1 - Battle of Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines (Series I, Volume 11)


No 70: Report of Brig. Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes, U.S. Army, commanding Fourth Corps. June 13, 1862 [Excerpt]

....At a little past 2 o'clock I ordered Neill's Twenty-third and Rippey's Sixty-first Pennsylvania Regiments to move to the support of Casey's right. Neill attacked the enemy twice with great gallantry. In the first attack the enemy were driven back. In the second attack, and under the immediate command of General Couch, these two regiments assailed a vastly superior force of the enemy and fought with extraordinary bravery, though compelled at last to retire. They brought in 35 prisoners. Both regiments were badly cut up. Colonel Rippey, of the Sixty-first, and his adjutant were killed. The Lieutenant-Colonel and the Major were wounded and are missing. The casualties in the Sixty-first amount to 263, and are heavier than any other regiment in Couch's division. After this attack the Twenty-third took part in the hard fighting which closed the day near Seven Pines. The Sixty-first withdrew in detachments, some of which came into action near my headquarters.


No 71: Report of Brig. Gen. Darius N. Couch, U.S. Army, commanding First Division. June 7, 1862

Sir: I have the honor to report that between 12:30 and 1 p.m. of the 31st ultimo two or three cannon-shot of the rebels came into my camp, thrown from the front and over Casey's line. Musketry firing soon after began on his line, and in half an hour the action seemed to be general in that division. By direction of General Keyes General Peck was ordered to move to the left and support General Casey, disposing his regiments as given in his report. The One hundred and second Pennsylvania Volunteers, Coloney Rowley, was already at an important junction to the left. General Devens' brigade, consisting of the Tenth and Seventh Massachusetts and Thirty-sixth New York, covered the road leading to Casey's center. The batteries of Miller, Flood, and McCarthy were in position to the right and front. General Abercrombie's brigade was to the right of Devens on the cross-road leading from my center to Fair Oaks, which was full three-fourths of a mile to the right and front, running through a mass of thicket and heavy woods. The First Long Island, Colonel Adams, lay in rifle pits and supported Miller's battery; then came Neill's Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers and Rippey's Sixty-first Pennsylvania. The First U.S. Chasseurs, Colonel Cochrane, and Thirty-first Pennsylvania, Colonel Williams, lay at Fair Oaks, together with Brady's battery.

It should be said that a road leads to Richmond from Fair Oaks called the Nine-mile road, and another northerly to Grapevine Bridge over the Chickahominy, on the other side of which, I understood, lay General Sumner with his corps. Neill was ordered to move up and feel the enemy, Casey's troops being more or less in front. He did so, and engaged with great vigor, twice throwing the enemy back, when he retired to his first position.

General Keyes ordered forward the Fifty-fifth New York into some pits in front to support Casey's center. His right was then being thrown back on my right, being opposed by fearful odds. General Keyes directed me to advance with two regiments from the right and overthrow the rebel left, thereby relieving the pressure on Casey's right, which movement compelled our artillery to cease firing on that flank. About 2 p.m. I advanced with Neill's and Rippey's regiments through a close wood, moving by the flank. Directing Neill where to move, and pushing on with Rippey, we at once came upon a large column of the enemy in reserve, but apparently moving toward Fair Oaks. Rippey's regiment was therefore posted perpendicularly to Neill's line, in the edge of the woods, facing to the front. They immediately engaged, but were finally compelled to retire, bring in 35 prisoners. Here Coloney Rippey and all his field officers fell, and in twenty minutes the enemy had passed over the road leading to my center, cutting off the advance at Fair Oaks, now re-enforced by the Seventh Massachusetts, Colonel Russell, and Sixty-second, Col. J. L. Riker, ordered up by Keyes.

As for the movements of the main body of the division during the remainder of the battle, having been separated from it, I am compelled to refer to the reports of Generals Peck and Devens, Colonels Adams and Neill, and Major West, chief of artillery. At this moment Captain Van Ness, brigade quartermaster to General Abercrombie, volunteered to notify General Sumner of our situation. After making demonstrations to cut through and rejoin the main body it was abandoned as suicidal. At the same time large masses of the enemy were moving across the railroad to the front and right with the intention of inclosing us. Therefore, with General Abercrombie, four regiments [plus Cos G and H of the 61st], the battery, and prisoners, we moved off toward the Grapevine Bridge for half a mile, and took a position facing Fair Oaks. Soon Captain Van Ness brought me word that General Sumner was at hand. Upon receiving the information word was sent to Generals Heintzelman and Keyes that my position would be held until General Sumner arrived. This noble soldier came on rapidly with Sedgwick's division, and when the head of his column was seen half a mile distant I felt that God was with us and victory ours.

This was about 4:30 p.m. Upon General Sumner's arrival he immediately assumed command and made most admirable dispositions. Kirby's fine battery and gallant Lieutenant Fagan with a section of Brady's were posted at the angle of the woods to our right; Thirty-first Pennsylvania and First U.S. Chasseurs [Sixty-fifth New York] on the flank; the Seventh Massachusetts and Sixty-second New York, which was driven in from the field in front, in reserve, supporting the batteries, while part of Sedgwick's force was posted to the right and front, with a section under Captain Brady and others to the left, toward Fair Oaks. Heavy masses of the rebels appeared at Fair Oaks, while large numbers from the Nine-mile road filled the woods. Desperate attempts were made to carry the batteries and center, but the destructiveness of the artillery, and the close, steady fire of the Thirty-first Pennsylvania and the Chasseurs (the latter capturing the colors of the Eight North Carolina), with the firm advance of Gorman's brigade and others of Sedgwick's division, drove back the enemy with great slaughter.

At this point, Colonel Riker, Sixty-second New York Volunteers, fell mortally wounded, while setting an example of courage to his brave regiment. It was night and the troops lay down in the line-of-battle order, generals and privates, where the fighting ceased. During the night the wounded of both sides were cared for by our excellent surgeons. At 2:30 a.m. General Sunmner called around him his generals and gave them their orders. At daylight the extended woods were to be cleared of the rebels by a sweeping charge, the Thirty-first Pennsylvania and First Chasseurs joining Gorman's right. The work was done as ordered. General Sumner from the first ordered me to remain with him, but during the fight of the next day, as those of my division were in reserve, except the Seventh Massachusetts, which covered an open field near Richardson, it does not seem proper that anything should be said by me of those troops that fought so well on Sunday morning. Of the operations at Seven Pines I would say Flood's Miller's and McCarthy's batteries, under the eye of Major West, chief of artillery, with General Keyes and Heintzelman, did great execution, working the guns with the rapidity and efficiency of old regulars. Maj. R. M. West, First Pennsylvania Artillery, is entitled to great credit for the high discipline of his command. In retiring to a new position one of McCarthy's guns could not be brought off, the lunette being broken. Lieutenant Choate, of Miller's battery, though sick, stood by his gun until perfectly prostrated.

General Peck fought his brigade with skill and daring courage, his horse falling under him after being several times wounded. His command added new laurels to those won at Williamsburg. The Ninety-third Pennsylvania, Colonel McCarter, and One hundred and second Pennsylvania, Colonel Rowley, behaved with great gallantry, both colonels wounded. The Fifty-fifth New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Thourot, was early in the action, and suffered severely.

General Devens with only two regiments held his ground firmly, pouring in a most destructive fire at short distance, the Thirty-sixth New York not retiring until ordered, while the Tenth Massachusetts, though its colonel (Briggs) was carried off severely wounded, its lieutenant-colonel sick, and was a part of the time off the field, its major going to the rear without cause, yet under the brave Captain Miller held its position until outflanked and several orders had been given it to fall back. At night it, with others of my exhausted division and Kearny's, formed the front line facing the enemy. General Devens, severely wounded, remained bravely on the field until the last shot was fired.

The force of my division engaged near the Seven Pines did not number over 5,000 infantry and three batteries. For two hours it maintained itself without re-enforcements against a victorious enemy greatly superior in numbers, and only retired, and that slowly, under positive orders, to a new position jointly with the troops of General Heintzelman's corps that had advanced to our support. The First Long Island Regiment held its ground until outflanked.

My thanks are due to Captain Walker, assistant adjutant-general, and Lieutenants Edwards and Burt, aides, for their zeal and assistance. The former made a daring personal reconnaissance, and had his horse shot under him by my side. Lieutenants Edwards and Burt, sword left the hospital, and not being able to join his regiment, served with Company F during the day in a very gallant manner.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant.


No 81: Report of Brig. Gen. John J. Abercrombie, U.S. Army, commanding Second Brigade. June 5, 1862

Captain: I have the honor to inclose herewith copies of the reports of the regimental commanders in this brigade of the battles at Seven Pines and Fair Oaks Station, May 31 and June 1, 1862. No field officer of the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers is left to make out the report of that regiment, and I therefore simply attach a statement of casualties.

At 12 o'clock p.m., May 31, I received notice to warn the men to fall in at a moment's notice. The position of the different regiments was at the time as follows: First Long Island Volunteers [67th NY], Colonel Adams, in rear of the rifle pits near Seven Pines, on the Richmond road; Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Neill, and First U.S. Chasseurs [65th NY], Colonel Cochrane, on the road leading from Seven Pines to Fair Oaks Station and nearly in the rear of the Long Island Regiment; Thirty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Williams, near the railroad, on the road leading from the station to Richmond; Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Rippey, near the railroad, on the road leading from the depot to the Chickahominy - Trent's. The duty assigned to the last two regiments was to guard the crossing at the depot.

I received orders at 1 o'clock to take position with the First Chasseurs, Thirty-first and Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, and Brady's battery of First Pennsylvania Artillery, near the camp of the Thirty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, to prevent the enemy from turning our right flank. Shortly afterward the Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers was placed in position near the Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, then already engaged. I was by the falling back of Casey's division entirely cut off from the regiments of my brigade engaged in the center, and have to refer to the reports of the regimental commanders.

The annexed list of casualties show that they fought well, and from my position on the right of the railroad I could judge by the report of their guns that they fell back gradually and in good order. I have no doubt that if I could have been permitted to leave my position and closed in nearer to the right and re-enforced them with the balance of my command the enemy would have been checked. As it is, the dead of the enemy on the portion of the battle-field occupied by First Long Island Volunteers, Twenty-third and Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers are the proofs I have of the gallantry displayed by those regiments. The Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers mourn the loss of all their field officers, the colonel killed, lieutenant-colonel and major wounded and missing.

The calvary outposts came in from the front, reporting that the enemy was approaching in large numbers - infantry, artillery and calvary - and being entirely cut off from Keye's army corps, I, with the sanction of General Couch, sent one of the officers of my staff (Captain Van Ness, brigade quartermaster) to inform General Sumner of the state of affairs. Finding my position untenable, I fell back on the road from the depot to Trent's house as far as Courtney's house, about one-half mile, and there formed line of battle - the Thirty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers nearest the house behind a low rail-fence in the rear of a piece of woods; two companies of the Sixty-first Pennsylvania and First U.S. Chasseurs were posted on the right of the Thirty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers. The other troops on the ground at the time were the Sixty-second New York and Seventh Massachusetts Volunteers and a section of Brady's battery, formed on the left of the road. The other section of Brady's battery was placed on the right of my command near the First Minnesota Regiment as soon as that regiment, with the rest of the troops under General Sumner, arrived on the ground.

In concluding this report it would be an act of great injustice not to mention Captain Brady and my staff, Capt. G. Urban, assistant adjutant-general, Captain Van Ness, brigade quartermaster, Lieutenants Adams and Appleton, aides, who were, owing to the divided state of my brigade, kept constantly under fire in passing from one portion to the other of it. I must also mention among the list of my staff officers the Rev. Robert W. Oliver, chaplain, who acted as volunteer aide, and never hesitated to carry an order in the very hottest of the fight. In retiring from my original position, the Courtney house, a few hundred yards to the right and a little to the rear, the column moved in perfect order, every man in his proper place, and remained so after having been thrown into battle order until after the close of the action, notwithstanding they were opposed (as reported by rebel prisoners) by eight regiments and a part of the rebel legion, who advanced within 25 or 30 paces of our line, and left as a memento of their rashness over 500 killed and wounded, exclusive of prisoners. No higher commendation is needed to show the services of my brigade.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant.


No 82: Report of Col. John Cochrane, Sixty-fifth New York Infantry. June 3, 1862 [Excerpt]

Captain: I have the honor to report the movements of this regiment in the action of Saturday, 31st ultimo, at Fair Oaks.

The regiment, upon a sudden alarm of firing by the enemy, at about 1 o'clock PM of Saturday, the 31st ultimo, was drawn up in line of battle in front of its camp at the Seven Pines. By orders from the brigadier-general in command it proceeded by the right flank to the railroad station of Fair Oaks. There we were directed to support Captain Brady's battery, which we did, the Thirty-first Pennsylvania resting on our left. Having thrown out pickets to the front, and they reporting that the enemy were moving toward our right flank, the regiment was ordered and accordingly formed line of battle facing outward to the right, and supported by the Thirty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers on the left and the Seventh Massachusetts on the right. Three pieces of Brady's battery were advanced to the front of the line, and the Sixty-second New York (Anderson Zouaves) supported us in the rear.

Having been ordered by General Abercrombie to withdraw from our position, we moved by his command along the road leading from Fair Oaks Station to the eminence near the Courtney place. Here we awaited the approach of the enemy until, re-enforcements arriving, by order of General Abercrombie, the regiment took position in front of a belt of woods through which the enemy's forces were approaching. Our right rested on the left of Colonel Sully's Minnesota regiment, and our left on the right of the Thirty-first Pennsylvania [and companies G and H of the 61st]. The men took their places immediately behind the rail fence by which the wood was skirted, and, the enemy coming in sight, opened their fire upon them at about 25 yards distance. This fire was continued two and a half hours and until the enemy was effectively repulsed. During this time the fire of the men was steady, continuous and accurate, as I have reason to suppose from the very numerous dead found subsequently in the front of our lines. The standard bearer of the Twenty-second North Carolina regiment was killed by our fire, and during the night the battle flag of that regiment was found by our men on the field in front of the regiment where its bearer fell.

The regiment slept on their arms that night in their position, and daylight of the following morning advanced in line of battle at right angles with their last position through the woods previously held by the enemy to the position which they now hold....


No 85: Report of Col. David H. Williams, Thirty-first Pennsylvania Infantry. June 2, 1862 [Excerpt]

Captain: I beg leave respectfully to submit the following report of the participation of this regiment in the engagement of the 31st May and 1st of June:

We were formed in line of battle near our camp before 1 PM of the 31st May, when we were ordered to move up the road on our left near where the division of General Casey and the Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers of this brigade were engaged. We took position near the right of the Twenty-third. Here we had 2 men slightly wounded, who gallantly rejoined their companies and participated n all the subsequent events of the day. We afterward deployed upon the left of the First U.S. Chasseurs, our left extending across the railroad nearly in front of our camp at the station. Here again we had 1 man (a private from Company B) severely wounded.

From this position to the one finally taken [which was to the left of Cos G and H of the 61st], where the severe engagement ensued in which we participated, no incident occurred worthy of note in this report. We were posted in a well-chosen position behind a low rail fence, an open field in our rear and a wood in front, when the enemy appeared so suddenly and with such impetuosity that our skirmishers could scarcely regain their position in the battalion. The enemy first opened fire, but was met with such a withering volley that his next attempt was made with more caution and deliberation, but no better success. His ranks were renewed with fresh troops, which repeatedly charged to within 20 yards of our lines, but no valor or impetuosity could withstand the steady and well-directed fire of our men. As the enemy withdrew to form his shattered lines our fire was slackened, to be renewed with undiminished severity as he approached. The conflict was sustained for nearly two hours, when the enemy withdrew on the approach of night completely broken. It seemed that if daylight had continued but a short time the enemy could have been successfully pursued and his forces captured. our men slept upon their arms in the ranks where the battle had been fought. At daybreak we joined the Fifteenth Massachusetts and took our new position, which we now hold...


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