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ground manfully, and were nobly sustained by their officers. But it was impossible to resist the force that was hurled against them. Slowly, inch by inch, they gave way; and it was not until after three o'clock that they fell back through Couch's line of battle to the rear, too much exhausted, and their ranks too much thinned, to take further part in the contest as a body.
At four o'clock we had lost nearly a mile of ground, fifteen of our guns had been captured, and the enemy were in possession of Casey's camp. Couch's division was now assailed. stood firm, and the repeated assaults of the enemy were steadily met,-our left being protected by the impenetrable morasses of the White Oak Swamp. Two of Heintzelman's brigades appeared on the field, with the gallant Kearney at their head. The movements of the troops were now directed by General McClellan in person.
But a new element of danger intervened. General Couch discovered large masses of the enemy pushing towards our right and crossing the railroad, as well as a heavy column which had been held in reserve and was now making its way towards Fair Oaks Station. This was part of Smith's division, which had come by the Nine-Mile road to attack our right flank. General Couch at once engaged this column with four regiments; but he was overpowered, and the enemy pushed between him and the main body of his division. Our position was now critical; for, if the enemy had succeeded in getting in our rear, we must have been
defeated with great loss. “But," says the Prince de Joinville,
“But exactly at this moment (six o'clock P.m.), new actors come upon the stage. Sumner, who has at last passed the river with Sedgwick's division on the bridge built by his troops, and who, with a soldier's instinct, has marched straight to the cannon through the woods, suddenly appears upon the flank of the hostile column which is trying to cut off Heintzelman and Keyes. He plants in a clearing a battery which he has succeeded in bringing up. His guns are not rifled guns, the rage of the hour, and fit only to be fired in cool blood, and at long range in an open country: they are real fighting guns, old twelve-pound howitzers carrying either a round projectile, which ricochets and rolls, or a good dose of grape. The simple and rapid fire of these pieces makes terrible havoc in the hostile ranks. In vain Johnston sends his best troops against this battery, the flower of South Carolina, including the Hampton Legion; in vain does he come upon the field in person: nothing can shake the Federal ranks. When night falls, it was the Federals who, bayonet in hand, and gallantly led by Sumner himself, charged furiously upon the foe, and drove him before them, with fearful slaughter, as far as Fair Oaks Station."
Orders had been sent from head-quarters to General Sumner, at two o'clock, to move his division across the river. Two bridges had been built by his men, one opposite General Sedgwick’s division, and one opposite General Richardson's,—both corduroy bridges. But the latter was already destroyed by the flood, and the former much injured. The roads, too, were deep and muddy; and it was not
until six o'clock, and after great exertions, that General Sedgwick's division, with a single battery (Kirby's), was able to reach the field and exert a favorable influence upon the fortunes of the day.
The opportune arrival of General Sumner was not our only piece of good fortune; for about sunset the Confederate commander-in-chief, General J. E. Johnston, who had accompanied Smith's corps and directed the enemy's movements since four or five o'clock, was struck from his horse, severely wounded, by the fragment of a shell. In consequence of this, utter confusion prevailed for a time upon the Confederate left.
The next morning, at an early hour, the battle was renewed, the enemy making an attack upon General Richardson's division, which had not taken part in the engagement of the previous day, and which was now posted in front. They met it firmly, and returned with effect the enemy's fire, until General Howard's brigade was ordered to the front, when the enemy's line fell back. Other attacks, in other parts of the field, were repulsed; and finally our line advanced with the bayonet, and the enemy retreated, having gained about half a mile of ground in two days' fighting.
In these severely contested battles our loss was five thousand seven hundred and thirty-seven, and that of the enemy six thousand seven hundred and eighty-three: we also lost ten pieces of artillery.*
* At the time the battle of Fair Oaks began, General McClellan was confined to his bed by illness. This fact does not
The battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines, as the Confederates call it, has some points of resemblance to that of Waterloo, and, like that, shows how much military movements are controlled by fortune or accident. At Waterloo, Bonaparte's attack upon the British lines was delayed some hours by the rain, and consequent state of the roads. At Fair Oaks, the muddy roads held fast Huger's division, and caused the assault to be postponed four or five
appear in his Report, but is stated by him in his evidence before the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War. But that committee say in their Report (p. 22), speaking of the second day's fight, “General McClellan was with the main part of the army on the left bank of the Chickahominy. After the fighting was over, he came across to the right bank of the river.” This statement is as untrue as it is unjust. General McClellan, enfeebled as he was by illness, immediately got on horseback when he heard the cannon which opened the battle of the 31st, was employed during the remainder of the day in receiving reports and giving orders, spent a portion of the night in conferring with his officers, and early the next morning went over to the right bank of the river, while the fight of June 1st was raging. Colonel Lecomte remarks upon the statement of the committee, that it is “contradicted by many ocular witnesses, and, among others, by one of his aides who was with him the whole day. - General McClellan, says this officer, though severely ill with dysentery, had passed the greater part of the night in seeking his generals and conferring with them. About half-past seven in the morning he left the headquarters of General Sumner, and between eight and nine arrived at the place where the latter was engaged. The fight was then at its height: we were in a clearing, and were fighting along the edge of a wood, two hundred metres” (about six hundred and fifty feet) “from the spot where the general himself (Sumner) was directing the battle.”
hours. Huger took no part in the battle, contrary to the plans which had been agreed upon: Grouchy did not appear at Waterloo, as was expected. Sumner's arrival upon the field at six is paralleled by that of Blücher at Waterloo at about the same hour.
So much for the points of resemblance between the two battles; but in other respects that of Fair Oaks illustrates the power of fortune over war. Had Huger's corps attacked us on the left flank at the same time that Hill and Longstreet did in front, we could hardly have escaped destruction. Thus the rain which swelled the stream and occasioned the attack also prevented it from being successful, by making impassable the road over which Huger was directed to move. We had also another piece of good fortune. Smith's corps, it will be remembered, was moved along the Nine-Mile road, to be ready to be employed against our right flank. General Johnston, the commander-in-chief, was with this corps, and, of course, directed its movements. He says in his official report that he accompanied this corps, so that he might be on a part of the field where he could observe and be ready to meet any countermovement which might be made against his centre or left, and then adds, "Owing to some peculiar condition of the atmosphere, the sound of the musketry did not reach us. I consequently deferred giving the signal for General Smith's advance till four o'clock.” Thus the advance of Smith's corps was delayed two hours; and precious hours they were to us, because they enabled Sumner to get to the field and save us from being cut to pieces.