No. 20. Report of Brigadier General Francis E. Patterson,
U. S. Army, commanding Third Brigade.
HDQRS.3rd BRIGADE, 2nd DIVISION, 3rd ARMY CORPS, Camp before Williamsburg, May 9, 1862.
SIR: In obedience to the orders of the general of the division on the morning of the 5th instant I followed the First Brigade and found it engaged on the right of the Williamsburg road. The Fifth New Jersey Regiment, Colonel Starr, was detached from the brigade by order of the general and deployed to the right of the road, to support the batteries of the division. The Sixth Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Van Leer, and the Seventh, Lieutenant-Colonel Carman, were deployed on the left of the road. The Eighth, Colonel Johnson, had not yet come up.
A wood extended from the road northwesterly to a line of field works that extended perpendicularly across the road in front. The Sixth and Seventh Regiments occupied this wood by a flank march and moved to the front by the right of companies about two-thirds the distance to the line of field works in front, when our skirmishers came upon the enemy's forces, as we could not see them, the woods having a growth of underbrush. The skirmishers being recalled the two regiments advanced until met by a warm fire, when the companies were formed forward into line and marched rapidly to the front some hundred paces, halted, and a file fire opened and kept up until the opposing fire was silenced, when we again advanced and were again met by a heavy fire, and the command was ordered to lie down.
It was now patent that we were outnumbered, as, in addition to a heavy fire in front, it was spreading around our left flank. Colonel Johnson, with the Eighth, having come up was deployed on the left of the regiments already in line, and for a time silenced their fire. The heaviest firing that had yet occurred was now opened on our right. It was met by a direct fire from our right and on oblique fire from our center, and silenced.
During this time the commands of officers in a large column, moving in our front and to our left, were heard, and the effort to outflank us was continued. There being no more men available, and having sent twice for re-enforcements, Colonel Johnson was ordered to change front obliquely to the rear of his right company. This for a time preserved the flank. Re-enforcements had been twice applied for - none came. Outnumbered five to once, outflanked, and out of ammunition, the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Regiments, numbering when they entered the field 1,767 men for duty, to avoid being surrounded fell slowly back by my orders before a division consisting of Pryor's Virginia and North Carolina, Gholson's Mississippi and Alabama, and Pickett's Virginia brigades, forming a division of 6,000 men, with a loss of 117 killed, 284 wounded, and 235 missing, from the ground they had taken and held, within 100 yards of the end of the woods, from 8 until 1.30 o'clock, to their original position on the left of the road.
The conduct of the officers and men of the brigade, including my personal staff, was without exception, marked by coolness, steadiness, and valor. Their loss in this their firs engagement bears ample testimony to the proverbial gallantry of the State they come from. The Fifth Regiment, Colonel Starr, was separated from the brigade, and placed by order of the general of the division, on the right of the road,