Report of Brig. Gen. Philip Kearny, U. S. Army,
Commanding First Division, of the Battles of Groveton and Bull Run.
AUGUST 16-SEPTEMBER 2, 1862
Campaign in Northern Virginia.
HDQRS. 1ST DIV., 3D CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Centreville, Va., August 31, 1862
Col. GEORGE D. RUGGLES,
Chief of Staff to Major-General John Pope
COLONEL: I report the part taken by my division in the battles of the two previous days. On the 29th, on my arrival, I was assigned to the holding of the right wing, my left on Leesburg road. I posted Colonel Poe, with Berry's brigade, in first line, General Robinson, First Brigade, on his right, partly in line and partly in support, and kept Birney's most disciplined regiments reserved and ready for emergencies. Toward noon I was obliged to occupy a quarter of a mile additional on left of said road, from Schurz' troops being taken elsewhere.
During the first hours of combat General Birney, on tired regiments in the center falling back, of his own accord rapidly pushed across to give them a hand to raise themselves to a renewed fight. In early after noon General Pope's order, per General Roberts, was to send a pretty strong force diagonally to the front to relieve the center in the woods from pressure. Accordingly I detached for that purpose General Robinson, with his brigade; the Sixty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Hays; the One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Captain Craig; the Twentieth Indiana, Colonel Brown, and, additionally, the Third Michigan Marksmen, under Colonel Champlin. General Robinson drove forward for several hundred yards, but the center of the main battle being shortly after driven back and out of the woods, my detachment, thus exposed, so considerably in front of all others, both flanks in air, was obliged to cease to advance, and confine themselves to holding their own. At 5 o'clock, thinking--though at the risk of exposing my fighting line to being enfiladed--that I might drive the enemy by an unexpected attack through the woods, I brought up additionally the most of Birney's regiments---the Fourth Maine, Colonel Walker and Lieutenant-Colonel Carver: the Fortieth New York, Colonel Egan; First New York, Major Burr, and One hundred and first New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Gesner--and changed front to the left, to sweep with a rush the first line of the enemy. This was most successful. The enemy rolled up on his own right. It presaged a victory for us all. Still our force was too light. The enemy brought up rapidly heavy reserves, so that our farther progress was impeded. General Stevens came up gallantly in action to support us, but did not have the numbers.
On the morning of the 30th General Ricketts, with two brigades, relieved me of my extra charge of the left of the road, and I again concentrated my command. We took no part in the fighting of the morning, although we lost men by an enfilading fire of the enemy's batteries. A sudden and unaccountable evacuation of the field by the left center occurring about 5 p.m., on orders from General Pope I massed my troops at the indicated point, but soon reoccupied with Birney's brigade, supported by Robinson's, a very advanced block of woods. The key-point of this new line rested on the brown house, toward creek. This was held by regiments of other brigades. Soon however, themselves attacked, they ceded ground, and retired without warning us. I maintained my position until 10 p.m., when, in connection with General Reno and General Gibbon--assigned to the rear guard--I retired my brigades.
My command arrived at Centreville in good order at 2 a.m. this morning and encamped in front of the Centreville forts. My loss in killed and wounded is over 750--about one in three; in some regiments engaged a great deal severer; in the Third Michigan, 140 out of 260. None taken prisoners, except my engineer officer, who returned to the house supposed to be held by the troops alluded to.
It makes me proud to dwell on the renewed efforts of my generals of brigade, Birney and Robinson. My regiments all did well, and the remiss in camp seemed brightest in the field. Besides my old tried regiments, who have been previously noted in former actions and maintained their prestige, I have to mark the One hundred and first New York Volunteers and Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers as equaling all that their comrades have done before. Their commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel Gesner, with the One hundred and first New York Volunteers, and Major Birney, with the Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, have imparted to them the stamp of their own high character. The Sixty-third Pennsylvania and Fortieth New York Volunteers, under the brave Colonel Egan, suffered the most. The gallant Hays is badly wounded.
The loss of officers has been great; that of Colonel Brown can hardly be replaced. Brave, skillful, a disciplinarian, full of energy, and a charming gentleman, his Twentieth Indiana must miss him. The country loses in him one who promised to fill worthily high trust.
The Third Michigan, ever faithful to their name, under Colonel Champlin and Major Pierce, lose 140 out of 260 combatants.
Colonel Champlin is again disabled. The staunch Fourth Maine, under Walker, true men of a rare type, drove on through the stream of battle irresistibly. The One hundred and fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers was not wanting. They are Pennsylvania's mountain men. Again have they been fearfully decimated. The desperate charge of these regiments sustains the past history of this division.
The lists of killed and wounded and reports of brigades and regiments will be shortly furnished.
Randolph's battery of light 12s was worked with boldness and address. Though narrowly watched by three long-reaching enfilading batteries of the enemy, it constantly silenced one of theirs in its front and shelled and ricochetted its shot into the re-enforcements moving from the enemy's heights down into the woods. On the 27th, with two sections and Robinson's First Brigade, Captain Randolph had powerfully contributed to General Hooker's success at Bristoe Station.
Captain Graham, First U.S. Artillery, put at General Sigel's disposition, as repeatedly drove the enemy back into the woods as the giving way of that infantry left the front unobstructed. His practice was beautifully correct and proved irresistible. On the 31st, Captain Graham, not being required on the right, was sent to the extreme left, and rendered important service with General Reno, firing until late in the night.
Lieutenant ------,a German officer of distinction, put at my disposal by General Sigel, with two long-range Parrotts, covered our right flank and drove off the enemy's battery and regiments. I name these gentlemen as ornaments to their branch of the service. I must refer to General Hooker to render justice to the part taken by my First Brigade, under General Robinson, and Randolph's battery, in the affair of the 27th, at Bristoe Station.
Again am I called on to name the efficiency of my staff. Captain Mindil, often cited, brave and intelligent, was the only military aide present to assist me; but Dr. Pancoast, division surgeon-general, not only insured the promptness of his department, but with heroism and aptitude carried for me my orders.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commanding First Division.
HDQRS. FIRST DIV., THIRD CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Fort Lyon, September 4, 1862.
Respectfully forwarded as the official report drawn up by the late Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, and intended to have been signed by him the day of his death.
D. B. BIRNEY,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
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