Numbers 64. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas W. Egan,
Fortieth New York Infantry.
HEADQUARTERS FORTIETH NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS, Camp at Fair Oaks, June 4, 1862.
I have to report the following movements of the Fortieth Regiment New York Volunteers in connection with the battle of Fair Oaks:
About 1 p. m. on the 31st May orders were received to form the regiment as quickly as possible. This was at once done, and with the rest of the brigade we were marched by General Birney up the Williamsburg road about half a mile, when we filed to the right and halted. Two companies, F and H, were here detailed by General Kearny to support a battery at this point, thus leaving but six companies, Companies C and K having been several days previously detailed to guard the stores at General Heintzelman's headquarters. We remained here until, in obedience to an order from General Birney, I marched the command to the right as far as the railroad, then up the railroad about half a mile, when we filed to the right in an open field and formed in line of battle. After remaining in this position about two hours we were ordered by General Birney to march back to an open field on the left of the railroad, where I sent out two companies as pickets. The balance of the command remained in line of battle all night. At daylight the two companies which had been sent out as pickets were relieved, and Company A, Captain Johnson, was thrown out as skirmishers on our left.
About 8 o'clock in the morning sharp firing commenced in the woods on our right, when, on an order from Colonel J. H. H. Ward, who was then in command of the brigade, I wheeled the battalion to the right, in order to face the enemy, and under a galling fire charged over the fence into the woods, our men at the same time delivering a vigorous fire upon the rebels.
About this time a staff officer not of this brigade rode up and informed me that I was firing upon our own friends. For a time I ceased firing, and though our men were falling rapidly, not another shot was fired by us until orders were given by Colonel Ward, commanding the brigade, to advance and fire. The enemy, taking advantage of this unfortunate mistake, advanced upon us. I then ordered my men to charge bayonets, and in an instant they were advancing at double-quick, which the enemy perceiving, and not relishing the idea of cold steel, turned and fled. We continued driving them to the front, and when near the edge of the woods we received a heavy fire from the front and left. Here many of our men fell, notwithstanding which not one faltered, but with tremendous cheers continued to advance, driving the enemy entirely from the woods and scattering them in all directions, notwithstanding they made a desperate resistance. The victory was complete. In this charge we captured about 25 prisoners, including several officers.
Some idea of the severity of the enemy's fire may be formed from the fact that out of 231 of our regiment who were in this engagement our loss was 96. Every member of the color guard was either killed or wounded, and Color-Corporal Greeves, notwithstanding a severe wound in the shoulder, planted the colors far in advance of the woods, and remained there until he was recalled by myself.
Of the five companies engaged four were commanded by first lieutenants. Company B was commanded by Captain Foster, Company D by First Lieutenant John Horn, Company E by First Lieutenant H. J. Strait, Com-