Camp near Harrison’s Landing
Aug. 13th 1862
I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my Brigade in the action at Ellison’s Mill, and at Gaines Mill on the 26th and 27th of June last.
Having received notice about 11 A.M. on the ____ that our Cavalry pickets stationed at Atlees on the Central Rail Road and beyond were being driven in by a superior force of the enemy, approaching from the direction of Ashland; I proceeded at once to Mechanicsville in person, and in conjunction with Genl. Seymour arranged for the withdrawal of our pickets from that neighborhood to the position behind Beaver Dam Creek.
The picket of the Rifle Regt. at Meadow Bridge, three companies under Maj. Stone, mistaking the order sent there to fall back with the Cavalry Picket (2 companies 4th Pa. Cavalry under Capt. Herron), from that point, and to support them, advanced at once up the Rail Road to the support of the 8th Illinois Cavalry. Col. Farnsworth, then skirmishing with the enemy’s advance, where thy met the enemy’s Infantry, & after a narrow escape from being entirely cut off by the column of the enemy crossing at Meadow Bridge, fell back to the position at Beaver Dam Creek, with some loss principally in prisoners (since ascertained to have been one Company, Capt. Irvin), the squadron of the 4th Pa. Cavalry, Capts. Herron & Wiedeman’s Companies falling back at the same time gained the rear of our position without loss.
The position at Beaver Dam Creek was occupied—the right by the Regt. of my Brigade, the left by the three Regts. of Seymour’s Brigade under the personal direction of Genl. Seymour. The Artillery was posted at points to command the approaches from the direction of Mechanicsville by the roads leading out from Mechanicsville to “Cold Harbor” & “Piping Tree.” Four pieces of Cooper’s Battery under Capt. Copper were posted behind the parapet on the right of the Piping Tree road. One section of Smead’s Battery under Capt. Smead was similarly posted behind the parapet to the left of this road. The remaining section under Lt. Piper was placed near the centre of the line to enfilade a turn in the road from Mechanicsville to Cold Harbor. DeHart’s Battery behind the parapet near the Hudson House swept the entire space behind the roads referred to above as far up as the forks at Mechanicsville. The Rifle Regt. under Maj. Stone & two companies of Berdan’s sharpshooters under Capt. [ ] occupied the rifle pits to the right of the road and supported Cooper’s Battery. Five companies of the 5th Regt. under Col. Simmons—[the one?] to the left of the road supporting Smead’s section; the other wing of this Regt. remained in reserve immediately in rear of the position held by Col. Simmons; the 1st Regt. under Col. Roberts was placed in the rear of woods to the left of the 5th Regt. supporting DeHart’s Battery. The 8th Regt. under Col. Hays occupied ground to the left of the small stream falling into Beaver Dam Creek just south of the Hudson House, & was in consequence more immediately under the direction of Genl. Seymour with whose command it was withdrawn in the morning. The 2d Regt. under Col. McCandless was placed on the extreme right of the position near an old dam & ford to guard this crossing hastily obstructed.
This was the disposition of the troops on the right when the action commenced: for that of the left, I must refer you to the report of Genl. Seymour.
The enemy appeared in force about 3 P.M. & opened with his Batteries from the high ground around Mechanicsville, impetuously, assailing with greatly superior force & at the same time the right & left of our position by the roads leading from that place. He was repulsed in every effort to storm our position, as well as in an attempt to turn the Right by the ford & old dam. Here he was handsomely checked by the 2d Regt., Lt. Col. McCandless, & some 6 or 7 prisoners taken of a Georgia Regt. In the meantime, finding the 5th Regt., Col. Simmons, able to hold its position, I brought the 1st Regt., Col. Roberts, over to the right of the Rifle Regt. & between it & the 2d Regt. This part of the line was late in the evening further reinforced by Kerns Battery (4 pieces) one section was sent to the right of De Hart’s Battery to shell the woods on the opposite side of the stream, & the 3d Reg., Mead’s Brigade under Col. Sickels; Griffin’s Brigade also reached the field about this time and at dark the 4th Michigan, Col. Woodbury relieved Col. Simmons in his position for a short time & the 14th New York, Col. McQuade was held in readiness to relieve the Rifle Regt. These Regts. were subsequently withdrawn with their Brigade. Easton’s Battery also came up and was directed to the field on the high ground near the position occupied by Lieut. Piper. The action continued with undiminished vigor and the repeated efforts of the enemy to carry our position by assault was in every instance signally repulsed. Genl. Seymour was equally successful on the left in maintaining his position & night closed the action with the enemy defeated and discomfited.
The conduct of the troops, most of them for the first time under fire was all that could be desired and was creditable to their state and country. I would particularly mention the conduct of Capts. DeHart, Smead and Cooper for coolness and judgement in which they directed the fire of their Batteries. Lt. Piper of Smead’s Battery was severely wounded.
Cols. Simmons, Roberts, Lt. Col. McCandless & Maj. Stone commdg. Regts. behaved with great coolness and executed my orders with a soldierly spirit and promptitude very gratifying to me. Our loss as nearly as could be ascertained was ten killed and some seventy wounded.
The force of the enemy oposed [sic] to us was known to be the divisions of D.H. Hill, A.P. Hill and Longstreet. How many of them were actually engaged is not known but their loss must have been severe and far exceeded ours.