I am just in. When I got to the front the most of General Casey's division had dispersed. * * * The rout of General Casey's men had a most dispiriting effect on the troops as they came up. I saw no reason why we should have been driven back.
This official statement, together with other accounts received previous to my arrival upon the battle-field, to the effect that Casey's division had given way without making a proper resistance, caused me to state, in a telegram to the Secretary of War on the 1st, that this division "gave way unaccountably and discreditably." Subsequent investigations, however, greatly modified the impressions first received, and I accordingly advised the Secretary of War of this in a dispatch on the 5th of June.
The official reports of Generals Keyes, Casey, and Naglee show that a very considerable portion of this division fought well, and that the brigade of General Naglee is entitled to credit for its gallantry. This division, among the regiments of which were eight of comparatively new troops, was attacked by superior numbers; yet, according to the reports alluded to, it stood the attack "for three hours before it was re-enforced." A portion of the division was thrown into great confusion upon the first onslaught of the enemy; but the personal efforts of General Naglee, Colonel Bailey, and other officers, who boldly went to the front and encouraged the men by their presence and example at this critical juncture rallied a great part of the division, and thereby enabled it to act a prominent part in this severely-contested battle. It therefore affords me great satisfaction to withdraw the expression contained in my first dispatch, and I cordially give my indorsement to the conclusion of the division commander, "that those parts of his command which behaved discreditably were exceptional cases."
On the 31st, when the battle of Fair Oaks commenced, we had two of our bridges nearly completed; but the rising waters flooded the log way approaches and made them almost impassable, so that it was only by the greatest efforts that General Summer crossed his corps and participated in that hard-fought engagement. The bridges became totally useless after this corps had passed, and others on a more permanent plan were commenced.
On my way to headquarters, after the battle of Fair Oaks, I attempted to cross the bridge where General Sumner had taken over his corps on the day previous. At the time General Sumner crossed this was the only available bridge above Bottom's Bridge. I found the approach from the right bank for some 400 yards submerged to the depth of several feet, and on reaching the place where the bridge had been I found a great part of it carried away, so that I could not get my horse over, and was obliged to send him to Bottom's Bridge, 6 miles below, as the only practicable crossing.
The approaches to New and Mechanicsville Bridges were also overflowed, and both of them were enfiladed by the enemy's batteries, established upon commanding heights on the opposite side. These batteries were supported by strong forces of the enemy, having numerous rifle pits in their front, which would have made it necessary, even had the approaches been in the best possible condition, to have fought a sanguinary battle, with but little prospect of success, before a passage could have been secured.
The only available means, therefore, of uniting our forces at Fair Oaks for an advance on Richmond soon after the battle was to march the troops from Mechanicsville and other points on the left bank of the Chickahominy down to Bottom's Bridge, and thence over the Williamsburg road to the position near Fair Oaks, a distance of about 23 miles.