A signal officer stationed on Austin's house reported six huns as moving near that village. It was dark by this time, and the troops bivouacked for the night.
By order of General Stoneman two signal officers were sent to report to General Davidson, and a code of rocket signals was arranged by which to indicate certain movements if made by his forces during the night.
At daylight the troops advanced upon the village, and after some artillery firing occupied it. As the line moved up General Stoneman, at his headquarters near Austin's house, was kept informed of its progress, and of the moment of the occupation of the village, by signals from the officers who accompanied the troops. As soon as the village was occupied a courier was dispatched ordering the wire of the field telegraph to be run out from a dwelling near the Hogan house, by this time occupied by General W. F. Smith as his headquarters, to point near Mechanicsville. This was done, with a few hours' labor,in a heavy rain, and soon after noon the telegraphic communication was established from the headquarters of General Davidson, near Mechanicsville to the division headquarters of General Smith. The ease with which this was done illustrated the rapidity with which under more favorable circumstances such communication might be made available.
On the day following the occupation of Mechanicsville a station of observation was established near that village, which was held almost constantly while our troops occupied the place. On the next day an expedition was made by a force of two companies of cavalry, with a detachment of mounted artillery and a field piece, under the command of Major A. S. Webb, of the Rhode Island Artillery, to examine the country in the vicinity of the Richmond and Virginia Central Railroad.
Two signal officers joined the expedition for the purpose of reconnaissance. This expedition penetrated the enemy's lines for some mules, driving in their pickets and scattering their supports, and finally reaching the railroad at a station near Greenshaw's, 12 miles from Richmond. The track was destroyed and set on fire in two places. In this work of destruction the turpentine from the canteens which signal soldiers carry was found to be a useful auxiliary. By the time the party reached the railroad it had been reduced by pickets left camped in the vicinity could be distinctly heard beating the alarm. The party returned to our lines unmolested.
On May 26 headquarters camp was established near New Bridge.
BATTLE OF HANOVER COURT-HOUSE.
On the evening of May 26 the chief signal officer was informed that a force under General Fitz John Porter would move at daylight to attack the enemy at Hanover Court-Horse. He was directed to provide a signal party to accompany it. A signal party of 7 officers, with their men, fully equipped and with three days' rations, were ordered to move with the troops at daylight. The chief signal officer accompanied this party. It had rained during the night and part of the previous day. On the morning of the 27th it was still raining. The columns moved with difficulty and slowly.
At about 11 a. m. the outposts of the enemy were encountered. About noon the head of our column near Hanover Court-House came suddenly upon a force of the enemy apparently advancing to meet it.