No. 38. Report of Brigadier General Darius N. Couch,
U. S. Army, commanding First Division.
HEADQUARTERS COUCH'S DIVISION, Williamsburg, Va., May 8, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report that at 1 o'clock p.m. of May 5 the head of my division, consisting of Peck's brigade only, arrived on the ground in rear of the center of our line of battle, and was by direction of General Keyes posted by me on the Williamsburg road, running there through a dense wood to the right of Hooker and supporting him, he being then fiercely engaged. Peck soon moved forward, and for an hour and a half was opposed by nearly the whole of the enemy's disposable force in front. Fort Magruder, distant 400 to 600 yards, with its plunging fire of shells and grape, covered the assaults of their infantry and cavalry, but the determined courage of this gallant officer and the steadiness of his brigade foiled all attempts to drive him from the ground.
The left of the Fifty-fifth New York was twice forced back, but the Ninety-third Pennsylvania Volunteers and the Sixty-second New York Volunteers, coming up furiously, recovered the space lost. Devens' brigade arrived, and moved forward with the Seventh Massachusetts and Second Rhode Island to re-enforce Peck, the Tenth Massachusetts being ordered to support Hancock. General Palmer with two regiments of his brigade, Ninety-second New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson, the Ninety-third New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Butler, and General Keim with his brigade were pushed forward as supports, and were partially engaged, General Palmer himself being called to another part of the field by General McClellan.
The Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, Hooker's division, coming back through my left, was halted by an officer of my staff and reformed by General Devens. This regiment and one of Brooks' were held in reserve. General Keyes being absent for a time in another part of the field, I received orders directly from General Sumner, who gave me all the supports required to maintain the position, placing the whole force of the center under my orders. Graham's brigade, General Graham being absent, sick, arrived at 5 a.m., and was held as a reserve.
Most unfortunately, from the nature of the ground, artillery could not be used to advantage.
The center having been placed under my command, the following dispositions, which received the approbation of the general commanding the army and of Generals Sumner and Keyes, were made for the night: To the front Peck, ably supported by Keim on his left and Devens on his right; six regiments in reserve, including the First U. S. Chasseurs, Lieutenant-Colonel Shaler, posted to picket to the left and rear, and two batteries covering the road entering the woods. Keim's brigade during the night covered the four guns abandoned on my left, and prevented the enemy from carrying them off. Thus disposed, my drenched and wearied troops lay down on their arms.
At 3.30 a.m. of the 6th the pickets reported that the enemy appeared to be evacuating the works in front, and at light General Devens sent out Captain Reed, Seventh Massachusetts, with 20 men, to reconnoiter. This officer went around Fort Magruder, entered the barracks, and took one prisoner, finding a large number of wounded rebels.
At 4 a.m. Colonel Adams, commanding Graham's brigade, relieved Brooks, Smith's division, on my right, and Colonel Neill, Twenty-third Pennsylvania, pushed forward two companies and occupied the small