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Full text of "Report of Henry M. Naglee, brigadier general, of the part taken by his brigade in the seven days, from June 26 to July 2, 1862, Army of the Potomac"

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FROM JU\K 2<> TO .TI'LY L'. IM.L'. 


C (.) L L I N S , P 11 I N" T I'- M . T u :. .1 A Y X !; S T II K K T 




/ Q- O" A 


FROM JUNE 26 TO JULY 2, 1862. 









Chief of Staff. 


On the 26th of June the rebel General Jackson, 
having escaped from the armies of *Banks, Shields, 
Fremont, and McDowell in the valley of the Shenan- 
cloah, suddenly hurled his army, with that concen- 
trated at Richmond, upon the right flank of the army 
of the Potomac, and then, believing that Gen. McClel- 
lan would be driven to the White House, he rapidly 
marched in that direction. The army of the Poto- 
mac, on the contrary, having crossed to the southern 
side of the Chickahominy, the bridges and fords 
of that river became positions of great importance 
and interest. 

On the 27th, orders were received from Gen. 
McClellan by Gen. Keyes directing " that the Railroad 
and Bottom's Bridges over the Chickahominy should 
be held at all hazards," and if pressed the bridges 
should be destroyed. This important service was in- 
trusted to my brigade, as may be inferred from the 
orders of Gen. Keyes hereunto attached. 

Being at the above position, I had, in anticipation 
of the above orders, received some entrenching tools 
from Gen. Peck, who at the same time had promptly 
responded to my call, and had sent Miller's Battery, 
1st Pa. Artillery, to report to me at midnight of the 

By the evening of the 27th, this battery was well 
protected by a breast-work placed immediately in 
rear of Bottom's Bridge, which I had destroyed as 
soon as our wagon train had passed. Continuous 
with the redoubt, was thrown up, parallel with the 
Chickahominy, about 100 feet from it, a line of rifle- 
pits, which extended some 600 yards in the direction 
of the Railroad Bridge, and the latter defended by 
Brady's Battery, which I had placed on the first firm 
ground, in the line of the railroad, about 800 yards 
from the bridge, and I protected the battery by an 
embankment on the front and left side. 

Another, Morgan's Battery G, 4th N. J. Artillery, 
had been also ordered by Gen. McClellan to report to 
me, and this I placed upon the rising ground to the 
rear of the Chickahominy, so that it was within easy 
range of both bridges, commanding the approaches to 
them, and the road leading from them. 

Upon the first intimation of the approach of the 
enemy in this direction, I had lined the Chicka- 
hominy, between the bridges and a mile above and 
below them, with the sharp-shooters of the 52d Pa, 
and llth Maine, and had placed the especial charge 

of the Railroad Bridge with Col. Plaisted and the 
remainder of his regiment. The remainder of the 
52d Pa. Lt. Col. Hoyt, the 56th Col. Van Wick, and 
100 N. Y. Lt. Col. Staunton, were distributed in the 
redoubt and rifle-pits, and on picket duty, and the 
104th Pa. Lt. Col. Nields, which I had withdrawn 
from the Dispatch Station upon the approach of the 
enemy, was held near Morgan's Battery in reserve. 

Gen. McClellan had "ordered a detachment of 
Capt. Mann's Oneida Cavalry to report to me for 
scouting duty," and they were sent to observe the 
enemy on the left side of the Chickahominy, where I 
also ordered a portion of Capt. Wickersham's Squad- 
ron of the Gregg's 8th Pa. Cavalry ; keeping the rest 
scouting above and below the bridges to observe the 
enemy from the right bank of the river. 

During the 26th the only evidence of the approach 
of the enemy was the constant roar of artillery, borne 
upon the breeze from the desperate conflict at Me- 
chanicsville ; on the 27th small reconnoitring parties 
approached the Chickahominy ; but they soon learned 
to respect the presence of the 52d Pa. and llth 
Maine, that were concealed in that swamp, waist deep 
in water. Some cavalry appeared upon the hills in 
front of us, within easy range of Miller's Battery. But 
not being prepared, I allowed them to continue their 
observations undisturbed. A large party of cavalry 
and infantry approached the Railroad Bridge, but 
Brady received them warmly, and they departed to 

V Ju 

/ the 

join the larger force that had moved down within 
two miles of the railroad. During the whole of the 
day large numbers of stragglers from Porter's and 
McCall's commands were stopped before they arrived 
at the Railroad Bridge, which I had ordered Col. 
Plaisted to destroy, and turned back to join the body 
of the army at Savage Station. The roar of artillery 
this day was also incessant, for Porter had met the 
enemy, and dreadful had been the slaughter at Games' 
Mill. All the night our pickets were kept occupied 
with the approaches to the bridges. 

On the 28th there were indications of activity in 
our immediate neighborhood ; from early morning 
cavalry watched our industrious efforts to complete 
our earthworks. Infantry pressed into the woods and 
skirmished with our picket line, but too close an 
approach to my sharp-shooters, concealed in the 
swamp, soon led to great caution. 

About noon, a large force, reported as two brigades, 
moved down to the railroad; a battery of artillery, with 
cavalry, and supported by two regiments of infantry, 
crossed the railroad, and under cover of the wood 
took a position upon the high ground facing the 
Chickahominy, and about one thousand yards from 
ihe bridges. Making every preparation, I awaited 
their attack, and ordered Miller to respond slowly 
but skilfully until he learned the range. I directed 
Brady and Morgan to test the range in the same 
manner, and with about an hour's practice we were 

fully prepared. Half an hour after I observed changes 
of position, as if in preparation for an attack, and 
ordered the three batteries to increase their fire, and 
to concentrate it upon the troops that were moving; 
this had the desired effect, and they were compelled 
to withdraw into the woods. I then concentrated 
the fire upon the battery, which by four o'clock was 
so effectually silenced, that it responded but seldom 
during the remainder of the afternoon. 

On the 29th, large bodies of the enemy were con- 
stantly hovering around in force, but he did not renew 
the attack here, being fully occupied in the terrific 
struggle that continued throughout this day at Savage 

At 7 P. M. the destruction of the Railroad Bridge 
was made complete by running into the gap the loco- 
motive and long train of cars filled with immense 
quantities of ammunition, which exploded with sub- 
lime and terrific power that shook the whole earth, 
and the white smoke ascended in a column so grand, 
so magnificent, that all stood spell-bound, impressed 
to that extent that it cannot be forgotten. 

At 10 P. M. the army trains and army having 
passed by the road less than two miles in rear of 
these bridges, the necessity of holding this position 
no longer existed, and I received instructions from 
General McClellan to follow with the rear-guard and 
cross the White Oak Swamp Bridge. 

Thus was my brigade, which had forced the pas- 


sage of the Railroad and Bottom's Bridges on the 
20th of May, destined to dispute the same passage 
of the enemy on the 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th of 
June. Our position with the enemy was, in every 
regard, reversed, holding on each side the identical 
ground the other had held. In our army, we had 
made the advance from this point towards Richmond, 
and were now to be the last in the retreat. 

It was nearly daylight, on the morning of the 30th 
of June, when the brigade bivouacked in the rising 
ground near to and commanding the White Oak 
Swamp Bridge. 

At 10 A. M. " Naglee's Brigade was ordered by 
General McClellan to report immediately for duty to 
Brigadier General W. F. Smith," and by 11 o'clock 
it was in line of battle perpendicular to, and the right 
resting on, the main road leading from the White 
Oak Swamp Bridge, with the left on the swamp about 
three-fourths of a mile from the bridge, a portion of 
the 52d being deployed in the swamp, extending 
from the brigade to the bridge. 

All of the space between the swamp and the line 
occupied by my brigade was covered with troops, 
infantry and artillery, belonging to the Divisions of 
Smith and Richardson, under the command of General 
Franklin, who was ordered to hold the position and 
prevent the passage of the bridge, that the army might 
continue the retreat down the Peninsula. 

About noon, without one being aware of his inten- 

tion, the enemy opened upon the position held by 
General Franklin with a quick and constant discharge 
from a number of batteries concealed in the wood or 
brush three-fourths of a mile from the swamp. So 
sudden and incessant was the discharge that for some 
time much confusion prevailed amongst the trains, 
and an excellent opportunity was afforded to judge 
of the steadiness and discipline of the different com- 
mands present. 

This fearful cannonade was answered promptly and 
gallantly by the artillery of Franklin, and kept up, 
there being fully one hundred pieces on both sides, 
until long after dark. 

Frequent efforts were made by the enemy to cross 
the bridge and swamp, but he was as frequently re- 

About 3 P.M. a heavy force of the enemy attempted 
to cross the swamp two miles above the bridge de- 
fended by Franklin, but they were opposed by the 
corps of Sumner and Heintzelman, and a fearful con- 
test ensued, which continued until night. 

My brigade stood, this excessively hot .day, screened 
only by the wood that skirted the White Oak Swamp, 
exposed to this constant fire, and, although under my 
immediate observation, I did not see an instance of 
hesitation or fear, and none was reported to me. On 
the contrary, its position was such that no person 
could leave the field without passing my line, and 
none but the wounded and those necessary to remove 


them were permitted to do so. The dead we were 
compelled to bury upon the ground where they fell. 

At 10 P. M. I was ordered to follow Gen. Smith's 
Division, and made immediate preparation to retreat 
as soon as that division should file off; the proper 
orders were given, and the regiments were instructed 
to follow each other whenever the head of the brigade 
should move. It was after 11 o'clock before Smith's 
Division was out of the way, and I could get my 
artillery started. The men and officers had been 
constantly engaged since the 26th, and naturally sunk 
upon the ground in utter exhaustion. Finally, when 
the column moved off, the connection was lost be- 
tween my third and fourth regiments, and two of 
them, the 56th and 100th N. Y., remained upon the 

This was not discovered until we had marched 
fully an hour, and when, the road being literally 
crammed, it was impossible to return. They, how- 
ever, soon after midnight discovered their position, 
and followed in admirable marching order and joined 
the brigade on the following day at Haxall's, where 
we arrived by 7 A. M. on the 1st of July, after a 
march of seventeen miles. 

On the 1st of July I joined my division, and my 
brigade remained under arms whilst Porter fought 
the bloody battle at Malvern Hill. 

On the 2d of July, my brigade, with that of Gen. 
Wessall's, of Peck's Division, formed the rear guard, 


and whilst we were prepared for any attack of the 
enemy, the immense artillery and wagon train were 
kept in such excellent control that all confusion was 
prevented, and the whole train was brought in safety 
to Harrison's Landing. 

Thus for seven days were the men of my brigade 
constantly on duty. On the 26th, 27th, 28th, and 
29th of June the safety of the army depended upon 
our holding the Railroad and Bottom's Bridges ; 
and on the 30th upon holding the bridges at the 
White Oak Swamp. Many, day and night for four 
days, stood to their middle in the water of the Chicka- 
hominy Swamp, and all, impressed with the respon- 
sible duty required of them, served their country in 
this hour of trial, enduring the most excessive labor, 
fatigue and exhaustion, with extraordinary endurance 
and cheerfulness ; and well may they and their many 
friends, in all the future, refer to these gallant deeds 
and trials with the conscious pride that they are 
deserving of the thanks and remembrance of their 

All of which is respectfully submitted by 
Your ob't servant, 


Brigadier General. 

January, 1863. 



June 26th, 1862. 

Commanding Division. 

It is reported and believed that a large force of the enemy is on 
the other side of the Chickahomiuy, to cut off our communication 
if he can. 

All the wagons now on the east side of the Chickahominy will 
therefore be brought to this side at once, and packed not far from 
the burnt chimneys. 

Gen. Naglee, with his brigade, is charged with guarding the Rail- 
road Bridge and Bottom's Bridge. Gen. Naglee will direct the regi- 
ment at Dispatch Station to be on the alert, and if need be (that 
is, if attacked by a large force) it will retire to this side, in the 
manner to be arranged by Gen. Naglee. I send a battery to Gen. 
Naglee to be placed on duty at Bottom's Bridge, and a battery to 
you to be placed as you see fit. 

I send this direct to Gen. Naglee to save time. 

I am, very respectfully, 

Your ob't servant, 

(Signed) E. D. KEYES, 

B. G. Comd. 4h Corps. 

Brig. Gen. Naglee will note, and carry out such portions of the 
foregoing as relate to himself and his brigade, and to his position. 
By order of BRIG. GEN. KEYES. 


Capt. A. A. Gen. 


June 27th, 1862, 8.45 P. M. 

Comd'g Division. 

I am instructed by the General commanding the corps to 
direct that, in accordance with instructions from Head-Quarters, 
Army of the Potomac, Bottom's and Railroad Bridges be held at 
all hazards, and to destroy the Bottom's and Railroad Bridges 
effectually, rather than allow the enemy to pass them. The Gen- 
eral desires that all planks by which men could cross be moved 
from the Railroad Bridge. He also desires that dry fagots in 
sufficient quantity be placed under both the above bridges, and at 
such places as may conduce to their entire destruction, when the 
necessity for their demolition arises ; but you must not destroy 
the bridges unnecessarily. 

Very respectfully, 

Your ob't servant, 

(Signed) C. C. SUYDAM. 

/ ' ,. 

P. S. When I say the bridges must not be destroyed unnecessa- 
rily, you will understand that the sole object of ordering them de- 
stroyed is to prevent the enemy from crossing to this side, and that 
officers of first rate discretion must be especially charged with the 
matter. Have you force enough, or do you need another battery ? 
The infantry is almost entirely assigned. 

(Signed) C. C. SUYDAM, 

Capt. A. A. Gen. 



June 28th, 1862, 2.30 A.M. 

Comd 'g Brigade. 


* * # 

The General also desires that you will inform Gen. McClellan, 
at Savage Station, of what you have done, and that you commu- 
nicate directly with that officer, as General Keyes himself will be 
during the rest of night in the saddle, being now on the point of 
departure for Gen. Peck's Head-Quarters. 

Enclosed is a copy of instructions which have been received. 
These, as far as they relate to you, you will please observe. 
Very respectfully, 

Your ob't servant, 


Capt. A. A. Gen.