdrawn from its advanced position before Richmond about sunrise on the 29th ultimo. We retired in condition to give or receive battle, as occasion might require, to a new line a mile or more to the rear, where it was halted and drawn up to check any advance of the enemy either by the Williamsburg road or railroad. The enemy followed up our movements closely, taking possession of our camps as soon as they were abandoned, but evincing no disposition to come to close quarters. We remained in our new position until about 3 o'clock p.m. with no other event than a feeble attack on Sumner's advance line, that officer's corps being on my right, and a few projectiles from the artillery which found their way inside my lines.
Orders were now sent me to fall back to Savage Station for its defense, and while my column was moving for that purpose orders were again received to follow Kearny in his flank movement toward James River and to cross White Oak Swamp at Brackett's Ford, which was accomplished that night, the rear of my column coming up to Charles City road about 10 o'clock, at which point we bivouacked for the night. In this flank movement two of my batteries, Osborn's and Bramhall's, had been detached for duty in the defense of Savage Station, where they rendered excellent service. The report of Captain Osborn is herewith forwarded, to which the attention of the major-general commanding the corps is especially invited.
About daylight the following morning, 30th ultimo, the major-general commanding the corps communicated to me in person that it was his desire that my division should cover what is called the Quaker road, over which our troops, artillery, and trains were to pass in their retrograde march to James River. As Kearny's division was assigned the same duty, and as it was yet early in the morning, we mounted our horses, rode over the road we were required to defend, and examined the country and the approaches over which the enemy would be most likely to advance. The direction of Quaker road is nearly perpendicular to the general course of James River and crosses at nearly right angles the principal highways leading out of Richmond between the river and the Williamsburg road. Numerous by-roads connect these most traveled highways with the Quaker road, and it was determined that I should establish my division on the one which falls into the last-named road near Saint Paul's Church, the right resting on this cross-road, and the line nearly parallel with and half a mile or more in advance of the Quaker road. A forest covered the area between my position and this road. On my right was Sumner's corps in a cleared field, occupying the position which I had supposed was assigned to Kearny, and Kearny remained near where I had left him early in the morning.
About 9 o'clock my line of battle was established, Grover on the right, Carr in the center, and Sickles' brigade on the left. In the mean time directions were given for all of my batteries to continue on their march to our proposed camp on James River, in order that they might be put in position there.
About 11 a.m. some of our army wagons were observed in our front, which on inquiry were found to belong to McCall's division, which was the first intimation I had received of his being in my neighborhood, and on examination I found his division drawn up in line of battle, his left resting 500 or 600 yards from my right, and stretching off in an obtuse angle with the direction of my own. The woods in which this division was found extended to the immediate front of my right wing, narrowing in width as it approached my position.
About 3 o'clock the enemy commenced a vigorous attack on McCall, and in such force that General Sumner voluntarily tendered me the services of a regiment, which was posted in an open field on my extreme right and under shelter from the enemy's artillery. This was the Sixty-ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, under Colonel Owen.
Meanwhile the enemy's attack had grown in force and violence, and after an ineffectual effort to resist it, the whole of McCall's division was completely routed, and many of the fugitives rushed down the road on which my right was resting, while others took to the cleared fields and broke through my lines from one end of them to the other, and actually fired on and killed some of my men as they passed. At first I was apprehensive that the effect would be disastrous on my command and was no little relieved when they had passed my lines. Following closely upon the footsteps of these demoralized people were the broken masses of the enemy, furiously pressing them on to me under cover of the woods until they were checked by a front fire of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers and afterward by a diagonal fire on their right and left flanks from the Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers and the left of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers; also, whenever the enemy ventured to uncover himself from the forest, a destructive fire was poured into him along my right wing.
After great loss the enemy gave way, and were instantly followed with great gallantry by Grover, at the head of the First Massachusetts Regiment, while the Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania Regiment, heroically led by Owen, advanced in the open field on their flank with almost reckless daring.
Grover was re-enforced by the Second New Hampshire and the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania Regiments, but not until after he had suffered severely from the enemy's reserves. The enemy were rolled back through a part of McCall's camp, and passing Sumner's front, were by him hurriedly thrown over onto Kearny, where the fire was kept up to a late hour in the night.
During all this time several of Sumner's batteries had been doing splendid execution in the rebel ranks and greatly contributed to our success. The troops under Grover were withdrawn from the pursuit at dark and restored to their places in our line of battle.
Soon after this attack was made word was received from General Sickles that the enemy in his immediate front was preparing to turn our left, when all of our reserves were dispatched to strengthen him. No attack, however, in force was made, and Sickles' and Carr's brigades remained in position. The former reports the capture of 150 prisoners, in which are included 1 lieutenant-colonel, 1 captain, 5 lieutenants, and 40 enlisted men, taken by Captain Park, Company F, Second Regiment New York Volunteers, Carr's brigade. To these should be added one stand of colors, all of which were forwarded to the headquarters of General Sumner.
The loss of the rebels in this battle was very severe. The field on which it was fought was one of unusual extent for the numbers engaged, and was almost covered with their dead and dying.
From their torches we could see that the enemy was busy all night long in searching for his wounded, but up to daylight the following morning there had been no apparent diminution in the heart-rending cries and groans of his wounded. The unbroken, mournful wail of human suffering was all that we heard from Glendale during that long, dismal night.
I was instructed to hold my position until Sumner and Kearny had retired over the Quaker road, and soon after daylight my command was withdrawn and followed them.
Among others I have to deplore the loss of Colonel Wyman, of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, and, there is too much reason to believe, of Major Chandler, of the First Massachusetts Volunteers, both officers of singular merit and promise. Diligent search was made for the latter during the night without success, and no tidings of his fate have since been received by his regiment.
I respectfully forward herewith the reports of brigade and regimental commanders; also the report of the services of Osborn's battery at Malvern Hill. From these it will appear that my division has again given me cause to be profoundly grateful for their conduct and courage.
As Colonel Owen has rendered me no report of the operations of his regiment, I can only express my high appreciation of his services, and my acknowledgments to his chief for having tendered me so gallant a regiment.
I must again make my heartfelt acknowledgments to my brigade commanders, and especially am I indebted to Brigadier-General Grover for his gallantry on this field.
I also beg leave to call the attention of the major-general commanding the corps to Surgeon Foye, of the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers, for his activity in searching for our wounded and his devotion to them when found. His labors only ended on our abandonment of the field.
To Captain Dickinson, assistant adjutant-general ; Lieutenants Lawrence and Candler, aides-de-camp, I tender my sincere thanks for their services.
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division
HEADQUARTERS, U.S. INSANE ASYLUM,
Near Washington, D.C., November 8, 1862.
Maj. Gen. GEORGE A. McCALL, Commanding, &c.:
Your letter of the 30th ultimo reached me day before yesterday, since which time my engagements have prevented reply, and even now I have not time to give it the consideration it requires.
I regret extremely that you should have discovered any exceptionable statements in my report of the battle of Glendale, and if injustice has been done you or your command I shall be rejoiced to remove it, but before doing so I must be satisfied that I am in error.
In rendering the report of Glendale my single object was to be just to my own division, and if I had felt that my desire admitted of execution without reference to your command I assure you no mention would have been made of it by me.
You will excuse me, general, if I give you some of my reasons for supposing that your command had met with discomfiture at Glendale, and I believe I nowhere leave it to be inferred that it was not without abundant cause, for of that I had no opportunity of knowing. Sumner was on my right in an open field, where at one time not less than six or eight regimental colors were seen flying to the rear, while between my position and his the horses of the artillery, without their batteries, and the dragoons rushed down the road. Crowds of men were even running panic-stricken to the rear along the road, and far to the right and left of it I myself arrested an officer in his flight with a small body of men, who represented himself to be in command of the provost guard of your division, and ordered him to halt, form his guard: and check the flight of the runaways in his immediate vicinity, which he attempted, but was soon hurried to the rear by overwhelming numbers. He declared openly that this division had been all cut to pieces, that all the artillery was lost, and that several regiments had lost their standards. From my personal observation I must confess I was prepared to believe it all, and without knowing the impression of any great number of the officers of Sumner's and your own command, I never felt a doubt but that they confirmed my own. If it should become necessary their evidence can readily be procured, as well as that of officers of Kearny's command, on your right. In fact, I am more indebted to that officer for knowledge of the operations on the right than to any one with whom I have conversed. Of what related to the extreme right I know nothing from personal observation. You will remember where I met yourself and General Meade, in the vicinity of your batteries, early in the afternoon, and it was only from that visit that I had an opportunity to form an idea of your position. With regard to Sumner's views of our relative positions, as communicated through your letter, I can only say that his knowledge of them seems to be extremely limited. I hope that an opportunity will soon present itself, if it is a matter of doubt now, whether his opinions or mine are the correct ones.
In calling it the Quaker road, I adopted the name by which it was called on every map furnished me from headquarters; and in referring to your position as a camp, it only referred to the place where I had seen your troops passing the day in like manner with my own. I had pitched no tents during my transit from Casey's camp to Harrison's Landing. Until I received your letter I was not aware that any troops except your own occupied the ground in advance of my position.
But these are matters of but little or no consequence in the issue. I reported that your command was routed at Glendale, and if it was not I shall be rejoiced to be convinced to the contrary, that I may do your division "justice." I should be sorry to learn that I had ever done them injustice. I simply announced what I believed, and still believe, to be a fact, without reflecting upon the conduct of your men while engaged with the enemy or expressing an opinion of his force which required your command to give way before him.
Very respectfully, &c.,
HEADQUARTERS, U.S. INSANE ASYLUM,
Near Washington City, D.C., October 15, 1862.
Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
If you have no objection I request that you will substitute the inclosed report of the battle of Glendale for the one forwarded at the proper time. I desire it for the reason that the latter contained a reflection on the conduct of McCall's command which they nobly redeemed at South Mountain and Antietam. The language of my report was just and called for when made, but I do not think that it was so much the fault of the men as of other causes. I am now of opinion that the men were all right. In other regards the reports are identical.
Captain Moore will go up and return with the reports.
Please say to Hardie that I will do all I can for him, but my weight with the authorities is not perceptible.
Very respectfully, &c.,
HEADQUARTERS CENTER GRAND DIVISION,
Camp near Potomac Creek, Va., December 7, 1862.
Brig. Gen. GEORGE A. MCCALL,
Your letters of the 11th, 13th, and 19th of November, with inclosures, were duly received, as also that of the 2d instant, and if I have delayed making my acknowledgment I assure you it has been from no want of respect to yourself, or desire on my part to remove from your mind as early as possible any unfavorable impression you may have entertained respecting the accuracy of my official report of the battle of Glendale.
From the perusal of your letter of the 13th ultimo, the impression left on my mind was that you did not look for answer until the "opportunity to ascertain from General Meade, and others of your division, the particulars of this hard-fought field" had been presented me, since which time my official engagements have more than ever before absorbed my attention. I only regret that I could not relieve your mind earlier, and that you have not furnished me with more evidence that I had been unkind or unjust in that part of my report which relates to your command at Glendale, for I had already assured you that it was my conviction that you had been "completely routed" on that field--not so much from the reports which were made me by the officers of your command, as you seem to convey in your letter of the 13th, as from my own personal observation. These only helped to confirm me in the opinion I had previously formed, from the falling back not of "stragglers" or the parts or whole of "one or two" regiments, but, I should judge, of the bulk of your command, in a flying, demoralized condition.
The objectionable part of my report appears to be that which alleges that your division was completely routed, and yet I will venture to assert that neither General Reynolds, Meade, or Seymour will ever say that such was not the fact. Reynolds, since the receipt of your letter of the 19th ultimo, has assured me that such was the case. I have had no opportunity to converse with Meade and Seymour on the subject, but do not doubt that if that specific question is put to either of them they will reply in the affirmative.
In the extract from Meade's letter furnished me he seems to dwell on the fact "that if the whole division had run through my lines our army would have been destroyed." I certainly nowhere in my report declared that they did, for of these that fled to the rear but an inconsiderable portion crossed my line; a much greater proportion made their escape through the field occupied by Sumner. Generals Sumner and Sedgwick are good authority on that subject, for they had as good an opportunity to witness it as myself.
The letter of Captain Clark is no less irrelevant to the point at issue, which is not that your men did not behave well, but that they were "completely routed." In announcing that fact I did not impeach their conduct, for of that I had not the same opportunity to know. Troops can be whipped, I take it, and still preserve their honor. The same remark is applicable to extracts from letters of other officers of your division. They all seem to mistake the point at issue. To arrive at the fact it would be much more conclusive and satisfactory to inquire of each whether or not your division was "completely routed" on that field. Generals Kearny, Berry, and Robinson informed me that such was the fact, on the extreme right. The two latter are now living and can testify for themselves. If any further doubt is felt on this point it would be well to refer to the record of the court of inquiry on young Ran-dol, commanding battery.
But of this--the testimony of my whole division--that of Sedgwick's and Kearny's---no matter. I assure you, general, that it is no agreeable task for me to accumulate proof to the prejudice of any companion in arms, and I have only written the above to satisfy you that I have not been unjust or untrue in my report of this battle. The crossing of my lines by your men filled me with apprehension--the approach of the rebels none. Justice and duty required that it should be placed on record at my hands, and from that consideration only I made mention of your command. This record must stand as it is, because it is true of yours and it is just of mine. I shall never refer to it again except in vindication of what I have stated.
Very truly, your friend,
HDQRS. HOOKER'S DIVISION, THIRD ARMY CORPS,
Camp near Harrison's Landing, James River, Va., July 18, 1862.
Capt. CHAUNCEY MCKEEVER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Army Corps.
CAPTAIN: After withdrawing from Glendale our march was continued to the Malvern Hills without interruption, and about 10 o'clock a.m. my division was established in line of battle for the defense of our new position. Under a heavy fire of the enemy's artillery Grover's brigade was strongly posted on the right, Carr's on his left, and well sheltered. Subsequently Sickles' brigade, held in reserve, was posted in rear of my right, protected from the enemy's shots, and well in hand to re-enforce any part of my lines. Osborn's and Beam's batteries occupied higher ground, where they could reply to the enemy's artillery, or open upon his columns of infantry should he attempt to advance. Webber's and Bramhall's batteries were located in rear of these, and held in reserve.
During the remaining part of the forenoon a brisk fire was kept up between the artillery, principally on the part of the enemy, without any decided effect, as far as could be discovered, on either side, the distance being about 1,500 yards. I regret, however, to state that it was in this artillery skirmishing that the gallant chief of the Fourth New Jersey Regiment [Second New Jersey Battery], Captain Beam, fell from a shell which pierced his body. About 3 o'clock this firing was resumed with more activity in the direction of Kearny's left. This exposed the rebel batteries to an enfilading fire from my position, a direct one from Kearny, and a diagonal one from several other batteries, which soon resulted in driving the rebel gunners from their pieces. Prior to this a heavy column of infantry had been seen passing to my right, which disappeared behind the forests in my front, and were not heard from again that afternoon. On the left an attack was made in great force, and the battle lasted until long after dark.
About half an hour before sunset orders were sent me by General Sumner to dispatch a brigade of my command to the assistance of General Porter, and immediately General Sickles' brigade moved to that point.
For a full account of the important services it rendered on the left I respectfully call the attention of the major-general commanding the corps to the report of its chief, herewith inclosed. I will especially invite his attention to that part of the report which relates to the brilliant conduct of Colonel Taylor's regiment, the Seventy-second New York Volunteers. The loss sustained by that regiment is the truest index of its services.
The First and Third Brigades were not engaged during the day, and remained in their position until near morning, when orders were received to march in the direction of Harrison's Landing.
I transmit herewith the reports of brigade, regimental, and battery commanders.
I desire to make honorable mention of Capt. John S. Godfrey, the assistant quartermaster of the division, for his zealous, faithful, and meritorious services in the performance of all of his duties from the commencement of the campaign.
As no official list has been furnished the major-general commanding the corps of the losses sustained by the division I have the honor to command since the 1st day of June last, I herewith forward it. The number, as will be seen, is 847, making the aggregate of my loss in battle since the opening of the campaign in the Peninsula 2.589.
And in this connection I may be permitted to add, in justice and fidelity to the living and the dead, that the brave officers and men whose honor and welfare were confided to my care have uniformly slept on the field on which they have fought; that in all their encounters with the enemy, whether involving the whole force of the division or down to an affair between the pickets, they have inflicted heavier blows than they have received, and under all their toils, hardships, and privations have evinced a cheerfulness, obedience, fortitude, and heroism which will never fail to command the gratitude, reverence, and admiration of their chief.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.