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76 CONTINUED ABRIVAL OF TROOP8.
Continued Arrival of Troops.—Advance of the Army of the Peninsula.—Arrival of the Regiment at Young's Mills.—An Aged Contraband.—Lee's Mills.—The Various Companies of the Thirtythird ordered to the Front.— Caisson struck by a rebel Ball.— Continued Firing of the Enemy.—Falling back of the National Forces.—Heavy Rain Storm.—The Beef Brigade. — Enemy's Fortifications.— Troublesome Insects.—Night Skirmishing.— Celerity of the Paymaster's Movements.— Evacuation of Yorktown.— Early information of the fact brought to Col. Corning by Contrabands.— The Rebel Works taken possession of.
Troops continued to arrive in large numbers from Washington, anckon the 4th of April, the entire army commenced moving in the direction of Yorktown, appearing the next day in front of the enemy's lines. During the afternoon of the 4th the Thirtythird reached Young's Mills, which the enemy had left in the morning.
Their position here had been a very strong one; in addition to the natural defences of the place, they had thrown up heavy earth-works, constructed seven rifle pits, and placed four batteries in position. Their quarters, which were taken possession of by our men, consisted of wooden huts, snugly and compactly built. An aged contraband was found running the grist-mill, from which the place took its name. The next day the march was resumed through a heavily timbered region, and over roads very much impaired by recent rains; the division arriving in front of Lee's Mills at noon.
Skirmishing and artillery firing immediatedly commenced, and was kept up with but little intermission for several days. In accordance with instructions from Gren. Davidson, Col. Taylor sent, on Saturday, Co. B., to do picket duty on the left. The men advanced to within 150 yards of the enemy, who were found to have three large forts in addition to other fortifications. They remained out all night, keeping up a running fire most of the time, and having three of their number wounded. Co. A relieved them on the following morning. Cos. D, E, F, G, H, I, and K, were likewise posted as picket% and to C was assigned the duty of supporting sections of Wheeler's and Cowan's batteries.
While so employed, one of the enemy's cannon balls, which were falling in every direction, struck a caisson and exploded several of the shells in rapid succession. At this juncture, an artilleryman, running up, dashed a bucket of water over the remainder, thereby preventing their explosion, to the great relief of the cannoniers, as well as of the supporting party. The artillery firing of the rebels, which was kept up at intervals along the whole line, killed but few of our men, though occasioning some uneasiness by its terrible execution among the forest trees. Saplings were snapped asunder like pipe 78 The 33rd The Last To Leave The Fbont.
stems, while huge limbs severed from the tall oaks were falling in every direction. Many trees of large growth were completely perforated with solid shot, or shattered by shell.
During this time Capts. Cole and Guion, with a Volunteer force, made an important reconnoissance beyond our picket lines, advancing very near to the rebel works, from which they were fired upon.
In order to avoid the artillery and picket firing, it was decided to have the forces of Gen. Smith fall back for a short distance, where they would threaten the enemy full as much, and at the same time be less exposed. After the removal of the batteries the various Companies of the Thirty-third withdrew to the distance of a mile, being the last to leave the front, where they had retained their respective positions under the hottest of the enemy's fire, for a period of fifty-four hours, and lost in wounded Lieut. Gale, Co. G, and several privates.
Exhausted from the want of sleep and sufficient rations, the men sank down on the moist ground that night, with no protection from the falling rain, save that afforded by a few boughs and leaves. Officers and privates were alike drenched through to the skin, long before the dawn of day. They remained here some three or four days.
Owing to the condition of the roads, it was found impossible to bring up the supply trains. Two hundred and fifty men were accordingly detailed to proceed back and obtain rations. After several hours' absence they returned, each one bearing upon
THE BEEF BRIGADE. 79
his fixed bayonet a goodly piece of meat, and obeying the facetious orders of the Lieut. Colonel to "shoulder beef, present beef," etc. Six barrels of meat were thus brought into camp. The men were not so exhausted but that they indulged in a hearty laugh over this circumstance, and the detail was ever afterwards known as the "Beef Brigade."
On the 11th of April, the Brigade moved one mile and a half nearer Yorktown, encamping directly in front of the enemy's fortifications, which consisted, in addition to numerous other earthworks, of a chain of forts, extending across the Peninsula to James Biver. The time was employed here in building corduroy roads, "slashing" timber, etc. An innumerable army of insects, known under the general appellation of wood-ticks, were very annoying. They would burrow in the flesh of both man and beast, and, regardless of the consequences, "pinch" and pull away with all the tenacity of the horse leech. One of the officers amused himself in making a large collection of these troublesome creatures, which he has brought home with him.
On the day that Gen. Smith made the unsuccessful attempt to cross the Warwick River with the Vermont troops, Davidson's Brigade moved a mile and a half further to the right, where it remained until the evacuation of and advance upon Yorktown. While here, frequent reconnoissances were made by the Regiment. Parties detailed from the various commands were employed every night in constructing rifle-pits and other earth-works.
80 RAPID MOVEMENTS OF THE PAYMASTER.
On the evening prior to the evacuation, a portion of the Thirty-third assisted in the completion of a large mortar-bed, and mounting of two heavy mortars, which completely commanded the enemy's works directly opposite. Had they remained, these two powerful engines of war would have made fearful havoc among the rebels. This night-work was attended with more or less firing on the part of the enemy, which, however, produced but little effect, in addition to the frequent turning out of the Regiments. The Thirty-third was ordered under arms three times during one night, when a heavy storm was prevailing.
The Paymaster again made his appearance here, and emptied his money bags in a remarkably short space of time. Perhaps a remark he made to one of the officers had some connection with his celerity of movement: "Well, isn't this a mighty exposed condition." It was indeed an exposed condition, the enemy constantly tossing shells into our camp by way of amusement, and to "stir us up," as they expressed it.
Troops had now arrived, to the number of a hundred and twenty-five thousand, and the siege was being conducted successfully, both on the right and left. All the necessary preparations for the storming of the rebel stronghold were nearly completed, when, on the morning of Sunday, the 4th of May, the game, much to the chagrin and mortification of our Generals, was discovered to have flown.
The intelligence was first brought to the left