brigade up the railroad to the front, and General Birney was ordered up. I learned after I arrived on the field of battle that the brigade had halted on the railroad a very short distance from the camp. I sent at least two orders for it to advance. From the reports, a few chance shots fell among the left of this brigade, but I cannot learn that it was engaged during the day. Had it gone into action between the railroad and the Williamsburg road, as I expected it would, I believe we would have driven back the enemy and have recaptured our artillery lost before I came on the field. The gallant manner in which the brigade fought when led into action the next day by the gallant Colonel J. H. Hobart Ward shows what it would have done if it had taken part in the battle of the previous day. Through what misunderstanding or counter-order it was kept back I am unable to say. After the battle General Birney was placed under arrest by my order, and brought before a court-martial for disobedience of orders. The court honorably acquitted him.
General Keyes has written such an excellent report of the operations of his corps that it is scarcely necessary for me to add to it. So much has, however, been said as to the conduct of General Casey's division that it is due to him and to the troops he commanded that I should give my views. General Casey in his report says:
On the morning of the 31st my pickets toward the right of my line succeeded in capturing Lieutenant Washington, an aide of General Johnston, of the rebel service. This circumstances, in connection with the fact that Colonel Hunt, my general officer of the day, had reported to me that his outer pickets had heard cars running nearly all night on the Richmond end of the railroad, led me to exercise increased vigilance.
Between 11 and 12 o'clock a mounted vedette was sent in from the advance pickets to report that a body of the enemy was in sight, approaching on the Richmond road. I immediately ordered the One hundred and third Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers to advance to the front, for the purpose of supporting the picket. It was soon afterward reported to me by a mounted vedette that the enemy were advancing in force, and about the same time two shells were thrown over my camp. I was led to believe that a serious attack was contemplated, and immediately ordered the division under arms, the men at work on the rifle pits and abatis to be recalled and to join their regiments, the artillery to be harnessed up at once, and made every disposition to repel the enemy. Whilst they were in progress the pickets commenced firing.
It is much to be regretted that I knew nothing of this until after the battle. After the firing had attracted my attention I sent two of my aides to the front for information, I received a note at 2 p.m. from General Keyes, merely asking as I have already said, for two brigades, if I could spare them, to be sent up the railroad. With this indefinite information I ordered up every available man, and as they arrived in succession was forced to put them in action to meet pressing emergencies, without waiting to make a concentrated effort. Nothing but the great gallantry of General Kearny, who had a horse shot under him while leading the Thirty-seventh New York into action, his officers and men, and the steadiness of most of General Couch's division, saved us from a most disastrous defeat.
The defensive works of General Casey's position, in consequence of the increasing rains and the short time allowed him for labor with trenching tools, were in a very unfinished state, and could oppose but a feeble resistance to the overwhelming mass thrown upon them.
The artillery was well served, and some of the regiments fought gallantly until overwhelmed by numbers. After they were once broken, however, they could not be rallied. The road was filled with fugitives (not all from this division) as far as Bottom's Bridge. Colonel Starr's regiment, of General Hooker's division, had to force its way through them with the bayonet, and a guard placed at Bottom's Bridge stopped