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Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

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On the next day (Saturday) there was no general engagement. The greater portion of the signal party, wearied by the duties of the two preceding days and nights, were kept in camp to rest and to be at hand if they were needed. A detachment of 4 officers, with their men, Lieut. W. G. McCreary, acting signal officer, commanding, was sent to report to General Hooker in front.

About noon this day it was known that the enemy, victorious at Gaines’ Mill, had reached the line of the railroad to White House, and their cavalry was seen near Bottom’s Bridge. Telegraphic communication with the depot at White House was broken. At very nearly the same time Lieutenant Hastings, acting signal officer, who had started from White House on the morning of this day with a wagon load of signal stores and without escort, and who had crossed his wagon at the ford at Bottom’s Bridge (the bridge being destroyed) in the presence of the enemy’s cavalry, reported to the chief signal officer at general headquarters camp his safe arrival with his charge on the south side of the Chickahominy. This was the last arrival of wagons from the depot on the Pamunkey. Lieutenant Hastings was ordered to join with his train the great trains by this time moving on all main roads toward the new base upon the James River.

Early this morning the chief signal officer had been notified that General Keyes’ corps had crossed the White Oak Swamp and was near Charles City Cross-Roads. He was instructed to send two signal officers, with their men, to report to him. In obedience to this order Lieuts. Charles Herzog acting signal officer, and Franklin Ellis, acting signal officer, were ordered to join General Keyes. They were supplied with rockets, and a code of rocket signals was arranged, by which, if rockets could be seen, communication could be had from the position held by General Keyes to general headquarters. They were further ordered that, having first obtained the permission of General Keyes, they would push on to the James River, and put themselves in communication, if possible, with the naval forces there lying.

The dense woods of White Oak Swamp, beyond which General Keyes’ forces were, precluded the possibility of signaling by flags by day. An attempt was made to run out the telegraph wire to reach his headquarters. It was laid for a short distance. The thronging of the immense trains upon the road leading from Savage Station to White Oak Bridge, and the imperfect character of the apparatus, rendered its farther extension impossible, and the effort was after some hours abandoned. The wire was ordered to be reeled up, and the officers in charge of the train were instructed to move it, as soon as there was opportunity, toward James River. At sunset officers were stationed to watch for the rockets, should any be thrown up from General Keyes’ corps. During this day large forces of the enemy could be seen from near [253] Dudley’s house moving on the north side of the Chickahominy in the direction of the railroad and on the roads leading to White House.

Our forces in front and on the south side of the Chickahominy occupied their usual lines. Large numbers of wounded from the fields of Mechanicsville and Gaines’ Mill were gathered at the Savage house and in the grounds surrounding it, at the railroad station. The wagons of the signal party were kept packed, and the party was held in readiness to move. By evening it had become generally understood that headquarters were to move that night, and the order had been circulated that all were to be in preparation to march at the shortest notice. The tents were finally struck at about 2 a. m.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.252-253

web page Rickard, J (19 November 2006)


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