No. 327. Report of Brigadier General Charles W. Field,
C. S. Army, of the battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, and Frazier's Farm (Nelson's Farm, or Glendale).
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE, LIGHT DIVISION, July 20, 1862.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that on the 26th ultimo I was directed to cross from my camp at Meadow Bridge to the north side of the Chickahominy as soon as General Branch's brigade, which was to cross higher up the stream, should appear opposite to me. It was designed that his movements should take place early on the 26th. Certain causes having delayed its execution, it was 3 p.m. on the 26th when Major General A. P. Hill, commanding the division, directed me to wait no longer, but to cross and attack the enemy at Mechanicsville. The enemy made no opposition to my passage of the Chickahominy, but, posting skirmishers in a thick wood about a mile beyond, fired on the advance, wounding 1 man, and himself losing 1 captured.
From this point to Mechanicsville the road was open, but as I approached that place a heavy fire from several batteries on my left and front and from sharpshooters, all behind intrenchments, was opened. Forming my brigade in line of battle, the Fifty-fifth and Sixteenth Virginia on the right of the road and the Fortieth and Forty-seventh Virginia and Second Virginia Battalion on the left and Pegram's battery in the center, we steadily and in perfect line advanced upon the enemy, the infantry and artillery occasionally halting for a moment to deliver fire. Gaining the cross-roads, where it was known batteries had been posted and were supposed still to be, it was found to be unoccupied. Meanwhile an active and vigorous fire was opened on us from the batteries situated on the north side of Beaver Dam Creek. I changed front to the left by throwing forward the right wing, and advanced to attack them, directing Captain Pegram to take position and open fire on the enemy's batteries, a part of General Archer's brigade having been ordered by General Hill to support me.
About a mile of open ground was to be gotten over, most of which was swept by three or four batteries, but the brigade in the original order gallantly moved forward, though their ranks were momentarily thinned by the most destructive cannonading I have yet known. Our only safety from this fire lay in pushing forward as rapidly as possible and getting so close to the enemy's infantry as to draw the fire upon his own troops should it be continued. He occurred a wooded hill-side overlooking Beaver Dam Creek. Gaining a dense thicket on this side, the stream only separating us, both sides opened with the musket and continued it until about 9 o'clock at night. My brigade remained upon the ground resting on their arms all night.
A desultory fire was maintained for some time next morning, but without much effects on either side.
In this, our first days' combat, and first in the lives of many of the brigade, all behaved well. My advance in line of battle was steady and continuous, and being throughout in full view of the enemy, must have given him no mean idea of the gallantry of troops who would press forward so steadily in the face of such a fire. Many a gallant fellow here fell, the officers leading and encouraging the men. Colonel W. E. Starke, Sixtieth Virginia, received a painful wound in the hand.
I suppose it was about 2 o'clock on the 27th when my brigade was