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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 290 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, VA. Chapter XXIII.

opened upon us with six pieces artillery, wounding only one of my men in the First Michigan. In this condition the sun went down and the firing on both sides ceased. At 1 o'clock in the night I received orders from General Porter to withdraw my brigade and return before daybreak. Immediately the men, who were resting on their arms, were roused and got in motion.

Shortly after daylight I had reached my old camp, but on our march the battle had opened behind us. I learned that we were about to abandon the easterly side of the Chickahominy and our base at the White House and pass to the Richmond side. When I reached camp most of the wagons were gone. A considerable quantity of commissary and quartermaster's stores had not been removed, and by command of General Porter these stores were burned. General Porter directed me to move into position on the right of Butterfield, about half a mile to the east and south of Dr. Gaines' house, and where Morell's division formed a line of battle as indicated in the following diagram.

Sykes' division was on the right when the battle opened and a few solid shot were thrown at us. Before getting into position I went in person across the ravine and over the ground in our front. Our forces formed an obtuse angle, one arm of which was held by Sykes' regulars on the right and the other arm by Morell's division on the left. McCall's division of Pennsylvania Reserves were held in reserve. I found that Butterfield's brigade (which had not been to Mechanicsville with Griggin's and mine) was already in position, two of his regiments being placed down in the bottom of a ravine behind a ditch in a dense wood, and the other two regiments on the crest of the hill concealed by the woods, but having open ground in the rear. A similar arrangement was intended for me. I remonstrated, insisting that we were placing our men on the defensive in the last ditch, and that the front line ought to be placed near the top of the hill on the opposite side, because they would be concealed from observation there as the enemy approached and could rise at once and deliver an effective fire. Besides, such a position afforded opportunity for pursuing the rebels should we repel them. But I was informed by General Butterfield that General Porter had directed it. I then sought General Morell and went over the ground with him, and pointed out the objection to the proposed formation of our lines. General Morell directed me to form on the right of General Butterfield, and I accordingly did so. The enemy approached from the direction of Mechanicsville. Had artillery been placed on the crest of the ravine held by Morell's division the enemy's line of approach was within reach of our guns. It was practicable, therefore, to have directed a cross-fire against the enemy's troops as they advanced to attack Sykes, as well as to meet face to face when they changed direction or sent independent columns against us.

Morell's division, except Griffin's brigade, was in two lines, and the back line was on the crest of the hill which formed the south bank of the ravine. I applied to General Morell for artillery to be planted on this crest, and where on clearing the woods a sight would be afforded of the advancing columns of the enemy. At first the application was not heeded. The battle went on. Not a piece of artillery was used on our left. It was placed 100 yards in rear of the woods where we were formed, and where it remained silent and useless. I applied again to General Morell, and asked him to see how desirable it was to have the artillery brought forward to the crest of the ravine. He said that General Porter had control of the artillery. Afterward I went to his head-


Page 290 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, VA. Chapter XXIII.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 11, Part 2 (Peninsular Campaign)
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