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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 11, Part 2 (Peninsular Campaign)
Page 344 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, VA. Chapter XXIII

part taken by the Eighty-third Regiment in the action fought before Richmond on the 27th ultimo:

In the forenoon of June 26, 1862, the regiment received orders to hold itself in readiness to march, and in compliance therewith packed knapsacks and struck tents, and at about 3 p. m. on that date, in company with the Third Brigade, set out. Being in column of route and after having proceeded some distance toward the Chickahominy River, we changed direction of march, and halted at about 2 miles distant in a southeasterly direction from where we started. Here we detached two companies, G and B, Captains Morris and Knox, as skirmishers to feel for the enemy, who was supposed to lurk in front, and who, after a short reconnaissance, returned and reported all quiet. At this time, near 5 p. m., heavy cannonading with sounds of musketry were heard ahead and on the other side of the river. We accordingly, under orders, proceeded in that direction, and learned that fighting was going on there. We arrived near the Chickahominy at 7.30 p. m., and on the open plain bivouacked for the night.

At daylight next morning we were again on the march and partly retraced our route, halting for a short time near Gaines' Mill, and thence proceeded into the woods that skirt the wheat field from east to west, resting in the swamp, and distant about three-fourths of a mile from the mansion known by that name. Immediately in front of this wood and between it and the wheat field runs a ravine, through which winds an intricate, gorged rivulet, thickly overgrown with brier and brush wood, and in the rear of the same and through the forest we were ordered to form line of battle. This accomplished, the regiment stacked arms, unsung knapsacks, and for the better enabling of the defense by the river and the obstruction of the enemy, who were expectantly approaching down hill and through the wheat field in front, and threw their line.

For many hours in this position we waited the approach of the enemy, which was to be announced by the fire of the skirmishers, Companies B and A, who meanwhile lay extended in our front. When at about - p. m. he first showed himself in the expected direction our skirmishers fell back at once, capturing and bringing in 2 prisoners, who were sent to the rear. The Twelfth and Forty-fourth New York Volunteers, who were deployed in rear and on the heights in the woods above us, opening fire upon him, the fire was returned and the right wing of the Eighty-third, being more on a level and in view of the enemy, commenced also a heavy fire. The enemy still approached in column of brigades, covered by his regiments in line of battle, but discovering when too late the position our regiment held, he precipitately fled back, with heavy loss of killed and wounded.

At this moment Brigadier-General Butterfield, amidst a galling fire from his lines of support in the rear and that of the enemy in front, came coolly down the knoll, and, sword in hand, seized our colors, waving them repeatedly aloft, and by all mortal means encouraged the valor of our regiment. His presence at once stimulated with new vigor our now thinned ranks, when the general loudly shouted out. "Your ammunition is never expended while you have your bayonets, my boys, and use them to the socket."

The battle at this juncture raged furiously. The fire was tremendous. The trees were lopped and branches and leaves fell as thick as snowflakes, whilst the balls flew like a hail-storm, the solid shot, grape, canister, and shrapnel unintermittingly scattering destruction in all


Page 344 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, VA. Chapter XXIII
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 11, Part 2 (Peninsular Campaign)
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