Miller threw his case and canister among them, doing frightful execution. The death of several officers of high rank and the disability and wounds of others have delayed this report.
It has been my design to state nothing as a fact which could not be substantiated. Many things escaped notice by reason of the forests, which concealed our own movements as well as the movements of the enemy. From this cause some of the reports of subordinate commanders are not sufficiently full. In some cases it is apparent that these subordinate commanders were not always in the best positions to observe, and this will account for the circumstance that I have mentioned some facts derived from personal observation not found in the reports of my subordinates. The reports of division and brigade commanders I trust will be published with this immediately. I ask their publication as an act of simple justice to the Fourth Corps, against which many groundless aspersions and incorrect statements have been circulated in the newspapers since the battle. These reports are made by men who observed the conflict while under fire, and if they are not in the main true, the truth will never be known.
In the battle of the 31st of May the casualties on our side (a list of which is inclosed*) were heavy, amounting to something like 25 per cent. in killed and wounded of the number actually engaged, which did not amount to more than 12,000, the Fourth Corps at that date having been much weakened by detachments and other causes. Nearly all who were struck were hit while facing the enemy.
The Confederates outnumbered us, during a great part of the conflict, at least four to one, and they were fresh, drilled troops, led on and cheered by their best generals and the President of their Republic. They are right when they assert that the Yankees stubbornly contested every foot of ground. Of the nine generals of the Fourth Corps who were present on the field all, with one excepting, were wounded or his horse was hit in the battle. A large proportion of all the field officers in the action were killed, wounded, or their horses were struck. These facts denote the fierceness of the contest and the gallantry of a large majority of the officers. Many officers have been named and commenced in this report and in reports of divisions, brigade, and other commanders, and I will not here recapitulate further than that I received great assistance from the members of my staff, whose conduct was excellent, though they were necessarily often separated from me.
To the energy and skill of Surg. F. H. Hamilton, the chief of his department in the Fourth Corps, and the assistance he received from his subordinate surgeons, the wounded and sick are indebted for all the relief and comfort which it was possible to afford them.
I should be glad if the name of every individual who kept his place in the long struggle could be known. All those deserve praise and reward. On the other hand, the men who left the ranks and the field, and especially the officers who went away without orders, should be known and held up to scorn. In all the retreating groups I discovered officers, and sometimes the officers were farthest in the rear. What hope can we have of the safety of the country when even a few military officers turn their backs upon the enemy without orders? Such officers should be discharged and disgraced, and brave men advanced to their places. The task of reformation is not easy, because much true manliness has been suffocated in deluding theories, and the improvement
*Embodied in return, pp. 760-762.