Suydam, my adjutant-general, who delivered it in person about midnight, and, notwithstanding the frightful condition and blocking up of the roads, I anticipated that those divisions would begin to arrive as early as 9 o'clock a.m. It was from four to seven hours later, however, before those divisions arrived in presence of the enemy. The delay, which was most unfortunate, is accounted for by Generals Couch, Casey, and Naglee to have been caused by conflicting orders from General Sumner and by the return of a portion of Graham's brigade for their knapsacks. No order in regard to the movement of those divisions originated with me except the one above referred to, conveyed by Captain Suydam.
Early in the morning of the 5th instant the indications of a battle were not very apparent. A moderate cannonading was kept up, and the musketry fire, at first very slack, continued gradually to increase. About 8 o'clock 16 negroes came in from the neighboring farms. I questioned one of them and General Sumner ordered the examination of the others. Their reports did not agree, but they encouraged the belief that some of the enemy's works on his left were not occupied. To ascertain the condition of things directly in front I went out through the curtain of woods occupied by Smith's division to reconnoiter. After advancing 800 yards from the White House I came to an opening partly of fields and partly of felled trees. By passing along this wide open space I could see Fort Magruder, which is built directly across the Yorktown and Williamsburg road, and beyond, in the direction of James River, I could see another fort. I could also see to my right of Fort Magruder four other forts, one of them the scene of Hancock's subsequent conflict. Beyond these toward York River the view was intercepted by tall timber. Many rifle pits could be seen scattered over the cleared space, averaging about a mile in width, stretching across the Peninsula, and within which all the forts were situated. To my left a spur of woods extended out toward Fort Magruder, and hid the position occupied by Hooker, where the noise of battle was increasing, and between me and the forts there was a valley, the bottom of which I could not discern.
At first I could scarcely see any troops of the enemy, but by the aid of a powerful glass pointed at the crest of Fort Magruder and the work in front of me I could discover the heads of rebels in numbers rising here and there along the parapet to look over. Hastening back after my reconnaissance, I reported that the works in front of us were not to be taken by assault with our small force then in position. I therefore recommended the turning of their left, and that was the opinion of General Sumner also.
Parties had been sent out by General Sumner to examine the ground, and between 11 and 12 o'clock a.m. Brigadier-General Hancock was ordered by General Sumner to assail the enemy's left. I accompanied Hancock's brigade, and on leaving General Sumner said to me: "Take the enemy's works on our right and hold them." After proceeding nearly a mile, the head of the column led by General Hancock debouched into an open space, from which a fresh earthwork, apparently strong, was distinctly visible. Sending word to General Hancock that I wished to speak to him, I met that officer about 500 yards from the enemy's fort. I said to him, "General, I am not here to assume command of your brigade, but to look on and examine the country." I remained in the open field, examining carefully in every direction, until General Hancock, sent a staff officer to report that he had possession of the enemy's fort, which was found vacant. The message returned by