Counters for Birney’s Brigade of the third division, III Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Birney did not get along with his Corps Commander, Heintzelman. The animosity was so bad that Heintzelman looked for any excuse to punish Birney. This was shown in full relief at Seven Pines.
Birney had marched his brigade towards the front as ordered, but his men were sent all over the place (back to the rifle pits, up to the railroad), detached and moved around.
At some point, Heintzelman must have felt that Birney was disobeying orders because “[a]t daylight an orderly rode to me with an order from General Kearny to turn over my command to my next officer and report to him. I found him in his bed. He told me he had received an order from General Heintzelman to place me under arrest—for what offense he knew not. I asked if it could have been for advancing too far. He replied that he could not imagine what for, but said he would suspend the order for arrest, and ordered me to go to General Heintzelman and say that he (General Kearny) assumed an the responsibility of my actions on the 31st May. I obeyed this order, and sent in by Lieutenant Hunt to General Heintzelman a message that I would be pleased to have five minutes’ conversation, in which I could explain my conduct. He returned with a reply that it must be in writing. As I turned to leave for that purpose, Captain McKeever, an attaché of General Heintzelman’s staff, approached me, and asking what I wanted I told him, and he replied in a very sneering voice, “General Kearny should be sufficient of a soldier at least to know more than to have sent you here. You have no right to approach General Heintzelman.”
This was 1 June 1862. Between then and the 8th when Birney wrote his report, he was court-martialed, but acquitted because the Judge Advocate found that the prosecution had no case.
Even with this distraction, the brigade performed admirably, engaging in several bayonet charges and pushing the Confederates back.