War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0563 Chapter XXIII. BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

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No. 59. Report of Brigadier General Innis N. Palmer,

U. S. Army, commanding Third Brigade.


Near Fort Magruder, May 6, 1862.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the following as the operations of the troops under my command at the battle of yesterday before Fort Magruder:

On leaving our camp on the morning of the 5th, to move on to the front, three regiments of my brigade (the Eighty-first, Eighty-fifth, and Ninety-eighth New York Volunteers, under the command respectively of Lieutenant-Colonel De Forest, Colonel Belknap, and Colonel Dutton) did not move forward with the brigade, as most of the men of these regiments had returned to their previous camp to bring up their supplies, which had been left in the hurry of moving to the front. The regiments were left in charge of Colonel Dutton, the senior officer. I proceeded with the two remaining regiments, the Ninety-second New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson, and Ninety-third New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Butler, to the battle ground, where I was directed by General Sumner, the officer in command of the left, to place these regiments in position where we could hold a portion of the woods immediately in front of Fort Magruder.

At this time General Casey, my division commander, was engaged in another part of the field, and I was directed by General Couch, the senior officer at that portion of the field where they were engaged, to take command of all that portion of the division engaged near me. This comprised, besides my regiments, three regiments of the Second Brigade, under General Keim.

Brigadier-General Peck, who was hotly engaged with the enemy a little to the left of my line, having sent to re-enforcements, I was directed by General Couch to send two regiments to his (General Peck's) support. I immediately sent two regiments of General Keim's brigade, under Colonel Howell, of the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers. Of the operations of these two regiments I respectfully refer you to the reports which I presume General Keim and Colonel Howell will make to you.

Shortly after sending this support I was informed that some of the regiments under General Peck's command were getting short of ammunition, whereupon I was directed by General Couch to take the three remaining regiments of my command and relieve three of General Peck's. This was instantly done, but just as these last were placed in position I received an order from General Casey to proceed with my brigade to the position occupied by himself, as it was of vital importance that General Peck should be sustained. General Couch directed that no change be made at that time.

It was by this time nearly dark, and the whole of my command was left to hold the position they had taken up. These facts were immediately reported to General Casey and to General McClellan through General Keyes, who approved of the disposition. Most all the men in my command were in action for the first time, but conducted themselves throughout very handsomely. They were exposed for some time to a warm fire, but in the regiments of my own brigade I have no casualties to report.