Today in History:

117 Series I Volume XXXVI-II Serial 68 - Wilderness-Cold Harbor Part II


from seeing what was going on in the open country on my right, reconnaissances were impossible. Shortly after the One hundred and twelfth New York and the Ninth Maine were placed in position a report came to me from General Weitzel of a movement still father on his right. As this threatened directly our communications, my artillery, which had been withdrawn, and was without supports, my ammunition train a short distance to the rear, and our line we had left but feebly defended, I immediately ordered a retirement of the whole line, instructing General Brooks to inform General Turner, commanding a division in the Tenth Corps, that his movements must conform to ours to keep up connection between the two corps. While the line was falling back the fog lifted, so that I was able to watch my right, having in the mean time rallied round the Half-Way House the troops of General Heckman, which had fallen back much disorganized. I ordered the line forward again, and put the rallied troops in to cover the right of the advancing line. A short time afterward, finding General Weitzel again retiring, and asking him the reason, I was informed by him that we of the commanding officers of the regiments of broken troops had told him that they had orders from me personally to retire. This strange mistake on their part occurred just at the time when I learned that my connection with the Tenth Corps had been broken, and therefore a forward movement of mine would place me simply outside of the enemy's works, which we held before the retirement, and which I knew, by personal examination, could not be carried by assault. I then moved my entire line to the right, so as to hold both the turnpike and the parallel road on its right, forming line of battle in that position. About this time, hearing that General Gillmore had reached the turnpike in my rear, I made an advance in the direction of the point where Heckman's brigade had been attacked, with a view of bringing of my wounded. My advance into the woods which I had occupied early in the morning found a line of battle in my front, and the enemy on my right and left flanks. Having but a very small force in the advance had covered, and immediately commenced obeying the orders of the general commanding the department to retire within the lines. This was done successfully and without loss.

The capture of General Heckman has left me in much uncertainty with reference to the point at which the enemy crossed the little creek in his front, and of their attack upon his lines. These facts can only be arrived at after his release.

For details of the battle in reference to the conduct of the troops, I refer you to the reports of subordinate officers, herein inclosed.

I am indebted to all the gentleman on my staff for gallant and valuable service rendered during the engagement. I would particularly mention my aide, Captain P. C. F. L West, who, with a small party of 10 or 15 men, captured a rebel schooner near Howlett's house, on the James, and after setting fire to her they cut her adrift. Captain West with his small party traveled several miles through swamps and marches, till he reached the river bank off which the vessel was moored. They built a raft and boarded her, no knowing what crew she carried, set her on fire, and cut her adrift. Captain West reported a torpedo attached to the anchor chain. He has distinguished himself in many reconnaissances and scouting parties, of which no official reports have been made. this act of boarding the