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.
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)