My command, consisting of the Eighty-first, Ninety-second, Eighty-fifth, and Ninety-eight New York Volunteers, numbered in the aggregate about 1,200. Of this number 400 of the effective officers and men were at the commencement of the engagement of picket guard or on duty with working parties. A great portion of these did not join their regiments, as they should have done, but were permitted by the officers in charge of them to ramble about, and of course doing but little service. The sick, or those reputed sick, in the brigade numbered some hundreds, and in some companies there were no commissioned officers-in the most of them not more than one-and I estimate the whole fighting force on the ground at less than 1,000 officers and men. For this condition of my command I hold myself in no way responsible; but this matter will be the subject of a special report.
It is fair to presume that with this force it was not expected to do much more than hold in check the enemy, who advanced so rapidly that while the men were in the rifle pits they were raked by a fire from both flanks.
The disposition of the regiments was made by the order of the commanding general of the division and was as follows: The Eighty-first was deployed in the field to the extreme left of our line and in front of the woods through which the enemy make the flank movement. The Eighty-fifth occupied the left rifle pits, while the Ninety-second and Ninety-eight were ordered to the front and to the support of the batteries.
A very short time after the Eighty-first was placed in position by myself, and while I was passing toward the right, the enemy a deadly fire. The commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel De Forest, was wounded, supposed mortally; the major, McAmbly, one captain, Kingman, and several men were killed, and many officers and men wounded. The enemy's fire was returned, but the force in front was too great for new troops and they retired, leaving many of their number on the field, to the woods only a few rods to the rear. The Eighty-fifth stood their ground well in the rifle pits, and I am convinced did good execution. My regiments were so situated and the smoke was so dense on the field that it was impossible for me to see more than one regiment at a time. While padding along the line I discovered that our whole position was gradually becoming enveloped, and that unless re-enforcements should soon arrive it must be abandoned.
Shortly after this the divisions of Kearny and Hooker arrived, but not until the enemy had possession of the position where the engagement commenced, and which they continued to possess until they chose to retire, which was on Monday morning, more than thirty hours after the battle. I only mention this fact to show the injustice of attaching
59 R R-VOL XI