Numbers 62. Report of Captain William L. Pitcher,
Fourth Maine Infantry.
FOURTH MAINE REGIMENT, Camp in Field, Sunday, June 1, 1862.
I have the honor to report as follows:
Was detailed about 9 p. m. yesterday evening with the four left companies of the regiment as picket guard, with orders to guard a point on the railroad at the farther edge of the opening, sending out scouts occasionally during the night to reconnoiter cautiously. I immediately sent out a scouting party on the railroad, who reconnoitered for a distance of half a mile beyond the opening, and during their absence received orders to withdraw to a point on the railroad at the swamp midway of the belt woods in rear of the opening, being informed that the regiments who had been bivouacking in the rear had been ordered back; therefore drew in my scouts and retired as ordered. About midnight I was again ordered forward to my former position, with instructions to send out pickets a half mile on the railroad and post men across the opening from the left of the railroad, which I did, retaining as a reserve at the road portions of two companies.
At earliest daybreak I sent five men to the front of the outposts, who returned, reporting that they had seen men felling trees beyond the houses in front, and I immediately sent out another party to ascertain more particularly. They reported that the men were of the enemy, and that a regiment of rebels was drawn up in rear of the slashing, and apparently deploying to the right and left, which facts I communicated to Lieutenant Linnard, of General Birney's staff. A few minutes later a major from General Howard's brigade informed me that that brigade had formed line of battle in the woods at an acute angle with the railroad, their right resting on the road at our farther outposts and their left near the opening in the vicinity of our reserve. I then drew in my pickets, concentrating my force on a lane a few rods to the left of the railroad, forming a line parallel with theirs and about 50 rods in the rear of their left. Here we remained at rest till 7.30 a. m., when, while engaged in distributing the morning rations to the men, we were startled by a sudden and terrific volley of musketry in front, which caused several companies on the left of Howard's brigade to retreat precipitately from the woods, passing by us and down the railroad. I immediately formed my line on the railroad, at the same time endeavoring to rally the retreating companies to make a stand with us. Failing in this, I advanced to a position in rear of a rail fence a short distance in front and opened fire.
Re-enforcements advancing down the railroad, by an order I changed position to the left sufficiently to allow them to form in line, and continued firing with deadly effect (as was afterward proved) till about 10 a. m., the rebel force in the mean time being compelled to retire to the woods beyond the slashing, wherein they kept up a return fire upon us with little effect, our men being protected by a slight gradation of the railroad till driven from their position by an attack on their right. Two of our men were killed and 7 wounded-most of their wounds being slight. Both men and officers under my command displayed perfect coolness and courage under the fire of the enemy. We remained