Heavy as was this loss, no doubt a greater loss was saved to the division in its advance by this gallant attack. The temporary silence of the battery enabled the division to move up in fine style and turn the tide of battle in our favor.
The effect of our appearance (says General Garland) at this opportune moment upon the enemy's flank, cheering and charging, decided the fate of the day. The enemy broke and retreated, made a second stand, which induced my immediate, command to halt under cover of the road-side and return their fire, when, charging forward again, we broke and scattered them in every direction.
The statements of the Yankees themselves and of the French princes on McClellan's staff fully concur with General Garland that it was this final charge upon their right flank which decided the fortunes of the day. The Yankees made no further resistance, but fled in great confusion to Grapevine Bridge.
It was now fairly dark, and hearing loud cheers from the Yankees in our immediate front, some 200 yards distant, I ordered our whole advance to halt and wait an expected attack of the enemy. Brigadier-General Winder, occupying the road to Grapevine Bridge, immediately halted, and the whole advance columns were halted also. The cheering as we afterward learned, was caused by the appearance of the Irish Brigade to cover the retreat. A vigorous attack upon it might have resulted in the total rout of the
Yankee army and the capture of thousands of prisoners, but I was unwilling to leave the elevated plateau around McGehee's house to advance in the dark along an unknown road, skirted by dense woods, in the possession of Yankee troops.
The night was spent in caring for the wounded and making preparations for the morning. I drew back the advanced troops several hundred yards to McGehee's house, and across the swamp for my division artillery. This, however, did not come up till sunrise next morning. All of the advanced troops of General Jackson reported to me for orders, and with my own were intrusted with guarding the road to Grapevine Bridge. Soon after daylight it was discovered that the Yankees had retreated across the Chickahominy, destroying all the bridges. The Yankee general John F. Reynolds with is aide, was discovered in the woods by my pickets and brought to me. Major-General Jackson came up after sunrise and assumed command of his own and my division.
My thanks are especially due to Brigadier-Generals Garland and Anderson for their skill in discovering the weak point of the Yankees and their boldness in attacking it. Their brigades, being more exposed than the others of my command, suffered more severely. Brigadier-General Rodes was on the field, and displayed his usual coolness and judgment, though very feeble from the unhealed wound received at Seven Pines. The brigade of Brigadier-General Ripley was not engaged, owing to that officer not keeping it in hand and not pressing vigorously to the front. Colonel Colquitt, commanding brigade in like manner did not keep his brigade in hand, and three of his regiments did not draw trigger. The Sixth and Twenty-seventh Georgia, of this brigade, commanded by those pure, brave, noble Christian soldiers Lieutenant Colonel J. M. Newton and Colonel Levi B. Smith, behaved most heroically, and maintained their ground when half their number had been struck down.
My seven division batteries under Captains Carter, Hardaway, Bondurant, Rhett, Clark, Peyton, and Nelson, were all engaged at one time or another at Mechanicsville and all in like manner at Cold Harbor.