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Longstreet: From Manassas to Appomattox
10a - Fighting Along the Chickahominy.
Retreat—Lee's Bold Initiative—Lee and his Lieutenants planning Battle—The Confederates' Loss at Mechanicsville—Gaines's Mill—A. P. Hill's Fight—Longstreet's Reserve Division put in—McClellan's Change of Base—Savage Station—Longstreet engages McClellan's Main Force at Frayser's Farm (or Glendale)—President Davis on the Field—Testimony of Federal Generals—Fierce Bayonet Charges— "Greek meets Greek"—Capture of General McCall—McClellan's Masterly Retreat.


THE day after Stuart's return I rode over to General Lee's head-quarters and suggested that General Jackson be withdrawn from the Valley to take position on our left, to march against McClellan's right, and was informed that the order for Jackson was se nt when Whiting's division was detached and sent to join him.

Then it was that General Lee revealed the plan indicated in his instructions of the 11th, for General Jackson to march down and attack McClellan's rear, while he made a simultaneous attack upon his front. The suggestion was offered that the enemy had probably destroyed the bridges and ferries on the Pamunkey along the line of his retreat which might leave Jackson in perilous condition if the front attack should be delayed; that that attack must be hazardous, as the enemy was in well-fortified positions wit h four army corps. After deliberation, he changed the plan and accepted the suggestion in favor of combining his fighting columns on the north side of the Chickahominy in echelon march against McClellan's right flank, leaving troops in the trenches in front of McClellan to defend in case of a move towards Richmond. At the first mention of this march before this conference a change of base was spoken of by General D. H. Hill, but with our troops to be left in the trenches, so near the flank of such a move, and our columns afield, pressing close upon its rear, it was thought impracticable. General D. H. Hill, in view of the possibility, preferred that our attack should be made against the enemy's left by crossing White Oak Swamp below the enemy's left.

Jackson was called in advance of his command to meet the Hills and myself at General Lee's head-quarters for conference on the execution. On the forenoon of the 23d of June we were advised of his approach, and called to head-quarters to meet him. He was there before us, having ridden fifty miles by relay of horses since midnight. We were together in a few minutes after his arrival, in General Lee's private office. The general explained the plan briefly : Jackson to march from Ashland by heights between the Chickahominy and Pamunkey, turning and dislodging the Federal right, thus clearing the way for the march of troops to move on his right; A. P. Hill to cross the upper Chickahominy and march for Mechanicsville, in echelon to Jackson; the Mechanicsville Bridge being clear, D. H. Hill's division and mine to cross, the former to reinforce Jackson's column, the latter to file to the right and march down the river in right echelon to A. P. Hill's direct march through Mechanicsville to Gaines's Mill.

General Lee then excused himself to attend to office business, asking that we talk the matter over for our better comprehension. Turning to Jackson, I said,—"You have distance to overcome, and in all probability obstacles will be trhown in the way of your march by the enemy. As your move is the key of the campaign, you should appoint the hour at which the connection may be made cooperative." He promptly responded, - "The morning of the 25th."

I expressed doubt of his meeting that hour, and suggested that it would be better to take a little more time as the movements of our columns could be readily adjusted to those of his. He then appointed the morning of the 26th.

Upon his return, report was made General Lee that the officers understood, and would be prepared to execute the plans; that General Jackson had appointed the morning of the 26th, when he would lead the march. Verbal instructions were given, followed by written orders, embodying in minute detail the plan already given in general.

The topographical features of the ground about Beaver Dam Creek have been given in a former chapter. Behind it battery epaulements had been skilfully laid and constructed, as well as rifle-trenches. These were occupied by the troops of the Fifth Corps, commanded by General Fitz-John Porter. McCall's division had joined the Army of the Potomac, and was assigned as part of the Fifth Corps, with the divisions of Sykes and Morell. Two of McCall's brigades, J. F. Reynolds' and Seymour's, with thoroughly-equipped artillery, were especially charged with the defences, the Third Brigade, Meade's, in reserve, the other divisions in supporting distance. McCall's advanced brigades had guards at the bridges as far as Meadow Bridge, and a strong outpost at Mechanicsville, under orders to retire when the strength of the enemy's advance was so developed as to warrant their doing so.

Three batteries, two of six guns each and one of four, manned the epaulements at the opening of the fight.

Before sunrise on the 26th of June the division of A. P. Hill was in position at Meadow Bridge; his brigade, under General Branch, and Johnson's battery, seven miles above, at Brook Turnpike Bridge; my division and that of D. H. Hill on the heights overlooking the Mechanicsville Bridge,—all awaiting the approach of the initial column. Not anticipating delay, the divisions had no special cause to conceal their presence, nor did the lay of the ground offer good cover. Morning came, and noon passed.

A few minutes after ten A.M., General Branch received a note informing him that, at the hour of its writing, General Jackson's column was crossing the Central Railroad. He assembled his command, crossed the Chickahominy, and marched down along the route designated for his column, without sending information to the division commander. Of his march he reported,—

" Interruption by the enemy, but with no other effect than to retard without checking our march.

"Near Crenshaw's the road on which the column commanded by Major-General Ewell (of Jackson's) "was advancing and that on which I was advancing approach within one-fourth of a mile of each other. The heads of our columns reached this point simultaneously, and, after a short personal interview between General Ewell and myself, we proceeded on our respective routes.

" After dislodging the enemy from several ambuscades with only a small loss to my command, I reached the Meadow Bridge road, when I learned from stragglers that Major-General Hill had crossed the Chickahominy, without opposition, with the remainder of the division and gone on to Mechanicsville, then distant about one and a half miles. A courier from the general soon assured me of the correctness of the information, and, closing in my skirmishers, I made all haste to join him at Mechanicsville. The brigade reached the field almost an hour before sunset."

At three o'clock, General A. P. Hill, hearing nothing from Jackson or his brigade under Branch, decided to cross the river and make his move without reference to Jackson or Branch. He crossed and moved down against Mechanicsville, attacked by Field's brigade, Andersen and Archer on Field's left, Pender and Gregg on his right, and six field batteries (four guns each). The outpost was driven in, and Hill prepared and attacked against the front at Beaver Dam Creek. Meanwhile the Mechanicsville Bridge had been cleared, and, after a little delay repairing breaks, D. H. Hill's and Longstreet's divisions crossed.

A. P. Hill's battle soon became firm, but he waited a little for Jackson before giving it full force. Jackson came up marched by the fight without giving attention, and went into camp at Hundley's Corner, half a mile in rear of the enemy's position of contention. A. P. Hill put his force in severe battle and was repulsed. As D. H. Hill approached, he was called into the fray by the commanding general, then by the President. He sent Hipley's brigade and five batteries, which made the battle strong and hot along the line.

The most determined efforts were against the enemy's right, where General McCall, reinforced by Kern's battery and Griffin's and Martindale's brigades (Morell's division), Edwards's battery, and the Third Regiment of Meade's brigade, beat off the repeated and formidable efforts of A. P. Hill, when he essayed a column against the crossing at Ellerson's Mill, which McCall reinforced by the Seventh IRegiment of Meade's, Eastman's battery, and before night the Fourth Michigan, Twelfth New York, and Berdan's Sharp-shooters came in to reinforce the line and relieve regiments exhausted of ammunition. The battle was in close conflict till nine o'clock at night, when Hill was obliged to give over till morning. The Federal reinforcements were not all engaged, and some that were suffered but little; none very severely. McCall replenished ammunition and prepared to renew the fight the next morning.

The Federal loss in the engagement was 361 aggregate.No especial account of the Confederate loss was made in separate report, but it could not have been less than two thousand, and may have reached three thousand.

General D. H. Hill reported of his Forty-fourth Georgia Regiment, the lieutenant-colonel, Estes (J. B.), wounded, and others, aggregating 334 killed and wounded. Of his First North Carolina Regiment, Colonel Stokes, Major Skinner, six captains, and the adjutant killed, and 133 privates killed and wounded.

During the night General McClellan ordered his troops withdrawn. They retired at daylight on the 27th, leaving a line of skirmishers to cover their march. The skirmishers were not seriously molested, the Confederates being satisfied that the direct assault had failed, and the flanking march non-aggressive. Early in the morning, D. H. Hill was ordered to march to the left to turn the position, and was on the Federal right before their lines were well out of their trenches. He came up with Jackson and led the march of that column from Hundley's Corner. A. P. Hill marched by the direct route to Gaines's Mill, and Longstreet, in reserve, moved by the route nearer the river and Dr. Gaines's house.

D. H. Hill marched by Bethesda Church to Old Cold Harbor. He understood the plan of campaign and promptly engaged the new position along the Chickahominy Heights, on the enemy's right, where he found a well-posted battery of ten guns near swamp lands commanding the only road of approach. He ordered Bondurant's battery into action, but the combat was unequal; the latter was forced to retire, and General Jackson ordered the division back to selected ground parallel to a road over which he supposed that the Federals would presently retreat.

As my division was in reserve, it could only be used in the last extremity. So the driving could only be made by the division of A. P. Hill, while Jackson, with his own, Ewell's, D. H. Hill's, and Whiting's divisions, had more than half of our moving column, organized as our leading battle force, held in ambush for the enemy.

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