with this movement and attempt was made to drive in our front and seize the batteries by the troops from Forth Magruder, aided by
re-enforcements from the redoubts on the left. The withdrawal of the supports invited this attack, and it was at this time that four of our guns were captured. They could have been saved, but only at the risk of losing the day. Whatever of dishonor, if any, is attached to their loss belongs to the brigadier-general commanding the division, and not to his chief of artillery or to the officers or men serving with the batteries, for truer men never stepped upon the field of battle.
While this was going on in front Captain Smith, by a skillful disposition of his battery, held complete command of the road, which subsequently, by a few well-directed shots, was turned to good account.
The foregoing furnishes a faithful narrative of the disposition of my command throughout this eventful day. Between 4 and 5 o'clock Brigadier-General Kearny, with all his characteristic gallantry, arrived on the ground at the head of his division, and after having secured their positions my division was withdrawn from the contest and held as a reserve until dark, when the battle ended, after a prolonged and severe conflict against three times my number, directed by the most accomplished general of the rebel army, Major General J. E. Johnston, assisted by Generals Longstreet, Pryor, Gholson, and Pickett, with commands selected from the best troops in their army.
The lists of the killed and wounded attest the character of the contest. The killed of the enemy must have been double my own. Of the wounded we cannot estimate. Eight hundred were left in hospitals at Williamsburg, and others were distributed among the private houses of this city, while all the available tenements in the vicinity of the field of battle are filled with them. Three hundred prisoners were taken.
I have omitted to mention the arrival early in the afternoon of Brigadier-General Heintzelman, commanding the Third Army Corps, with his staff, and to express my very grateful acknowledgments for the encouragement inspired by his presence and for the aid and support he gave me by his counsel and conduct.
As soon as darkness concealed their movements the rebels retreated in a state of utter demoralization, leaving behind artillery, wagons, &c.
History will not be believed when it is told that the noble officers and men of my division were permitted to carry on this unequal struggle from morning until night unaided in the presence of more than 30,000 of their comrades with arms in their hands; nevertheless it is true. If we failed to capture the rebel army on the plains of Williamsburg it surely will not be ascribed to the want of conduct and courage in my command.
The field was marked by an unusual number of instances of conspicuous courage and daring, which I shall seek an early opportunity to bring to the notice of the commander of the Third Corps.
At this time I can speak but in general terms of the regiments and batteries engaged in the battle of Williamsburg. Their list of the killed and wounded from among their number will forever determine the extent of their participation in this hard-fought and
dearly-contested field.* Their constancy and courage are deserving all praise. My profound and grateful acknowledgments are rendered to them.
I am under great obligations to the officers of my staff for eminent services, and especially to Captain Joseph Dickinson, my assistant adjutant-general
*Casualties embodied in return on p.450.