HEADQUARTERS FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION,
February 28, 1864.
SIR: I inclose communication from Brigadier General P. St. George Cooke, U. S. Army, which, explains itself. I was on General Cooke's staff at the time spoken of, and he sends the paper to me to be assured of the correctness of his statement. All he says in his letter is strictly true. There are at thousand and one misrepresentations in regard to the operations of the cavalry at Gaines' Mill, arising from statements of persons who were ignorant of the facts or circulated falsehood maliciously.
The cavalry did much on that field to restore the fortunes of the day in charging and supporting under the most merciless fire batteries which otherwise, on account of having no supports, would have been obliged to retire much earlier than they did, thus suspending a fire that kept the enemy in check.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General Volunteers, Commanding.
To the ADJUTANT-GENERAL U. S. ARMY, Washington.
BATON ROUGE, LA., February 6, 1864.
I have found in the Army and Navy Journal of January 23 what purports to be part of Major-General McClelland's official report, and of which the following is an extract, relating to the battle of Gaines' Mill:
This reserve, aided by the confusion that followed an unsuccessful charge by five companies of the Fifth Cavalry, and followed, as it was, by more determined assaults on the remainder of our lines, now outflanked, caused a general retreat from our position to the hill in the rear, overlooking the bridge. French's and Meagher's brigades now appeared, driving before them the stragglers who were thronging toward the bridge. These brigades advanced boldly to the front, and by their example, as well as by the steadiness of their bearing, reanimated our own troops and warmed the enemy that re-enforcements had arrived. It was now dark. The enemy, already repulsed several time with terrible slaughter and hearing the shouts of fresh troops, failed to follow up their advantage. This gave an opportunity to rally our men behind the brigades of Generals French and Meagher, and they again advanced up the hill, ready to repulse another attack.
The whole paragraph, compiled, of course, from the report of his favorite general, who has since been dismissed and forever incapacitated to hold an office of honor, is essentially false, but especially in its beginning where a devoted and successful effort of a few squadrons of cavalry, in connection with a few others, to save some of the artillery and some of the honor of an army after it had suddenly retreated in disorder, is maliciously and absurdly belied into a cause of the defeat. Also, when General French's brigade approached the field of battle, the rebels had been checked and finally stopped at its edge by this remnant of the Cavalry Reserve and perhaps 100 Massachusetts Infantry, and while they thus faced the enemy were fired into from their rear by a battery belonging to or with said brigade.
If the War Department publishes General McClellan's report it would be but just to give publicity to this, and I request it.
P. ST. GEO. COOKE,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Army.
To the ADJUTANT-GENERAL OF THE ARMY,