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On the 26th I received the following:
“We have General Banks's official report. He has saved his army and baggage, and has made a safe retreat to the river, and is probably safe at Williamsport. He reports the attacking force at fifteen thousand (15,000.) “A. LINCOLN, President. “Major General McCLELLAN.”
On the 26th I received the following:
“Can you not cut the Aquia Creek railroad. Also, what impression have you as to intrenched works for you to contend with in front of Richmond? Can you get near enough to throw shells into the city ? “A. LINCOLN, President. “Major General G. B. McCLELLAN.”
On the same day I sent the following:
“Have cut the Virginia Central road in three places between Hanover Court House and the Chickahominy. Will try to cut the other. I do not think Richmond intrenchments formidable; but am not certain. Hope very soon to be within shelling distance. Have railroad in operation from White House to Chickahominy. Hope to have Chickahominy bridge repaired to night.
Nothing of interest to-day.
The interruption of the railroad, here referred to, was effected by the command of Brigadier General Stoneman, and was intended to prevent the enemy from drawing supplies by that route, or from sending re-enforcements to Anderson or Jackson.
At 10 a. m. I sent also the following despatch:
“Telegrams of last night received. I am glad to know affairs are not so bad as might have been. I would earnestly call your attention to my instructions to General Banks of March 16, to General Wadsworth of same date, and to my letter of April 1 to the Adjutant General. I cannot but think that a prompt return to the principles there laid down would relieve all probability of danger. I will forward copies by mail. I beg to urge the importance of Manassas and Front Royal in contradistinction to Fredericksburg.
“G. B. McCLELLAN, “Major General. “His Excellency A. LINcoLN, President.”
Later on the 26th I sent the following:
“Have arranged to carry out your last orders. We are quietly closing in upon the enemy, preparatory to the last struggle. Situated as I am, I feel forced to take every possible precaution against disaster, and to secure my flanks against the probably superior force in front of me. My arrangements for to-morrow are very important, and if successful, will leave me free to strike on the return of the force detached. “G. B. McCLELLAN,
“Major General. “His Excellency A. LINcoLN, President.”
On the same day I received intelligence that a very considerable force of the enemy was in the vicinity of Hanover Court House, to the right and rear of our army, thus threatening our communications, and in a position either to re-enforce Jackson, or to impede McDowell's junction, should he finally move to unite with us. On the same day I also received information from General McDowell, through the Secretary of War, that the enemy had fallen back from Fredericksburg towards Richmond, and that General McDowell's advance was eight miles south of the Rappahannock. It was thus imperative to dislodge or defeat this force, independently even of the wishes of the President, as expressed in his telegram of the 26th. I intrusted this task to Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter, commanding the fifth corps, with orders to move at daybreak on the 27th.
Through a heavy rain, and over bad roads, that officer moved his command as follows:
Brigadier General W. H. Emory led the advance, with the 5th and 6th regiments United States cavalry and Benson's horse battery of the 2d United States artillery, taking the road from New bridge, via Mechanicsville, to Hanover Court House. General Morell's division, composed of the brigades of Martindale, Butterfield and McQuade, with Berdan's regiment of sharpshooters, and three batteries, under Captain Charles Griffin, 5th United States artillery, followed on the same road. Colonel G. K. Warren, commanding a provisional brigade, composed of the 5th and 13th New York, the 1st Connecticut artillery, acting as infantry, the 6th Pennsylvania cavalry, and Weeden's Rhode Island battery, moved from his station at Old Church by a road running to Hanover Court House, parallel to the Pamunkey. After a fatiguing march of fourteen miles through the mud and rain, General Emory, at noon, reached a point about two miles from Hanover Court House where the road forks to Ashland, and found a portion of the enemy formed in line across the Hanover Court House road. General Emory had, before this, been joined by the 25th New York, (of Martindale's brigade,) and Berdan's sharpshooters; these regiments were deployed with a section of Benson's battery, and advanced slowly towards the enemy until re-enforced by General Butterfield with four regiments of his brigade, when the enemy was charged and quickly routed, one of his guns being captured by the 17th New York, under Colonel Lansing, after having been disabled by the fire of Benson's battery. The firing here lasted about an hour. The cavalry and Benson's battery were immediately ordered in pursuit, followed by Morell's infantry and artillery, with the exception of Martindale's brigade. Warren's brigade having been delayed by repairing bridges, &c., now arrived, too late to participate in this affair; a portion of this command was sent to the Pamunkey to destroy bridges, and captured quite a number of prisoners; the remainder followed Morell's division. In the mean time General Martindale, with the few remaining regiments of his brigade and a section of artillery, advanced on the Ashland road, and found a force of the enemy's infantry, cavalry, and artillery, in position near Beake's station, on the Virginia Central railroad; he soon forced them to retire towards Ashland. The 25th New York having been ordered to rejoin him, General Martindale was directed to form his brigade and move up the railroad to rejoin the rest of the command at Hanover Court House. He sent one regiment up the railroad, but remained with the 2d Maine, afterwards joined by the 25th New York, to guard the rear of the main column. The enemy soon returned to attack General Martindale, who at once formed the 2d Maine, 25th New York, and a portion of the 44th New York, with one section of Martin's battery, on the New bridge road, facing his own position of the morning, and then held his ground for an hour against large odds until re-enforced. General Porter was at Hanover Court House, near the head of his column, when he learned that the rear had been attacked by a large force. He at once faced the whole column about, recalled the cavalry sent in pursuit towards Ashland, moved the 13th and 14th New York and Griffin's battery direct to Martindale's assistance, pushed the 9th Massachusetts and 62d Pennsylvania, of McQuade's brigade, through the woods on the right, (our original left,) and attacked the flank of the enemy, while Butterfield, with the 83d Pennsylvania and 16th Michigan, hastened towards the scene of action by the railroad, and through the woods, further to the right, and completed the rout of the enemy. During the remainder of this and the following day our cavalry was active in the pursuit, taking a number of prisoners. Captain Harrison, of the 5th United States cavalry, with a single company, brought in as prisoners two entire companies of infantry with their arms and ammunition. A part of Rush's lancers also captured an entire company, with their arms. 'She immediate results of these affairs were, some two hundred of the enemy's dead buried by our troops, seven hundred and thirty prisoners sent to the rear, one 12-pound howitzer, one caisson, a large number of small arms, and two railroad trains, captured. Our loss amounted to 53 killed, 344 wounded and missing. The force encountered and defeated was General Branch's division, of North Carolina and Georgia troops, supposed to have been some 9,000 strong. Their camp at Hanover Court House was taken and destroyed. Having reason to believe that General Anderson, with a strong force, was still at Ashland, I ordered General Syke's division of regulars to move on the 28th from New bridge toward Hanover Court House, to be in position to support General Porter. They reached a point within three miles of Hanover Court House, and remained there until the evening of the 29th, when they returned to their original camp. On the 28th General Stoneman's command of cavalry, horse artillery, and two regiments of infantry, were also placed under General Porter's orders. On the same day I visited Hanover Court House, whence I sent the following despatch:
“HANOVER COURT House, “May 28—2 p. m. “Porter's action of yesterday was truly a glorious victory; too much credit cannot be given to his magnificent division and its accomplished leader. The rout of the rebels was complete; not a defeat, but a complete rout. Prisoners are constantly coming in; two companies have this moment arrived with excellent arms. “There is no doubt that the enemy are concentrating everything on Richmond. I will do my best to cut off Jackson, but am doubtful whether I can. “It is the policy and duty of the government to send me by water all the well-drilled troops available. I am confident that Washington is in no danger. Engines and cars in large numbers have been sent up to bring down Jackson's command. “I may not be able to cut them off, but will try; we have cut all but the Fredericksburg and Richmond railroad. The real issue is in the battle about to be fought in front of Richmond. All our available troops should be collected here, not raw regiments, but the well-drilled troops. It cannot be ignored that a desperate battle is before us; if any regiments of good troops remain unemployed, it will be an irreparable fault committed. “G. B. McCLELLAN, “Major General. “Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.”
Having ascertained the state of affairs, instructions were given for the operations of the following day. On the 28th a party under Major Williams, 6th United States cavalry, destroyed the common road bridges over the Pamunkey, and Virginia Central railroad bridge over the South Ann. On the 29th he destroyed the Fredericksburg and Richmond railroad bridge over the South Ann, and the turnpike bridge over the same stream. On the same day, and mainly to cover the movement of Major Williams, General Emory moved a column of cavalry towards Ashland, from Hanover Court House. The advance of this column under Captain Chambliss, 5th United States cavalry, entered Ashland, driving out a party of the enemy, destroyed the railroad bridge over Stony creek, and broke up the railroad and telegraph. Another column of all arms, under Colonel Warren, was sent on the same day by the direct road to Ashland, and entered it shortly after General Emory's column had retired, capturing a small party there. General Stoneman on the same day moved on Ashland by Leach's station, covering well the movements of the other columns. The objects of the expedition having been accomplished, and it being certain that the 1st corps would not join us at once, General Porter withdrew his command to their camps with the main army on the evening of the 29th. On the night of the 27th and 28th I sent the following despatch to the Secretary of War:
“HEADQUARTERs ARMY of THE PoToMAC, “Camp near New Bridge, May 28, 1862–12.30 a. m.
“Porter has gained two complete victories over superior forces, yet I feel obliged to move in the morning with re-enforcements to secure the complete destruction of the rebels in that quarter. In doing so, I run some risk here, but I cannot help it. The enemy are even in greater force than I had supposed. I will do all that quick movements can accomplish, but you must send me all the troops you can, and leave to me full latitude as to choice of commanders. It is absolutely necessary to destroy the rebels near Hanover Court House before I can advance. “G. B. McCLELLAN, - “Major General. “Hon. E. M. STANTON, “Secretary of War.”
In reply to which, I received the following from the President:
“WASHINGTON, May 28, 1862.
“I am very glad of General F. J. Porter's victory; still, if it was a total rout of the enemy, I am puzzled to know why the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad was not seized again, as you say you have all the railroads but the Richmond and Fredericksburg. I am puzzled to see how, lacking that, you can have any, except the scrap from Richmond to West Point. The scrap of the Virginia Central, from Richmond to Hanover Junction, without more, is simply nothing. That the whole of the enemy is concentrating on Richmond, I think cannot be certainly known to you or me. Saxton, at Harper's Ferry, informs us that large forces, supposed to be Jackson's and Ewell's, forced his advance from Charlestown to-day. General King telegraphs us from Fredericksburg that contrabands give certain information that fifteen thousand left Hanover Junction Monday morning to re-enforce Jackson. I am painfully impressed with the importance of the struggle before you, and shall aid you all I can consistently with my view of due regard to all points.
* “A, LINCOLN.
“Major General McCLELLAN.”
At 6 p.m. of the 29th I sent the Secretary of War the following despatch:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of The PotomAC,
“General Porter has gained information that General Anderson left his position in vicinity of Fredericksburg at 4 a.m. Sunday with the following troops: 1st South Carolina, Colonel Hamilton; one battalion South Carolina rifles; 34th and 38th North Carolina; 45th Georgia; 12th, 13th, and 14th South Carolina; 3d Louisiana; two batteries of four guns each, namely, Letcher's Virginia and McIntosh's South Carolina batteries. General Anderson and his command passed Ashland yesterday evening en route for Richmond, leaving men behind to destroy bridges over the telegraph road which they travelled. This information is reliable. It is also positively certain that Branch's command was from Gordonsville, bound for Richmond, whither they have now gone.
“It may be regarded as positive, I think, that there is no rebel force between Fredericksburg and Junction.
“G. B. McCLELLAN,
“Major General. “Hon. E. M. STANTON, “Secretary of War.”
The following was also sent on the same day: “HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POToMAC, “May 29, 1862. “A detachment from General F. J. Porter's command, under Major Williams, 6th cavalry, destroyed the South Ann railroad bridge at about 9 a.m. to-day; a large quantity of confederate public property was also destroyed at Ashland this
morning. “R. B. MARCY, “Chief of Staff.
“Hon. E. M. STANTON,
In reply to which, the following was received: “WASHINGTON, May 29, 1862. “Your despatch as to the South Ann and Ashland being seized by our forces this morning is received. Understanding these points to be on the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad, I heartily congratulate the country, and thank General McClellan and his army for their seizure. “A. LINCOLN.
“General R. B. MARCY.”
On the 30th I sent the following: “HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE PoToMAC, “May 30, 1862. “From the tone of your despatches, and the President's, I do not think that you at all appreciate the value and magnitude of Porter's victory. It has entirely relieved my right flank, which was seriously threatened; routed and de