as he was assigned to duty with my command by my very particular request. During the day Colonel Palmer led the reconnoitering party with great skill and vigor, and during the engagement was with the foremost and regardless of danger. I ask that this letter may go and be considered as part of my official report of the affair of the 4th of May before Williamsburg, Va., and arm, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Advance Guard.
General S. WILLIAMS, Adjutant-General.
Numbers 2. Report of Major William R. Palmer,
U. S. Topographical Engineers.
WILLIAMSBURG, VA., May 7, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that in obedience to your instructions I reported on Sunday morning at 9 a. m. to General Stoneman, who commanded our advance of cavalry in pursuit of the retreating rebels. General Stoneman directed me to take Captain Magruder's squadron, First U. S. Cavalry, as an advance guard. I pushed ahead with this squadron, being usually half a mile in advance of the command. When some 7 or 8 miles on our way we encountered the rebel pickets, who fired upon us. Their fire was instantly returned by Magruder's squadron, Captain Savage's squadron, Sixth U. S. Cavalry, acting as flankers. General Cooke soon arrived, and ordering up three light pieces, a few shells were thrown among them, upon which they quickly retreated. Advancing about 2 miles farther, we were retarded about fifteen minutes in a similar manner. We continued to advance, moving on cautiously through the woods, and on reaching the open plain at once discovered several rebel batteries some 800 to 900 yards in front of us. I was able without the aid of my glass to observe one brigade of infantry, at least one regiment of cavalry, and some 300 artillery. The infantry fired volleys at us. The batteries opened instantly from six to eight guns with shell. General Cooke quickly came to the front and ordered up a section (three guns) of Captain Gibson's battery, Third U. S. Artillery, under Lieutenant Fuller, who handled his guns admirably. Very soon after the remaining three pieces, Captain Gibson commanding, commenced their fire. We had but these six light pieces to use against the great odds the rebels had opposed to us. Portions of the First and Sixth U. S. Cavalry gallantly charged close up to the rebel works, and again to save our pieces from being taken. Fortunately the rebels at first too high, but very soon they got our range, and threw their shells directly in our midst. General Stoneman, accompanied by his staff, also the Count de Paris, Due de Chartres, who volunteered to accompany the advance, came very soon to the front, where they found General Cooke and aides, and the artillery officers, Captains Magruder and Savage, and myself. An order was given that we should withdraw from this exposed position for a time. We retired some 200 yards (no infantry being at hand to support us) under cover of the woods.
During thirty or forty minutes we were exposed to the shells and musketry of some 4,500 rebels, we lost, as nearly as I can ascertain, 12