The action now being general, I assumed command of the whole line for the time; ordered up the reserves on the left; placed in position regiments falling back, and halted those bravely moving forward, many of the regiments having already masked the fire of our artillery. Upon seeing the advance on the left Abercrombie and Palmer pushed forward their brigades in front of the artillery, in order to drive back the foe. The enemy continually re-enforced their column of attack besides advancing heavy reserves in support. Abercrombie and Palmer became engaged to their left and right. General Caldwell, of Richardson's division, having been sent to my support by General Sumner, now went into action, joining my brave division, fiercely engaged. The enemy were making desperate efforts to drive in my right. General Heintzelman sent me Seeley's battery, which, under De Russy, chief of his artillery, and with the advice of General Howe, was established on the ground held by this latter officer. It did its duty well.
General Porter came upon the ground about 6 p. m. Later General Sickles, of Hooker's division, reported to me with three regiments, leading his men directly into action, relieving some of my division whose ammunition was expended. At about 7 p. m. General Meagher, with his brigade, reported to me from General Sumner, and was posted on the left of Griffin's batteries.
Night closed upon us still fighting, the opposing forces only known by their lines of fire, that of the rebels gradually slackening until 8.30 p. m., after which an occasional cannon-shot from our batteries only broke the stillness that pervaded this bloody field. Thus ended the battle of Malvern Hill, which caused great carnage and demoralization among the best divisions of the enemy, with comparatively small loss on our side.
Generals Abercrombie and Palmer formed a line with their brigades that not a private retreated from. General Howe, on the right, held his position and drove the enemy back. Your attention is particularly called to the reports of these officers accompanying; also to the reports of Generals Caldwell, Sickles, and Meagher, for which I refer you to their division commanders and to those of the artillery officers from reports to their respective chiefs. This arm did brilliant service. It could not have been excelled.
My thanks are due to General Sumner for his prompt assistance and anticipation of my wants; also to General Heintzelman. General Kearny rode over my lines during the morning, and I am indebted to him for some valuable information as regards dispositions.
Captain D. F. Parker, division quartermaster, joined me on the field; also Lieutenant Eccleston, provost-marshal. Brave and collected, these gentlemen were always ready to go where the fight was thickest. They have my thanks and admiration for their conduct. Lieutenant Smith, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, did me excellent service. Captain Walker, assistant adjutant-general of my staff, and Lieutenant Burt, aide-de-camp, were near me to take my orders and anticipate my wishes on the field.
Having received orders from General McClellan to fall back, my troops were gradually withdrawn from the field. Captain Benson, who had relieved the Massachusetts and Rhode Island batteries after dark, left one section of his artillery. General Sickles, who was very active on the field at this time, drew off the rear in admirable order. His brigade was the last to leave. This was at midnight.
From some prisoners we learned that the enemy were falling back, expecting to be attacked in the morning. Both armies retreated; the