Drawing of the destroyed railroad bridge at White House on the Pamunkey

Drawing of the destroyed railroad bridge at White House on the Pamunkey
From the Story of Thirty-third New York Volunteers

Saturday, August 27, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- VI

Peck & Staff, Tennallytown, DC, 1862


Report of Brig. Gen. John J. Peck, U. S. Army, commanding brigade, of operations May 20.


           
                                                            HEADQUARTERS PECKS BRIGADE*,
                                                      Near Providence Church, Va., May 20, 1862.

In obedience to instructions, my brigade and two batteries were held in readiness until about 12 m. this day to support a reconnaissance to be made by General Barnard. On receiving an intimation that the general had passed on, I pushed forward my command with all speed to the front. From the time of leaving camp, artillery fire was heard at intervals in the direction of the railroad bridge.

On joining General Barnard, I stated that I had my brigade and two batteries ready to support him in his reconnaissance, and requested him to state the dispositions he desired to make. After a consultation, I gave the general two companies of infantry and Lieutenant Comstock two more, and established some eight companies on the flanks for observation, screened by the woods. The balance of my command, including Colonel Gregg's cavalry, I placed in close proximity, but out of view of the enemy's pickets, in accordance with my own judgment and directions received personally from General Keyes.

While making these dispositions the firing was continued on the right by troops of General Casey's division. A section of one of his batteries was advanced down into the Bottom's Bridge road with infantry supports. This battery kept up a rapid fire, with but little or no response from the enemy, until after the close of the reconnaissance. This movement of General Casey's on to my front was wholly unnecessary, inasmuch as the ground was already occupied with Colonel Russell's Seventh Massachusetts Regiment, placed there by General Couch, and the whole of my command being in hand. In my judgment the fire of the artillery must have in some degree embarrassed the reconnaissance of General Barnard.

At the conclusion of the generals examination I reported to General Keyes, and in accordance with his directions brought away my command a little after 5 p.m., save the Ninety-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, which was left in support of the front.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                          JOHN J. PECK,
                                                                        Brigadier-General.

                       Capt. C. C. SUYDAM,
                          Asst. Adjt. Gen., Headquarters Keyes Fourth Corps.




 -  The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)


* 98th Pennsylvania: Col John F. Ballier
  102nd Pennsylvania: Col Thomas A. Rowley
  93rd Pennsylvania: Col James M. McCarter
  62nd New York: Col John L. Riker
  55th New York: Col P. Regis de Trobriand



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- V


Report of Brig. Gen. Henry M. Naglee, U.S. Army, commanding First Brigade, Casey's division, of operations May 20-23.
(II)



                                           BOTTOMS BRIDGE, May 23, 1862 -5.45 p.m.
GENERAL: I have just returned after a hard days work. Under the within extraordinary order I marched my brigade to the point designated. Took the two companies of cavalry and a detachment of 170 of the Fifty-sixth New York. Went out the main road from the bridge toward Richmond to the road parallel with the Charles City road, and between it and the Chickahominy. Found nobody knew anything of it. With one company of the cavalry and 30 men I explored it, the above road, and found the road clear. Driving off detached portions of 10 to 30 cavalry, joined the balance of the detachment, which I had sent directly out from Bottoms Bridge. I then went out that road leading from Bottoms Bridge across the and finally to the Charles City road; thence by it to the crossing with the Quaker road, leading to the James River. Went down this to within 3 miles of the James River. Returned and pursued the Charles City road 2 miles beyond the intersection with the Quaker road to a point 10 miles from Richmond.
By this time it was 4 p. m. We had accumulated such a force of cavalry before us that, with the fatigue, lateness of the hour, and distance from our supports, I considered it prudent to return. The country through which I passed is evacuated most literally. The roads have no new wagon-tracks since the rains of last night, and until we crossed the road from James River few marks of the passage of cavalry.
                                 Yours,
                                        NAGLEE.   


                 Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. MCCLELLAN.


The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)



Friday, August 12, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- IV


Report of Brig. Gen. Henry M. Naglee, U.S. Army, commanding First Brigade, Casey's division, of operations May 20-23.



        
                                                HDQRS. FIRST BRIG., CAMP ON RICHMOND ROAD,
                                                             Three Miles from Bottoms Bridge, May 21, 1862.

CAPTAIN: I would respectfully report that in accordance with the order of General Casey, at 9 a.m. yesterday I proceeded with the One hundred and fourth Pennsylvania, Colonel Davis; Fifty-sixth New York Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Jourdan; one company, under Captain Harvey, of 50 selected men, from the Eleventh Maine; two companies, commanded by Captains Davis and Silver, of 100 men, selected from the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, and two batteries of the Eighth [?] New York*, Colonel Baileys, to make a reconnaissance of the railroad bridge and the left bank of the Chickahominy from that point to Bottoms Bridge.

We arrived upon the ground at 10 a.m. Twenty men of the Eleventh Maine were ordered to proceed cautiously along the northern side of the embankment of the railroad until they should get under cover of the woods and thence to the bridge, with instructions to drive away the pickets of the enemy which were within the cut at the railroad guard-house on the left bank as well as those on the other side. The other 30 were deployed obliquely to the right and rear of the 20, and ordered to clear the woods and hold the bank of the river above the railroad bridge. Captain Orem, of Company B, of the One hundred and fourth, was placed in their rear to support them and protect our right flank. At the same time 20 selected men were started along the left side of the railroad embankment with 80 others, ordered to deploy diagonally to their left and rear and gradually, after clearing the woods, to hold the bank of the river. Behind these Captains Marple and Pickering, Rogers and Harvey, Companies A, E, F and K, of the One hundred and fourth, were placed at proper intervals to support them, and the remaining five companies of Colonel Davis One hundred and fourth followed as a reserve. The Fifty-sixth were placed on rising ground parallel with the river and about three-quarters of a mile in rear.

A few shots at the pickets at the railroad bridge made them disappear. We had but scarcely entered the wood south of the railroad before we found ourselves in a thick jungle, the ground covered with water from 2 to 5 feet in depth, intersected in many directions with small currents. We soon found the main channel, which was from 30 to 50 feet in width, with from 4 to  feet water. After we had waded slowly along for some 400 yards several shots from our front and right indicated the presence of the enemy. Our men, accustomed to hunting, picked off four of the enemy from the right bank and soon after several others from the border of the creek.

We then proceeded along the creek until about 300 yards of Bottoms Bridge, where we found the enemy in more force, and firing became more frequent. We gradually advanced, however, until we came up to the point of woods at the turn immediately in front of Bottoms Bridge, which we found was the center of a converging fire from the entire circumference of the circle made by the creek below the bridge. Here we maintained ourselves, but at a great disadvantage, the least exposure by any one drawing a dozen shots from the enemy. Our arms were superior, and we kept them at long range. They had before opened upon us with three pieces of artillery from a battery on rising ground at some distance from the creek, but their shot passed over the skirmishers in the swamp and over the One hundred and fourth, which had been gradually moved along parallel with the wood as they proceeded, and struck upon the ground occupied by the Fifty-sixth. Three other pieces had been brought down by the enemy to the railroad and opened upon our sharpshooters at the bridge. General Casey, who had come upon the ground in that vicinity, ordered down four pieces of Colonel Baileys battery, which soon silenced and drove them off.

Some time prior to this four pieces were ordered to open from the ground to the left and slightly in rear of the Fifty-sixth, and two others from a point on the Bottom's Bridge road within 500 yards of the bridge, the skirmishers there for the time being withdrawn. With these dispositions of our forces the work was accomplished, the enemy were silenced, and the reconnaissance completed.

We had but one man badly wounded. We found the railroad bridge to be 600 yards long, extending over a swamp through which the Chickahominy runs, the latter crossing the railroad bridge 30 yards from the east end of it, the river being at the crossing over which the bridge has been burned 75 feet wide, with a depth of 5 feet. The width of the swamp decreases very rapidly, so munch so, that at a short distance below the bridge a point was found where the width of the river was but 35 feet and where the causeways on both sides to connect with the bridge would not exceed in length 30 yards, and the whole, of a width of 40 or 50 feet, could be made in one day. The bottom of the river, of the swamp, and of the currents that intersect each other in every direction is hard, and the depth of water averages from 2 to 5 feet. We found the average width of the river to be but 35 feet, and that with the exception of the swamp at the railroad bridge it is seldom more than 100 yards wide, and that at many points between the bridges crossings can be made with but little difficulty. The right bank of the river we found to be firm above the water and gradually rising, until at a half a mile from the river the ground becomes quite elevated. The ground between the railroad and the road to Bottom's Bridge is swampy, and from the river to the rising ground behind Watson's house is too boggy and cut by ditches to allow the passage of horses, but infantry may get over it. The railroad bridge should be saved from further destruction, for which purpose General Casey, confirming my order to the sharp-shooters that 100 of them should hold the abutment on the west side, also ordered a sufficient number of experienced axmen from the Eleventh Maine to repair the bridge during the night. When we arrived in the morning we found the bridge still burning, but finding their canteens too slow a process, the men passed the water in their caps and extinguished the flames. By observation we found the stream had overflown its banks, that it was rapidly falling, and actually fell 6 inches during the day.

I cannot conclude this very satisfactory report without referring, in terms of unqualified commendation, to the gallant conduct of all present at the reconnaissance of the railroad and Bottom's Bridges. Our troops, driving the enemy back from the railroad bridge, repulsed the cavalry and artillery sent to retake it, and examined the ground 600 yards beyond the western end. Up to their middle in water, they drove the enemy from the railroad to Bottom's Bridge, where, becoming concentrated, our artillery opened upon and scattered them. A complete and thorough description of the river and the surrounding country was obtained. The location of two of their batteries was discovered, and the enemy was so much disheartened that the bridge and river were abandoned during the night. Ten or twelve of the enemy were reported killed by our infantry. The number killed by our artillery it is impossible to ascertain.

I regret exceedingly to close so very satisfactory a report with a notice of the conduct of those detailed from the Second Division to guard the bridge at night, and who in the most unceremonious manner ordered away the troops above referred to, who after taking the bridge from the enemy volunteered to remain and hold it and to rebuild during the night the portion that had been destroyed.

All of which is respectfully submitted by your obedient servant,           
                                                         HENRY M. NAGLEE,
                                                                     Brigadier-General.

                 Capt. Henry W. Smith,
                             Assistant Adjutant General


The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)


* Col Guilford D. Bailey commanded the artillery of Gen. Casey's Third Division, one of which was the 8th New York Independent Battery.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- III

        
 Reports of Brig. Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes, U.S. Army, commanding Fourth Corps, of operations May 20-21.



                                                            [Inclosure No. 1.]
           
                                                                HEADQUARTERS FOURTH CORPS,
                                                                              May 20, 1862.
SIR: As the orders for the engineers to examine Bottoms Bridge, and above and below, came from general headquarters and are explicit, I have made a detail of a brigade from Couch's division to assist in the reconnaissance. My orders also direct that as small a force as possible must be exposed to the view of the enemy. Under such circumstances I deem it proper to order that you do not under any circumstances expose any portion of your command to the view of the enemy at or near Bottoms Bridge during your reconnaissance to-day.
                I remain, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
                                                                                             E.D. KEYES,
                                                      Brigadier-General, Commanding Fourth Corps.

                  Brig. Gen. SILAS CASEY,
                            Commanding Division.

               

                                                             [Inclosure No. 2.]
               
                                                                 HEADQUARTERS CASEYS DIVISION,
                                                     Near Cross-Roads, May 20, 1862.
CAPTAIN: In answer to your communication of this days date I have the honor to reply that as soon as I saw General Naglee after receiving your orders I communicated them to him. I saw him soon after he had taken possession of the railroad bridge across the Chickahominy.
                    Very respectfully, your obedient servant
                                                                  SILAS CASEY,
                               Brigadier-General Volunteers, Commanding Division.

                Capt. C.C. SUYDAM,
                          Assistant Adjutant-General.



                                                             [Indorsements.]

                                                                                    MAY 20, 1862.
Brigadier-General Casey is respectfully requested to ascertain from Brigadier-General Naglee his reasons for disobedience to the orders referred to by me.
                            E.D. KEYES,
                Brigadier-General, Commanding Fourth Corps.

Respectfully referred to Brigadier-General Naglee, who will report at once on this matter.
By order of Brigadier-General Casey:

                        C.H. RAYMOND,
                    Lieutenant and Aide.de-Camp.



                                                                   [Inclosure No. 3.]
                       
                                                                           CAMP NEAR RAILROAD,
                                                           Three Miles from Chickahominy, May 20, 1862.

CAPTAIN: In answer to the indorsement upon the communication of General Casey to Captain Suydamn, of even date herewith, I would reply that I went by verbal orders from General Casey to the Chickahominy, by the way of the railroad, with the purpose first to ascertain the situation of the railroad bridge and to secure it, and then to drive the enemy to the right bank of that stream that the left bank might be examined. The first-purpose was accomplished before General Casey had come upon the ground, and two companies of skirmishers had deployed into the swamp, and had already advanced half of the distance between the railroad bridge and Bottoms Bridge before General Casey came upon the ground, and informed me of what was then for the first time made known to me, that General Barnard was below Bottom's Bridge making a reconnaissance. it was then too late and impossible to recall my skirmishers, who had been instructed to hold the entire left bank of the Chickahominy from 1,200 feet above the railroad bridge along that bank as far as we might proceed.
The above was fully explained to general Keyes. The force upon the ground was not my brigade, but two regiments only, numbering about 1,200.
If any interference has occurred it has been through some misapprehension, and certainly with no intention or even knowledge of any interference.

                        Very respectfully, &c.,
                                    HENRY M. NAGLEE,
                                                    Brigadier-General.


                Capt. HENRY W. SMlTH,
                             Assistant Adjutant-General. 

- The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)




Friday, August 5, 2016

Very exciting news . . .

"Nearly 300 pages of Charles City County records that were pilfered by Union soldiers during the Civil War have returned to Virginia — filling in some of the blanks on wills, deeds and other court filings from the 1600s.

It’s a godsend, an absolute godsend,” said John Metz, deputy of collections and programs at the Library of Virginia. “I’m a historian. This is the kind of thing we live for.”

The records of Charles City County figured in big city news 154 years ago also . . .

At 8 o'clock A.M., the head of the column halted at Charles City Court-House, the old county seat, where half an hour was spent in preparing and eating the morning meal. All the city there is here consists of the two buildings constituting the Court-House and Clerk's Office, which contained the county records. There is an old hotel building on the opposite side of the road, with a wide-spreading porch, whose frameless windows and vacant doorways testify that it was long since abandoned to the owls and bats.
The Court-House is a very old structure, built of brick and covered with slate. It was erected during the last half of the seventeenth century, and contains the oldest records of any other county in the State. I regret to say that all these old books, with the records of real estate titles and other papers, which must be of great value to the country, have been wantonly scattered in confusion about the premises' covering the floors and dooryards, and are almost wholly destroyed. A more impressive exhibition of the destructive effects of war could scarcely be imagined, than to see those old and cherished books of record and title papers scattered to the winds or trodden under foot. Some portion of these records date back to 1600 and 1675, and exhibit some neat and masterly specimens of penmanship. Charcoal caricatures, of fierce and mustachoed horsemen, ornamented the whitewashed walls, evidently intended to counterfeit some cavalry officer of the German persuasion. The premises are thickly overgrown with rank weeds, and neglect and decay are stamped on everything around. I cannot persuade myself that New-England soldiers would be guilty of such vandalism.

-New York Times, August 20, 1862


Charles City Courthouse 1864

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- II

 Reports of Brig. Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes, U.S. Army, commanding Fourth Corps, of operations May 20-21.



                                                                   HEADQUARTERS FOURTH CORPS,
                                                           Camp near Bottoms Bridge, Va., May 21, 1862.

SIR: In compliance with your instructions of the 19th instant, I detached a brigade of Couch's division, two batteries, and Colonel Gregg's cavalry, to assist Lieutenants Comstock and McAlester in a reconnaissance in the vicinity of Bottoms Bridge. Brigadier-General Peck, who commanded the party, carried out his instructions literally as far as practicable, as his report, herewith inclosed, will show.

On the 19th instant I had given orders to Generals Couch and Casey to examine their positions thoroughly, Casey to examine particularly in a northerly and northwesterly direction. Under that order General Casey left yesterday morning with Naglee's brigade and two batteries by a road leading toward the railroad in a direction nearly perpendicular to the road to Bottoms Bridge. Fearing a clash, I gave precise verbal and written orders to General Casey to expose no part of his forces to the view of the enemy at or near Bottoms Bridge. As soon as I had finished examining some contrabands I hastened to the front, and took post between the railroad and the Bottoms Bridge road on an elevation within 600 yards of the railroad bridge. From that point I could see the enemy across the railroad bridge and all that was passing this side of Bottoms Bridge. I remained there in observation between two and three hours. The enemy threw five or six shells before any of our artillery replied at all.

As my orders to General Casey were so explicit, I did not for a moment suspect that the two regiments and section of a battery down from my left belonged to his division, and I was so well pleased with their movements that I found no occasion to send any orders, though I was only a few hundred yards away. Finally one of Casey's batteries, which had been standing on the hill about 150 yards to my rear, opened, throwing shells over the woods near Bottoms Bridge. I went immediately to Colonel Bailey to order him to cease firing in that direction. From him I learned that the troops near the woods at Bottoms Bridge were a part of Naglee's brigade.

Hastening down to the house near Bottoms Bridge, I succeeded in finding General Naglee, and explained the orders for the reconnaissance to him. As his men occupied the woods and the open space this side, I did not deem it expedient at that late hour to displace them by a portion of Pecks brigade, which was concealed in rear of the house from which General McClellan made his observations.

I inclose a copy of my letter to General Casey, his reply, and the explanation of Brigadier-General Naglee.

The result of the operations of yesterday is that we have both bridges and the river between them. The enemy had at least one battery, some cavalry, and sharpshooters opposed to us. Our pickets are across the Chickahominy. I have advanced one brigade of Couch's division to the opening this side of Bottom's Bridge, and will to-day or tomorrow, unless otherwise ordered, move my whole command to the Old Tavern and beyond.

The report of the casualties of yesterday has not yet come in. We had several men wounded.
                I remain, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
                                                                                      E.D. KEYES,
                                              Brigadier-General, Commanding Fourth Corps.

                 Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
                      Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.


- The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)



Sunday, July 31, 2016

MAY 20-23, l862.- Operations about Bottoms Bridge, Chickahominy River, Va- I

Today begins a lengthy and rather detailed examination of the operations of the Fourth Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the Bottoms Bridge area during May of 1862.




 Reports of Brig. Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes, U.S. Army, commanding Fourth Corps, of operations May 20-21.



                                                HEADQUARTERS FOURTH ARMY CORPS,
                                              Camp near Bottoms Bridge, Va., May 20, 1862-11.30 a.m.

GENERAL: I have to report the result of a reconnaissance made by Major Harlow and party, of Colonel Russell's Seventh Massachusetts Volunteers, this morning. The party, consisting of Captains Holman1 and Whitcomb's2 companies, got into the skirt of the woods this side just before daylight. Captain Holman saw the bridge. It appeared to have been blown up in the center. They were fired upon on reaching the woods from rifle pits on the opposite bank. One sergeant is missing and one man wounded. It is thought that the sergeant had strayed off to the left. The river at the bridge is 10 yards wide; the swamp perhaps 60 or 100. I inclose a copy of a sketch sent in by Colonel Russell.*
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
                                                E.D. KEYES,
                               Brigadier-General, Commanding Fourth Corps.
    
            Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
                        A.A.G., Army of the Potomac.
*Not found



                                             HEADQUARTERS FOURTH ARMY CORPS,
                                         Camp near Bottoms Bridge, Va., May 21, 1862- 6.45 a.m.
GENERAL: 1 have the honor to report that at daylight this morning Colonel Russell pushed one of his companies across at Bottoms Bridge. His companies on the railroad have also thrown a picket over at that point. He has at the former, besides his own four companies, a regiment to support him. He reports that during the night he partially laid the railroad bridge, so that infantry can pass, and that he can soon repair Bottoms Bridge.
I have already telegraphed to you for instruction in the matter of building the bridges. I can, if it is thought advisable, throw over a considerable force, but will not make any further advance movement until receiving instructions.
 Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                             E.D. KEYES,
                     Brigadier-General, Commanding Corps.

Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,
                     Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of the Potomac.


P.S.- Colonel Gregg writes that his pickets also have crossed at Bottoms Bridge; that he has taken a deserter. He has not yet arrived, however, and I do not delay sending this to take his examination.
                                                                             E.D.K.


- The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 11 (Part I)



Holman, George F. — 2d Lieut. — Res. Cambridge; lawyer; 23; comm. and must. June 15, 1861; comm. 1st Lieut., Aug. 1, 1861; comm. Captain, Oct. 11, 1861; disch. Sept. 9, 1862, on Surgeon's Certif. of Disability, as Captain of Co. "C." See Co. "D" 2d Mass. Cav.: disch. May 15, 1865.


Whitcomb, John R. — Captain — Res. Mansfield; blacksmith; 34; comm. and must. June 15,1861 ; must, out June 27, 1864. comm. Capt. Asst. Quartermaster U.S. Volunteers, June 30, 1864. must, out June 10 1866.