War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0872 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, VA. Chapter XXIII.

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Numbers 70. Report of Brigadier General Erasmus D. Keyes,

U. S. Army, commanding Fourth Corps.


SIR: The following is my report of the operations of the Fourth Corps in the battle of the 31st of May and 1st of June:

The Fourth Corps, being in the advance, crossed the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge the 23rd of May, and encamped 2 miles beyond. Two days later I received orders to advance on the Williamsburg road and take up and fortify the nearest strong position to a fork of roads called the Seven Pines. The camp I selected, and which was the next day approved by Major-General McClellan, stretches across the Williamsburg road between Bottom's Bridge and the Seven Pines, and is distant about a mile from the latter. I caused that camp to be notified with rifle pits and breastworks extending to the left about 1,000 yards and terminating in a crotchet to the rear. Similar works, about 300 yards farther in advance, were constructed on the right, extending toward the Richmond and West Point Railroad.

Having been ordered by General McClellan to hold the Seven Pines strongly, I designed to throw forward to that neighborhood two brigades of Casey's division, and to establish my picket line considerably in advance and far to the right. The lines described above are those where the main body of the troops engaged near the Seven Pines spent the night of the 31st, after the battle. Examinations having been made by several engineers, I was ordered on the 28th of May to advance Casey's division to a point indicated by a large wood-pile and two houses, about three-fourths of a mile beyond the Seven Pines (but which in fact is only half a mile), and to establish Couch's division at the Seven Pines. Accordingly Casey's division bivouacked on the right and left of Williamsburg road and wood-pile, and Couch established his division at the Seven Pines and along the Nine-mile road. Both divisions set to work with the few intrenching tools at hand to slash the forests and to dig a few rifle pits. Casey erected a small pentangular redoubt, and placed within it six pieces of artillery. The country is mostly wooded and greatly intersected with marshes. The Nine-mile road branching to the right from the Seven Pines slants forward, and at the distance of a mile crosses the railroad at Fair Oaks. A mile beyond it reaches an open field, where the enemy was seen in line of battle on the 29th and 30th days of May.

Casey's pickets were only about 1,000 yards in advance of his line of battle, and I decided, after a personal inspection with him, that they could go no farther, as they were stopped by the enemy in force on the opposite side of an opening at that point. I pushed forward the pickets on the railroad a trifle, and they had been extended by General Naglee to the open field, where the enemy was seen in line of battle, and from thence to the right bank of the Chickahominy. After a thorough examination of my whole position I discovered that on the 30th of May the enemy were in greater or less force, closed upon the while circumference of a semicircle described from my headquarters near Seven Pines with a radius of 2 miles.

A considerable space about the fork of the road at Seven Pines was open, cultivated ground, and there was a clear space a short distance in front of Casey's redoubt at the wood-pile. Between the two open-