War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0515 Chapter XXIII. BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

Search Civil War Official Records

was moving up the branch road toward Hooker's position. General Casey and General Naglee had gone at the head of the column. I sent a staff officer immediately to find them, and in the mean time I dispatched the rear portion of the brigade myself [having faced it about] to the front from which I had come. The moment General Naglee joined me I returned in company with him, arriving at the White House about fifteen minutes before the arrival of the commanding general, and considerably in advance of the head of Naglee's column.

General McClellan sent for me and assumed command, and from him I received orders. The general quickly comprehended the state of the field and gave many directions to the fresh troops, ordering forward, among other troops, Naglee and his brigade, and the Tenth Massachusetts, Colonel Briggs, which advanced with great promptness to re-enforce Hancock, and in a very short time the battle ended in our victory.

As the forces engaged on the right in the battle of Williamsburg on the 5th instant belonged exclusively to the Fourth Army Corps, commanded by me, under Major-General McClellan, and as I was subject, until his arrival on the field, to the orders of Brigadier General E. V. Sumner, I have endeavored to confine my report principally to such facts as came under my own immediate observation and to such ideas as originated with me. The allusions made to Brigadier-General Sumner connected therewith are all, I think, sustained by the reports of commanders subordinate to me, and I desire that those reports may all be made public, and that a copy of my report be furnished to General Sumner.

The small number of troops actually in position early in the morning and our ignorance of the ground were most embarrassing circumstances. General Sumner received in my presence the most urgent appeals through General Stoneman and others to support Hooker by re-enforcements, and through General Smith and others, as well as through me, he was requested to support Hancock. His reasons for the orders he gave in answer to such solicitations it is not my province to know, nor do I pretend to say.

Confirming myself to the ideas suggested by the command of my own corps and to the time prior to the arrival of General McClellan on the field, I am bound to declare that I took the necessary precautions to have my three divisions in the presence of the enemy at an early hour of the day, but that, in spite of my efforts, there was but one there until the afternoon. If they had all arrived as early as 2 o'clock p.m., and if Hancock had been re-enforced as early as 3 o'clock p.m., the victory would have been one of the most brilliant of the war.

The commanders of the First, Second, and Third Divisions, Brigadier-Generals Couch, Smith, and Casey, have made reports, which, with the documents and reports attached to them, are herewith submitted. The names mentioned for praise in the various reports and the names of the killed, wounded, and missing will be forwarded as soon as the lists can be prepared. General Couch and General Smith [who was longest in the field] made excellent dispositions of their troops and were very active. Brigadier-General Casey arrived too late to take part in presence of the enemy, but he was prompt in dispatching a brigade to the support of Hancock and in maturing arrangements for the night. The enemy evacuated their works about 3 a.m. of the 6th, under cover of the darkness. Two companies of the Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Neill, were the first to take possession of Fort Magruder, as that regiment had been the first to plant the Stars and Stripes on the works at Lee's Mill.

From the time of the movement to advance from Warwick Court-House