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General Peck's Report - Battle of the Seven Pines [29 June 1862]

Gen. Peck's Report

Peck's Headquarters, Intrenched Camp,

Near Seven Pines, Va. 

On moving to the "Seven Pines" on the 29th of May, I was ordered to occupy and guard the left flank of the encampment with my command, this being regarded as the weaker point of the line. The greater part of the day was occupied in making extensive reconnaisances in the direction of "White Oak Swamp" and the Charles City Road. A strong picket line was established from a mile to a mile and a half in advance. Enemy's pickets were found in many places.

On the 30th, in consequence of an attack upon Gen. Casey's pickets, my brigade and two batteries were thrown out by direction of Gen. Couch upon the left of Gen. Casey's division, where they remained several hours awaiting the enemy's movement.

On the 31st, a little after 11 A. M., heavy picket firing was heard in front. The falling of several shells into the vicinity of my headquarters satisfied me that the enemy was advancing upon Casey's division.

In accordance with directions from General Couch, my brigade was at once placed on the principal road connecting the Richmond Stage road with the Charles City road, for the purpose of holding the left flank. A portion of Major West's artillery was placed at my disposal and held in reserve. Being in position, with my right resting near the artillery of the division, I sent out numerous parties in every direction to gain information. At the opening of the engagement, I was instructed by Gen. Couch to send the 93d Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. McCarter, to take position on the left of Casey's Division. The regiment moved into line quickly, and held its ground as long as possible, falling back with the general line on its right, but in excellent order.

About 1 P. M. Gen. Keyes, commanding 4th Corps, detached the 55th New-York Volunteers, under Lieut. Col. Thomas, from my command, and led them into position himself. – This regiment was placed in support of one of the advanced batteries, and acquitted itself in a creditable manner. It will be a matter of deep regret to Col. De Trobriand that he was prevented by illness from participating in this engagement.

Later in the day General Keyes dispatched the 62d N. Y. Volunteers, Col. Riker, to the support of General Couch on the extreme right.

About 3 P. M. the 93d Pennsylvania Volunteers rejoined me with colors flying, and was placed on the left of my line.

At this critical juncture, Gen. Keyes sent an order for my two remaining regiments to move on the main road in support of the front, which he countermanded immediately on learning the advance of the enemy on the left, and the importance of the position held by me with so small a force, unsupported by artillery.

About 3 P. M. Capt. Morris, Assistant Adjutant General, had an interview with General Heintzelman, who inquired if I could press forward on the extreme left of the line. On being informed that several roads connecting the Charles City road and the main road to Richmond led into the road held by me he appreciated the importance of the position, and directed me to hold it at all hazards.

About 4 P. M. Generals Heintzelman and Keyes informed me that the enemy was assailing our right flank in great force, and urged me to push forward the regiments at a double-quick for its support. I moved off at the head of the 102d Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Rowley, followed by the Ninety-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Col. McCarter, across the open fields, under the concentrated fire of numerous batteries and of heavy musketry from the right. These regiments came into line handsomely, pressed forward on the enemy, and contributed their best energies to sustain their comrades so gallantly contesting inch by inch the advancing foe. For about the space of half an hour our lines swayed forward and back repeatedly, and at last, unable to withstand the pressure from successive re-enforcements of the enemy, were compelled to fall back to the woods across the main road.– Having remained near the main road with my Aid-de-Camp, Lieutenant Stirling, until the troops had passed out of view, I pushed on in the direction of the road leading to the sawmill.– Coming up with numerous detachments of various regiments and a portion of the 102d Pennsylvania Volunteers, with the assistance of Lieutenants Titus and Sterling (sic. Stirling), of my staff, I rallied these men and was conducting them back toward the Richmond road, when I met Gen. Kearny, who advised me to withdraw these troops by way of the sawmill to the intrenched camp at this place. I stated I did not feel at liberty to do so unless by his order, which he gave. I arrived at this camp about 61/2 P. M., in company with Gen. Kearny. – Finding nearly all the forces here I took position in the rifle-pit with Gen. Berry's Brigade. During the night my troops were supplied with a proper allowance of ammunition, provision were brought from the Chickahominy, the lines were strongly picketed, and every preparation made to meet the enemy.

At daylight, on the 1st of June, I was placed in command of the intrenchments. The force at hand was not far from 10,000 men, with a large supply of artillery. Small detachments and stragglers were collected and sent to their respective regiments. All available means were employed to promote the comfort and efficiency of the troops. Heavy working parties, relieved at intervals of two hours, were employed until the morning of the 2nd extending and strengthening the whole line of works. A six-gun battery was thrown up on the left of the line, covering the approaches from the Charles City road. Before morning the guns were in position. Another important work was constructed on the front, sweeping the depression running obliquely toward the timber nearest the system of works. A large force was busily engaged in slashing the timber in front, and on the extreme left. Lieutenant Titus was sent with a party to obstruct all roads and fords across White Oak Swamp. I directed two squadrons to reconnoiter carefully at intervals of every two hours. Several regiments took part in a thorough reconnaisance made by General Palmer. For these results I was mainly indebted to the cordial co-operation of Generals Wessells, Naglee, Palmer, Berry, and Devens, and Colonels Neill, Innes, Hayden, and Major West, Chief of Artillery.

It gives me great pleasure to say that Major-General McClellan and Generals Heintzelman and Keyes rode twice along the entire lines in the afternoon, to the great gratification of the troops, who received them with unbounded enthusiasm.

It is a matter of much regret that the 98th Pennsylvania Volunteers was not present at the battle, being despatched on special duty with General Stoneman. It was unfortunate that the exigencies of the occasion required the breaking up of my brigade organization, and, in consequence I was only able to go into the last charge on the right with about a thousand men. This small body, in conjunction with the brave troops, hotly engaged, staggered the elite of the enemy, and checked his powerful efforts for gaining the main road.– My effective force was reduced by detachments to 2,000 men, of whom 41 were killed, 242 wounded, and 61 missing–making a total of 344, or about one-sixth of the command engaged.

Col. J. Lafayette Riker, 62d New-York Volunteers, fell while repelling a charge upon one of the batteries. His bearing on this occasion, like that at the battle of Williamsburg, was marked by great coolness and unflinching determination.

Lieut. John E. Rogers, 93d Pennsylvania Volunteers, was a promising officer, and fell gallantly breasting the storm.

The following named officers were wounded, and deserve mention for their honorable conduct, viz: Capt. John W. Patterson, Capt. Thos. McLaughlie, Adjutant Joseph Browne, Lieut. William B. Keeney, of the 102d Pennsylvania Volunteers; Adjutant Leon Cuvillier, Capt. J. S. Pfanmuller, Lieuts. T. Arnold, L. Israels, and Kranne, of 55th New York Volunteers ; Capt. A. C. Maitland, Capt. Eli Daugharty, and Capt. J. M. Mark of the 93d Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Lieut. M. McCarter, 93d Pennsylvania Volunteers, was probably taken prisoner, and is doubtless safe.

The accompanying paper presents the names of killed, wounded, and missing. It is a long list of meritorious and brave men. They fought well, and their country will never be unmindful of their faithful and patriotic services.

Cols. Rowley and McCarter (both badly wounded) and Lieut. Cols. Thourot and Nevins maneuvered their commands with skill, exhibiting most commendable alacrity, cheering and leading their men on to the combat. Rowley would not quit his regiment and McCarter had two horses wounded. Major Dayton, 62d New York Volunteers, Major Jehl and Capt. Tissot, 36th New York Volunteers, Lieut.-Col. Kinkhead, Major Poland, Capts. Fullwood and McLaughlin, Lieuts. Patchell, Reed, and Dain of the 102d Pennsylvania Volunteers, Capt. Arthur and Adjt. Lewis of the 93d Pennsylvania Volunteers, were distinguished for their energy, coolness, and bravery under very trying circumstances. The gallant Capt. McFarland, 102d Pennsylvania Volunteer was twice taken by the enemy and retaken by our troops. He came in with the wounded Colonel and six men of the 6th South Carolina Regiment as prisoners.

The officers of the medical Department are entitled to the gratitude of all for their self-sacrificing and untiring devotion to the wounded.

Major West, of the Pennsylvania Artillery, I take especial satisfaction in commending for valuable services.

Privates W. C. Wall, jr., and John Aiken, jr., are mentioned favorably by their regimental commander.

Brigade Surg. S. R. Haven, Lieuts. Silas Titus, and Daniel Lodor, jr., Aides; Quartermaster T. S. Schultze, Commissary M. J. Green, and Samuel Wilkeson, of The N. Y. Tribune, who volunteered his services, were constantly employed in the transmission and execution of orders involving great personal risk.

Capt. Wm. H. Morris, Asst. Adj.-Gen. and Lieut. Charles R. Sterling, Aid, deserve particular mention for gallant conduct, with the 102d and 93d Pennsylvania regiments, in the rapid and bold advance on the right. The horses of both officers were wounded.

My horse fell with me after the third of fourth round, and no other being at hand Lieut. Sterling dismounted and tendered me his own, which I was soon obliged to accept.

Considering the disadvantages of the position, the smallness of the force at hand, the suddenness of the attack on several vital points, with overwhelming numbers, and the fact that portions of the field were not taken by the enemy and that the whole was soon recovered, this battle must be regarded as one of the most severe and brilliant victories of the war. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN J. PECK 

Syracuse Daily Courier and Union, Saturday, June 29, 1862. 

Contributed by J. Tierney