. . After leaving our headquarters train stuck in the mud last
night, I found my way [to Savage's Station] through the darkness
and rainstorm about 11:30 p.m. . . . I found the telegraph operators
still here at work with a small instrument. I slept in the attic
room of Savage's house on a pile of carpets which had been taken
from the best rooms downstairs some time ago. Every room in the
house was occupied by our surgeons and their assistants, who were
probing wounds and putting on splints. The walls and floors were
spattered with blood, and dozens of officers were lying on the
floors and in hallways awaiting their turn. Some were moaning
in pain, while others were fast asleep. A general feeling of despondency
prevailed which was enhanced by the rain storm and the knowledge
that the morning would bring another battle and that we would
probably retreat through White Oak Swamp whether we repulsed the
enemy or not. Several dead officers were boxed up in coffins in
the main hall of the house, and the noise occasioned by moving
them into wagons during the night kept many awake. I got but two
and a half hours sleep. I went to the telegraph room where I found
Generals Heintzelman, Sumner, [Winfield S.] Hancock, [William
B.] Franklin, and others in close conversation "on the situation"
and sending orders by the field telegraph to their commands in
front. Orderlies came dashing up every moment for instructions
or with dispatches. Long lines of army wagons were filing from
the woods in our front across the wide fields opposite Savage's.
Artillery and ammunition wagons blocked the main road to White
Oak Swamp. A large train of baggage and platform cars with an
engine attached was on the railroad track below the house, while
details of men were loading them up with the reserve ammunition
which had been stored in Savage's coach house and other buildings.
These were soon destined to be set on fire and started for Long
Bridge, and destruction. Huge piles of boxes of clothing, commissary
stores, and bales of hay were also piled up across the railroad
ready for the torch. Wounded men and officers were streaming in
from the front. Some walking, others in ambulances, while hundreds
of stragglers, some but very slightly wounded, were interspersed
in the steady moving throng.
came back with the stream of wounded and stragglers, who all thought
our army had been defeated, but now said a "flank movement" was
to be made in which "we would either go to Richmond or to hell!"
I found that General McClellan had arrived from Dr. Trent's and
a council of war was being held. Savage's house had been cleared
of all the wounded, and numerous officers seemed to fill the rooms.
About 100 hospital tents were on the grounds now and they all
seemed filled to repletion with wounded soldiers. Hundreds more
wounded were in the barns, others were lying on rails, and on
the ground back of the house, while amputations were being carried
on by the exhausted surgeons and their assistants in front of
the tents in the ruined garden. There are 2,500 sick and wounded
here now. . . . Many [were] able to travel off last night with
the retreating army, but General Heintzelman says "all who cannot
get off by walking must be left behind to the enemy." Although
there are as many as 500 ambulances, these, by General McClellan's
orders must go empty! Probably he reserves these ambulances for
officers only. The sick and wounded are as yet kept in ignorance
of the ultimate evacuation of Savage's, and few officers even
think we will not fall back further than White Oak Swamp and Bottom's
Bridge, five and a half miles away. . . .
the orders to leave were given, many grasped their muskets and
hobbled off. Some of the younger and helplessly wounded soldiers
cried like children, deploring their fate, after having fought
so hard. Others indulged in cursing McClellan and the doctors
for not taking them away in ambulances. They all could have been
taken off days ago if we had disputed the enemy's crossing on
the Chickahominy by even a show of earthworks at the bridgeheads.
Although the trains to and from White House had been kept running
to the last moment, bringing stores and provisions, and returning
with crowded cars filled with wounded, the hospitals were always
kept full by the influx of the wounded coming from the field hospitals
in front. The trains had stopped running since 11 a.m., yesterday,
and now lay on the track below the hospitals filled with shot,
shell, and powder.
about 4:30, the train of seventeen cars, filled with hundreds
of tons of shot and shell, and hundreds of barrels of gun powder
and cartridges was fired. The locomotive engine under a high pressure
of steam [had] been previously attached. The engineer ran slow
for a few hundred feet, when he jumped off first pulling the throttle
valve wide open. Immediately the train assumed the appearance
of some living monster, and bounded off at a terrific speed, the
driving wheels revolving faster every second. Each car was fired
separately; and soon the whole train was enwrapped in billows
of flame, out of which exploding shells were hurled in every direction
and high in air. Through the roofs and sides of the cars sprang
hundreds of live shells, which burst in the woods on either side
of the track, screaming like fiends in agony, while the thousands
of moving troops looked on in amazement. The blazing and deadly
train rushed towards Long Bridge, which had been previously destroyed
by us, to plunge in the Chickahominy River a shattered wreck.
. . . . The speed attained by the train in running there (about
6 miles) must have been terrific.
the flame surmounted the different piles, crackled and hissed
in the black smoke, our whole line of pickets now rushed in from
the strip of woods in front to announce the enemy advancing in
great numbers directly upon us. Orders were given to "fall in"
immediately, which was quickly responded to by the troops. Trains
were hurried off at full gallop, artillery wheeled into their
positions and unlimbered. Orderlies galloped in every direction
with orders, and for a few minutes everyone was excited by the
approaching conflict. The heat was terrible. . . . Not a breath
of air was felt. The sun threw its red glare on the red soil and
railroad track, making it difficult to see clearly up towards
Fair Oaks Station. About 5 p.m., thick clouds of dust were visible
above the woods in this direction, and soon we heard the Rebels
yelling like Comanche Indians.
had found our deserted camps and probably were digging up the
barrels of whiskey, or filling themselves with those left open.
Yells in response were heard on our right towards Dr. Trent's
and Dudley's houses, and soon long lines of the enemy debouched
from the woods in plain view, while artillery could be seen struggling
through the woods. The drivers frantically lash[ed] the horses
to enable the guns to get into action. . . .
took positions behind stone walls and in Savage's log barn to
the right. The railroad embankments afforded cover for more. The
men were all stern looking, determined, cool, and quiet. The sun
had began to lose itself over the tree tops of the woods in front,
and the heat was stifling. The Rebels, in large numbers, burst
from the cover with loud yells [and] opened on us at once with
enemy sent showers of shells into our lines. Two burst very close
to where [the generals] were standing, covering them with dust
and earth. Our batteries now vigorously replied, . . . plying
the enemy with shell and spherical case shot. And for an hour
the crash and concussion of air was so great that I could hardly
keep my feet. The artillery duel slackened about 6:30, while the
guns were covered with wet blankets to cool them off, and caissons
were galloped with fresh ammunition to the front. The enemy's
fire was badly directed, most of their fuse being cut too short,
and thus far we had few casualties. A series of prolonged yells
from the Rebels was now heard, and two strong lines were deployed
in the field on our center and right, who soon came rushing to
the charge. The setting sun glistening on their bayonets, as they
came on in beautiful order of battle, with piercing yells and
confidence. Our lines stood firm as a rock, 5,000 muskets were
simultaneously pointed and discharged with a terrific crash! To
[this] the enemy replied by double the number, when all in front
was hid in smoke.
a moment there was a pause, until the Rebel line came within close
and certain range, when there was a terrific crash of musketry,
while the artillery fire was redoubled. And the storm of lead
was continuous and deadly on the approaching lines of the Rebels.
They bravely rushed up, however, to within twenty feet of our
artillery, when bushels of grape and canister from the cannon
laid them low in rows. Large gaps were made in their alignments
and whole companies tumbled to the ground at once. The ranks in
their rear still came on stumbling over those already fallen,
yelling and firing as they came. At the same moment a wild cheer
from our troops in defiance could be heard above the roar of artillery
and crash of musketry. Beaten back by the storm of lead and iron,
the enemy hesitated, wavered, and fell back a short ways to the
railroad, while fresh regiments of Rebels came up behind. [These]
pressed the remains of the broken column once more to a renewed
attack. Again our lines poured in a terrible crushing fire from
10,000 muskets, and again the enemy fell back in disorder and
dismay. This time they fairly ran to the woods for cover, hotly
plyed by the far reaching artillery. Rush's Lancers now charged
them as they retreated, leaving all the ground in front covered
with their dead and dying. And many a poor Rebel was speared in
the back before reaching the woods. There the lancers encountered
a terrible fire from the Rebel masses, and soon returned in some
disorder, with their red pennons half stripped from their lances,
and many spear heads broken off and lost. . . .
the Rebels had sustained their first repulse, and during a temporary
lull in the firing, a shrill locomotive whistle was heard up the
railroad at Fair Oaks Station. And soon appeared coming down the
track towards us a nondescript car, which was roofed over at sides
with railroad iron set at an angle, and from which in front projected
a heavy gun. . . . A sort of railroad "Merrimac." A powerful locomotive
pushed it along from behind. While all eyes were directed towards
it, [its] big gun opened fire suddenly, and everyone looked for
some place of shelter. It advanced slowly nearer, and threw another
shot straight for Savage's house. There was some dodging among
officers and cavalrymen. I dodged myself into a dry ditch, while
the shot plunged into the soft earth behind me, throwing up showers
of small stones and earth. One shot struck the remains of the
ice house thirty feet from Savage's house. Another went overhead
through the trees and beyond the hospital tents. Another had gone
into the earth in front of the house. [Then] the railroad gun
was suddenly withdrawn and steamed up fully half a mile on the
track, where it continued the firing until dark.
ground in front of Savage's was crowded with troops in reserve,
and were too numerous for their allotted space. The enemy's artillery
had caused many casualties among the crowded ranks. It was now
8 p.m., and still the battle raged with terrific fury on both
sides. Fresh regiments of Rebels constantly came into the field
from out of the woods, amid terrific yells from their companions,
hundreds of the Rebels were now crazy drunk from the effects of
the whiskey found in our old camps. They fired their guns in the
air, yelled and staggered forward to renewed charges, coming right
up to the muzzles of the artillery, only to be blown away to atoms!
Officers were seen vainly trying to get them into compact lines.
They were crazy drunk, and attacked us in regiments and squads.
The fighting was now desperate and deadly on both sides. . . .
As it grew dark in the confusion and darkness made by the battle
smoke, two regiments approached each other, and each reserved
its fire, uncertain whether the other were friend or foe. . .
. Both regiments discharged their muskets simultaneously into
each other's faces not ten feet distant apart! The loss of the
Rebels is unknown, but 200 [Union soldiers] fell dead or helplessly
was coming on with every appearance of a rain storm. Wounded officers
again filled Savage's house and grounds, while hundreds lay weltering
in their blood all along the railroad, on the lawn, and on the
grassy slopes, imploring not to be left in Rebel hands. Stragglers
were crowding down the road in retreat, some carrying a wounded
officer or comrade. All knew that they must march all night through
an unknown swamp, and if needs be fight all the way on empty stomachs,
for there was no time to cook anything now. . . . As General Heintzelman
and his staff had moved off at sundown, I hastened to overtake
them. I got a good supply of cold meat and hard bread from an
assistant surgeon and mounted my horse and left Savage's.
was now 9:30 p.m., and it was with great difficulty in the darkness
and confusion of the retreating masses of troops and wagons, that
I could pick my way. The firing had stopped since 9 o'clock when
the Rebels had occupied Savage's. Their shrill and prolonged yells
echoing through the woods attested their satisfaction in getting
the provisions and wounded left there by stupid negligence of
our officers. Nearly all could have been sent away if we had opposed
the enemy while crossing the Chickahominy.
the distance from Savages to the White Oak Creek was but about
six miles, it was grey dawn before we came to the crossings or
4 o'clock in the morning of June 30. I with others turned off
the road to the right, dismounted, and laid down under the large
trees to get some sleep. We put our rubber blankets under us,
and, with saddles for pillows, slept soundly for two hours. A
fire could not be made, as all the underbrush was dripping wet.
Water fit to drink was very hard to get. I was glad to drink rain
water which had settled in the wheel ruts made by the passing
artillery of yesterday. Near where we bivouacked was a rifle pit,
which had been constructed by us some time ago to oppose the enemy.
Crossing the swamp, it was now "in reverse," and of no use to