their presence for twelve hours after my command had returned to its camp.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
WM. H. FRENCH,
To the ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL,
Headquarters Porter's Army Corps.
HDQRS. FRENCH'S Brigadier, RICHARDSON'S DIV., SUMNER'S CORPS, July 5, 1862.
SIR: On Sunday, 29th of June,my brigade moved with the division when the lines in front of Richmond at Fair Oaks Station were abandoned, and retiring down the railroad about 2 miles, took position of defense on the open field to the left, called Orchard Station. At about 9 a.m. the enemy, having discovered our retirement from the works in front of them, followed upon our rear and established a battery on our left, upon the road leading to Trent's house. Our troops were now shelled with great spirit, but our batteries answering with effect, preparation was made to resist an attack of a heavy infantry column, which was showing itself on our front and right. Having advanced the Fifty-third Pennsylvania on the right of Petti's battery to support it, and observing a cluster of houses about 300 yards in front, I applied for authority to occupy them, which being obtained,the Fifty-third Pennsylvania was advanced, and it time to sustain the attack of the enemy, who was equally desirous to obtain so important a post. A vigorous combat ensued, but so judicious was the defense of Colonel Brooke, that whilst effectually covering his own troops he continued to repulse the attempts of the enemy, who were driven back invariably with heavy loss. Finding their efforts futile in this direction the enemy moved off by their left, and during this pause in the action the occasion was taken to rapidly withdraw out troops 2 1/2 miles farther to the rear, at Savage Station. Here the enemy, bringing up more and heavier guns, shelled our exposed battalions, and his columns of infantry offered and received battle from that portion of the army which had not retired. My brigade in this affair was advanced to and held the railroad in the rear and right of our line of battle.
During the night all of the army corps had been moved off and all the divisions and brigades except my own, which was left to cover the rear and to destroy the bridge across the White Oak Swamp. This duty was successfully performed, and by 10 o'clock a.m. on the next day (Monday) all our train was across and the bridge cut up.
At about 11 o'clock a.m. the enemy having brought up several batteries placed them so as to command the plains at Nelson's farm, and for hours our troops were subjected to one of the severest and most destructive cannonades which has occurred in the course of this campaign. Our troops behaved with great coolness under it, one of the most trying to which men can be subjected.
My brigade was in reserve in the battle of the evening, and at sundown I was directed to move my regiments to the crossing of the White Oak Swamp, and to hold it at all hazards. Ayres' battery was placed at my disposal, where by advanced and an occasional discharge of artillery the efforts of the enemy to reconstruct the destroyed bridge were greatly retarded, although their workmen were heard at intervals endeavoring to make the passage of the creek practicable.