Couch's division, Keyes' corps, that I was ordered to support. At this time the enemy opened a scattering musketry fire from a wood that ran to the railroad, and I at once deployed my column into line of battle. Finding that the firing on the left was getting more to the rear, I led into the woods the Fifty-seventh Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers and Fortieth New York, and succeeded after a sharp contest in driving back the enemy from his attempt to turn the right flank of our troops. The loss of the Fifty-seventh was very heavy, its gallant colonel falling severely wounded, the major killed, and the list of casualties very large.
Captain Brady, of the artillery, now rode up to me and said that he came from General Couch, who sent word that his command had been cut off; that he had found a road by which to extricate his artillery through the swamp, and if I could hold the railroad and prevent the enemy from cutting him off he could extricate himself. I sent him word that I had been sent to his support, and would and could hold the railroad. At this time (about 6 o'clock) Captain Suydam, of General Keyes' staff, rode up to me and told me that General Heintzelman ordered me to advance still up the railroad. I asked him if General Heintzelman knew where I was, and that my command was then going into action between the railroad and Williamsburg road. He replied that Generals Keyes and Heintzelman were some 2 miles in the rear; that he knew nothing beyond the order. I at once made disposition to move forward, throwing out skirmishers and withdrawing the Fortieth New York Volunteers. The Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers were thrown into too much confusion in the woods to withdraw.
My skirmishers in front were constantly engaged, and in advancing we captured some 200 prisoners. When my lines reached the woods near Fair Oaks Station an oblique artillery fire from the right across my front commenced. To advance would have subjected me to this fire, and supposing that it was General Sumner who had crossed and was advancing, I sent successively three aides to report to him my position, instructions, and to ask orders. The orders from him were to connect with General French, commanding his left, and advance pari passu. He also sent the Seventh Massachusetts, Colonel Russell, to report to me in order to strengthen my command, as the position held by me was important.
At this time Captain Hassler rode up to me from General Kearny and ordered me to return at once to the position assigned by him to me at 3 o'clock. Before obeying this order I sent my aide, Captain Linnard, to him to advise him of my connection with General Sumner's command, and to state that if I withdrew there would be a gap of half a mile between his (Kearny's) right and Sumner's left, with the enemy in force in its front, ready to move through in the morning. He still ordered me to return. I placed out a strong guard, under Major Pitcher, of the Fourth Maine, and, preceding my column, went to General Kearny's tent, and explained to him the position of my brigade and the importance of the position. He concurred with me and ordered me to return. I did so, and at 10 o'clock p. m. had my connection perfect with General French. I found the railroad embankment afforded natural rifle pits, and posted my brigade behind them and bivouacked for the night, throwing out strong pickets.
The enemy were in great force in our front and made no attempt at concealment, building fires, talking loudly, and by daylight commenced preparation for the attack. With my staff under a tree I awaited