From The Tribune's Special Correspondent - 12th New York Infantry Regiment
"From The Tribune's Special Correspondent, Camp At Berkley's Landing, Va."
Batavia, Genesee County, New York:
Tuesday, July 15-1862.
[Microfilm, Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia NY]
Transcribed And Donated By Linda Schmidt
This landing is some six or seven miles below City Point, and about forty-seven miles below Richmond by water, and half as far by a direct line.
The camp is established on the farm of Dr. Powhatan B Starke, whose mansion and outbuildings are being used as hospitals. The estate is a very fine one, and once belonged to Benj. Harrison, a signer of the American Declaration of Independence, and the father of the late William Henry Harrison, President of the United States, who was born in this mansion. The present proprietor inherited the estate by marriage with Miss. Orgam, who is a descendant of the Harrison family. Starke being a rank traitor, deserted his place several weeks ago, taking most of his human chattels, of whom there a large number on the plantation, and leaving with his overseer to burn and destroy everything rather than permit the "d-----d Yankees," which he didn't do. The mansion gives evidence of taste and refinement on the part of the late occupants; also of a hurried departure, the furniture-which is substantial and elegant-being mostly left behind, while the family pictures were cut from their frames that still hang on the wall.
Among the engravings which were left I noticed that of the 'Marriage of Po-ka-hon-tas,' a picture which finds a place on the walls of most Virginia families of pretension, for the reason, perhaps, that most of the F.F.V.'s claim to be descendants of the eminent and pious squaw above referred to.
Our army, as the public is already aware, has been engaged in a most fearful struggle during the entire week past, and, considering its harassments and fatigue from fighting, is in a wonderfully high state of spirits; and it is a hopeful sign that, in its last fighting, it exhibited, if possible, more heroism, courage and devotion, than at any time previously.
We had a very severe fight yesterday, which extended all along the line in which we had the misfortune to lose many brave officers and men, but we drove the rebels back repeatedly; and although the fight was mainly one of artillery on both sides, our men made many splendid charges, in which several batteries of rebel artilery were captured.
Our artillerists are reported to have made the most frightful havoc in the ranks of the rebels, who were cut down in swathes like wheat before and still their ranks would be immediately file dup, and they still would stagger and reel up in an apparently stupid and drunken state up to the very cannon's mouth. That they were drunk in some instances is the almost universal testimony of our soldiers, and some assert that they were drunk upon our own whiskey. But drunk or sober, our brave boys drove them back at every point of attack yesterday, as they have done most of the engagements during the movement toward the present camp, which was commenced on Saturday morning last. There have been many untrue and exaggerated reports flying about concerning our losses, especially in artillery. It was quite currently reported at one time that eighty of our guns had fallen into the hands of the enemy, which is an entire mistake. Our losses in artillery are not worth mentioning. We have saved and brought off all our siege guns, and have lost only here and there a gun from our field batteries.
Those persons who unfamiliar with military movements, will be a little puzzled to reconcile the fact of our repulsing the rebels so unfrequently, so universally, with the fact that our army continued its retreat after every contest, and that in such haste as to leave behind, on the field, our dead and such of the wounded as were unable to walk, thus abandoning them there to the enemy. The explanation is as follows:
The Commanding General, finding his brave and heroic army on the field before Richmond overborne by the pure force of numbers, the rebels constantly pouring in hordes of reinforcements, finding his right flank turned, being satisfied that it would be difficult if not impossible, to hold his position, he naturally determined to change it to one which would be more easily defended. He decided upon the one now occupied by his army, where he can have the co-operation of the gunboats, and having so decided, the next thing to be done was to march his army to the point desired, in good order.
The Rebels followed and attacked him as a matter of course. But as often as they attacked, the loyal troops repulsed them, not without severe loss, however. In order to gain his point, viz., to take up the position he desired on the James River in order and without stampeding or panic in his ranks, after each repulse of the rebels, he was obliged to hurry on to his destination with the greatest practical speed, to do which he was compelled to leave the severely wounded on the field. The march or retreat or whatever else you chose to call it, is regarded here as a remarkably successful one, and the present position of the army as entirely safe from Rebel attack.
Morell's Division, which was earliest in the fight, is believed to have suffered more severely than any other - particularly the brigades of Butterfield and Martindale. - The 12th New York, which forms, or did form, a part of Butterfield's brigade is nearly annihilated. The 44th New York, 83d Pennsylvania, and 16th Michigan, also suffered severely.
Butterfield's Brigade brought off three stands of rebel colors as evidence of its valor. Among the prominent officers of Morell's division who have given their lives to the cause of the country, are Col. Black, 62d Pennsylvania; Colonel Woodbury, 4th Michigan; Col. Cass, 9th Massachusetts; Lieut. Col. Skillen, 14th New York; Lieut. Col. Sweitzer, 62d Pennsylvania.
Most of these were killed yesterday.