during the night, with as many of the wagons of the Fifth Corps as possible, and to withdraw the corps itself to a position stretching around the bridges, where its flanks would be reasonably secure, and it would be within supporting distance of the main army. General Porter carried out my orders to that effect.
It was not advisable at that time, even had it been practicable, to withdraw the Fifth Corps to the right bank of the Chickahominy. Such a movement would have exposed the rear of the army, placed as between two fires, and enabled Jackson's fresh troops to interrupt the movement to James River, by crossing the Chickahominy in the vicinity of Jones' Bridge before we could reach Malvern Hill with our trains. I determined then to resist Jackson with the Fifth Corps, re-enforced by all our disposable troops in the new position near the bridge heads, in order to cover the withdrawal of the trains and heavy guns, and to give time for the arrangements to secure the adoption of the James River as our line of supplies in lieu of the Pamunkey.
The greater part of the heavy guns and wagons having been removed to the right bank of the Chickahominy, the delicate operation of withdrawing the troops from Beaver Dam Creek was commenced shortly before daylight and successfully executed.
Meade's and Griffin's brigades were the first to leave the ground. Seymour's brigade covered the rear with the horse batteries of Captains Robertson ad Tidball, but the withdrawal was so skillful and gradual and the repulse of the preceding day so complete, that although the enemy followed the retreat closely and some skirmishing occurred, he did not appear in front of the new line in force till about noon of the 27th, when we were prepared to receive him.
About this time General Porter, believing that General Stoneman would be cut off from him, sent him orders to fall back on the White House, and afterwards rejoin the army as best he could.
On the morning of the 27th of June, during the withdrawal of his troops from Mechanicsville to the selected position already mentioned, General Porter telegraphed as follows:
I hope to do without aid, though I request that Franklin, or some other command, be held ready to re-enforce me. The enemy are so close that I expect to be hard pressed in front. I hope to have a portion in position to cover the retreat. This is a delicate movement, but relying on the good qualities of the commanders of divisions and brigades, I expect to get back and hold the new line.
This shows how closely Porter's retreat was followed.
Notwithstanding all the efforts used during the entire night to remove the heavy guns and wagons, some of the siege guns were still in position at Gaines' house after sunrise, and were finally hauled off by hand. The new position of the Fifth Corps was about an arc of a circle, covering the approaches to the bridges which connected our right wing with the troops on the opposite side of the river.
Morell's division held the left of the line in a strip of woods on the left bank of the Gaines' Mill stream, resting its left flank on the descent to the Chickahominy, which was swept by our artillery on both sides of the river, and extending into open ground on the right toward New Cold Harbor. In this line General Butterfield's brigade held the extreme left, General Martindale's joined his right, and General Griffin, still farther to the right, joined the left of General Sykes' division, which, partly in woods and partly in open ground, extended in the rear of Cold Harbor.
Each brigade had in reserve two of its own regiments. McCall's division, having been engaged on the day before, was formed in a second