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McDowell's corps, had arrived and reported to me. The garrison of Gloucester point had been re-enforced and the works strengthened; but as this division was too small to detach to the Severn, and no more troops could be spared, I determined to act on Gloucester by disembarking it on the north bank of the York river, under the protection of the gunboats. The troops were mainly kept on board ship while the necessary preparations were made for landing them, and supporting them in case of necessity. For a full account of this labor I refer to the report of Lieutenant Colonel B. S. Alexander, of the engineer corps, detailed for this expedition. While the siege works were being rapidly completed, the roads on the left wing necessary for communication and advance were opened and corduroyed over the marshes, batteries were erected to silence the enemy's guns, and drive him from his works at Wynn's and Lee's mills, preparatory to the general attack. Active reconnoissances were continually going on, and attempts in force made to drive the enemy from the banks. The result of various reconnoissances made under the immediate direction of General W. F. Smith, commanding second division fourth corps, led to the belief that the weakest point of that part of the enemy's lines was opposite a field where it was ascertained that there was a dam covered by a battery known to contain at least one gun. It was determined to push a strong reconnoissance on this point to silence the enemy's fire, and ascertain the actual strength of the position. Being prepared to sustain the reconnoitring party by a real attack, if found expedient, General W. F. Smith was directed to undertake the operation on the 16th of April. He silenced the fire of the enemy's guns, discovered the existence of other works previously concealed and unknown, and sent a strong party across the stream, which was finally forced to retire with some loss. Smith intrenched himself in a position immediately overlooking the dam and the enemy's works, so as to keep them under control, and prevent the enemy from using the dam as a means of crossing the Warwick to annoy us. Many times towards the end of the month the enemy attempted to drive in our pickets, and take our rifle-pits near Yorktown, but always without sucCeSS. As the siege progressed, it was with great difficulty that the rifle-pits on the right could be excavated and held, so little covering could be made against the hot fire of the enemy's artillery and infantry. Their guns continued firing up to a late hour of the night of the 3d of May. Our batteries would have been ready to open on the morning of the 6th May at latest; but on the morning of the 4th it was discovered that the enemy had already been compelled to evacuate his position during the night, leaving behind him all his heavy guns, uninjured, and a large amount of ammunition and supplies. For the details of the labor of the siege I refer to the accompanying reports and journals of Brigadier General J. G. Barnard, chief engineer, charged with the selections, laying out, and completion of the approaches and batteries; of Brigadier General Wm. F. Barry, chief of artillery, charged with arming and supplying with ammunition all the siege and field batteries; and of Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter, director of the siege, to whom were assigned the guarding of the trenches, the assembling and distribution of the working parties, &c., &c. Early in the morning of the 4th, on the enemy's abandoning his lines at Yorktown, I ordered all the available cavalry force, with four batteries of horse artillery, under Brigadier General Stoneman, chief of cavalry, in immediate pursuit by the Yorktown and Williamsburg road, with orders to harass the enemy's rear, and try to cut off such of his forces as had taken the Lee's mill and Williamsburg road.
General Heintzelman was directed to send Hooker's division forward on the Yorktown and Williamsburg road to support General Stoneman; and Smith was ordered to proceed with his division upon the Lee's mill and Williamsburg road for the same purpose. Afterwards, the divisions of Generals Kearney, Couch, and Casey, were put en route—the first on the Yorktown road, and the others on the Lee's mill road. These roads unite about a quarter of a mile south of Fort Magruder, and are connected by cross-roads at several points between Yorktown and Williamsburg. After these directions had been given, General Sumner (the officer second in rank in the army of the Potomac) was ordered to proceed to the front and take immediate charge of operations until my arrival. o General Stoneman moved forward promptly with his command, consisting of four batteries of horse artillery under Lieutenant Colonel Hays, the 1st and 6th United States cavalry, the 3d Pennsylvania and 8th Illinois, and Barker's squadron, meeting with but little opposition until he arrived in front of the enemy's works about two miles east of Williamsburg. At a point about eight miles from Yorktown, in accordance with my instructions, he detached General Emory with Benson's battery, the 3d Pennsylvania cavalry, (Colonel Averill,) and Barker's squadron, to gain the Lee's mill road, and endeavor, with the assistance of General Smith, to cut off the portion of the enemy's rear guard which had taken that route. General Emory had some sharp skirmishes with a regiment of cavalry and a battery under General Stuart, and drove them in the direction of Lee's mill. General Smith having met with obstructions in his front, had transferred his column, by a cross-road, to the Yorktown and Williamsburg road, so that General Emory, finding no force to co-operate with him, was unable to cut off the rear guard, and they succeeded in escaping by a circuitous route along the bank of the James river. The position in which General Stoneman encountered the enemy is about four miles in extent, the right resting on College creek, and the left on Queen's creek; nearly three-fourths of its front being covered by tributaries of these two creeks, upon which there are ponds. The ground between the heads of the boundary streams is a cultivated plain, across which a line of detached works had been constructed, consisting of Fort Magruder, a large work in the centre with a bastion front, and twelve other redoubts and epaulments for field guns. The parapet of Fort Magruder is about six feet high and nine feet thick; the ditch nine feet wide and nine feet deep, filled with water. The length of the interior crest is about 600 yards. The redoubts have strong profiles, but are of small dimensions, having faces of about forty yards. The woods is front of the position were felled, and the open ground in front of the works was dotted with numerous rifle-pits. The roads leading from the lower part of the Peninsula to Williamsburg, one along the York river, (the Yorktown road,) and the other along the James, (the Lee's mill road,) unite between the heads of the tributary streams a short distance in front of Fort Magruder, by which they are commanded, and debouch from the woods just before uniting. A branch from the James river road leaves it about one and three-fourths of a mile below Fort Magruder and unites with the road from Allen's landing to Williams. burg, which crosses the tributary of College creek over a dam at the outlet of the pond, and passes just in rear of the line of works, being commanded by the three redoubts on the right of the line, at about the same distance from Fort Magruder. A branch leaves the York river road and crosses the tributary of Queen's creek on a dam, and passing over the position and through
the works in its rear, finally enters Williamsburg; this road is commanded by redoubts on the left of the line of the works. General Stoneman debouched from the woods with his advance guard, (consisting of a part of the 1st United States cavalry, and one section of Gibson's battery, under the command of General Cooke,) and the enemy immediately opened on him with several field-pieces from Fort Magruder, having the correct range, and doing some execution. Gibson's battery was brought into position as rapidly as the deep mud would permit, and returned the fire; while the 6th United States cavalry was sent to feel the enemy's left. This regiment passed one redoubt, which it found unoccupied, and appeared in the rear of a second, when a strong cavalry force, with infantry and artillery, came down upon it, whereupon the regiment was withdrawn. The rear squadron, under command of Captain Saunders, repelled a charge of the enemy's cavalry in the most gallant manner. In the mean time the enemy was being re-enforced by infantry; and the artillery fire becoming very hot, General Stoneman, having no infantry to carry the works, ordered the withdrawal of the battery. This was accomplished, with the exception of one piece, which could not be extricated from the mud. The enemy attempted to prevent the movement, but their charges were met by the 1st United States cavalry, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Grier, and they were driven back, losing several officers and one stand of colors. General Stoneman then took a defensive position a short distance in the rear of the first, to await the arrival of the infantry. The advance of General Smith's column reached Skiff's creek about 11} o'clock, and found the bridge over that stream in flames, and the road impassable. A practicable route to the Yorktown road having been discovered, the division, by order of General Sumner, moved on by that road, and reached General Stoneman's position about 5% o'clock. General Sumner, arriving with it, assumed command. Generals Heintzelman and Keyes also arrived. During the afternoon of the 4th, near the Halfway House, the head of General Hooker's column encountered Smith's division filing into the road, and was obliged to halt between three and four hours until it had passed. General Hooker then followed on, and at Cheesecake church turned off, by General Heintzelman's direction, taking a cross-road, and moved out on the Lee's mill road, thus changing places with General Smith. Marching part of the night, he came in sight of Fort Magruder early in the morning of the 5th. General Smith's division having been deployed, General Sumner ordered an attack on the works in his front; but the lines having been thrown into confusion while moving through the dense forest, and darkness coming on, the attempt for that night was abandoned. The troops bivouacked in the woods, and a heavy rain began, which continued until the morning of the 6th, making the roads, already in very bad condition, almost impassable. During the morning of the 5th General Sumner reconnoitred the position in his front, and at 11 o'clock ordered Hancock's brigade, of Smith's division, to take possession of a work on the enemy's left, which had been found to be unoccupied. The remainder of Smith's division occupied the woods in front without being actually engaged. The divisions of Couch and Casey had received orders during the night to march at daylight; but on account of the terrible condition of the roads, and other impediments, were not able to reach the field until after 1 o'clock p.m., at which time the first brigade of Couch's division arrived, and was posted in the centre, on Hooker's right. The other two brigades came up during the afternoon, followed by Casey's division. In the mean time General Hooker, having reconnoitred the enemy's position, began the attack at 74 a.m., and for a while silenced the guns of Fort Magruder, and cleared the ground in his front; but the enemy being continually re-enforced, until their strength greatly exceeded his, made attack after attack, endeavoring to turn his left. For several hours his division struggled gallantly against the superior numbers of the enemy. Five guns of Webber's battery were lost, and between three and four o'clock his ammunition began to give out. The loss had been heavy, and the exhaustion of the troops was very great. At this time the division of General Kearney came up, who, at 9 a.m., had received orders to re-enforce Hooker, and who had succeeded, by the greatest exertions, in passing Casey's troops, and pushing on to the front through the deep mud. . General Kearney at once gallantly attacked, and thereby prevented the loss of another battery, and drove the enemy back at every point, enabling General Hooker to extricate himself from his position, and withdraw his wearied troops. Peck's brigade, of Couch's division, as has been mentioned before, was, immediately on its arrival, ordered by General Sumner to deploy on Hooker's right. This was promptly done, and the attacks of the enemy at that point were repulsed. General Peck held his position until late in the afternoon, when he was relieved by the other two brigades of Couch's division, and they were in quiet possession of the ground when night closed the contest. The vigorous action of these troops relieved General Hooker considerably. General Emory had been left with his command, on the night of the 4th, to guard the branch of the Lee's mill road which leads to Allen's farm ; and on the morning of the 5th it was ascertained that by this route the enemy's right could be turned. A request for infantry for this purpose was made to General Heintzelman, who, late in the afternoon, sent four regiments and two batteries of Kearney's division—the first disposable troops he had—and directed General Emory to make the attack. With these re-enforcements his force amounted to about 3,000 men and three batteries. General Emory, on account of want of knowledge of the ground, and the lateness of the hour, did not succeed in this movement. It involved some risks, but, if successful, might have produced important results. At 11 a. m., as before mentioned, General Smith received orders from General Sumner to send one brigade across a dam on our right, to occupy a redoubt on the left of the enemy's line. Hancock's brigade was selected for this purpose. He crossed the dam, took possession of the first redoubt, and afterwards, finding the second one vacated, he occupied that also, and sent for re-enforcements to enable him to advance further and take the next redoubt, which commanded the plain between his position and Fort Magruder, and would have enabled him to take in reverse and cut the communication of the troops engaged with Generals Hooker and Kearney. The enemy soon began to show himself in strength before him, and as his rear and right flank were somewhat exposed, he repeated his request for re-enforcements. General Smith was twice ordered to join him, with the rest of his division, but each time the order was countermanded at the moment of execution, General Sumner not being willing to weaken the centre. At length, in reply to General Hancock's repeated messages for more troops, General Sumner sent him an order to fall back to his first position, the execution of which General Hancock deferred as long as possible, being unwilling to give up the advantage already gained, and fearing to expose his command by such a movement. During the progress of these events, I had remained at Yorktown to complete the preparations for the departure of General Franklin's and other troops to West Point by water, and to make the necessary arrangements with the naval commander for his co-operation. By pushing General Franklin, well supported by water, to the right bank of the Pamunkey, opposite West Point, it was hoped to force the enemy to
abandon whatever works he might have on the Peninsula below that point, or be cut off. It was of paramount importance that the arrangements to this end should be promptly made at an early hour of the morning. I had sent two of my aids (Lieutenant Colonel Sweitzer and Major Hammerstein) to observe the operations in front, with instructions to report to me everything of importance that might occur. I received no information from them leading me to suppose that there was anything occurring of more importance than a simple affair of a rear-guard, until about one o'clock p.m., when a despatch arrived from one of them that everything was not progressing favorably. This was confirmed a few minutes later by the reports of Governor Sprague and Major Hammerstein, who came directly from the scene of action. Completing the necessary arrangements, I returned to my camp without delay, rode rapidly to the front, a distance of some fourteen miles, through roads much obstructed by troops and wagons, and reached the field between four and five p.m., in time to take a rapid survey of the ground. I soon learned that there was no direct communication between our centre and the left under General Heintzelman; the centre was chiefly in the nearer edge of the woods, situated between us and the enemy. As heavy firing was heard in the direction of General Hancock's command, I immediately ordered General Smith to proceed with his two remaining brigades to support that part of the line. General Naglee, with his brigade, received similar orders. I then directed our centre to advance to the further edge of the woods mentioned above, which was done, and I attempted to open direct communication with General Heintzelman, but was prevented by the marshy state of the ground in the direction in which the attempt was made. Before Generals Smith and Naglee could reach the field of General Hancock's operations, although they moved with great rapidity, he had been confronted by a superior force. Feigning to retreat slowly, he awaited their onset, and then turned upon them, and after some terrific volleys of musketry, he charged them with the bayonet, routing and dispersing their whole force, killing, wounding, and capturing from 500 to 600 men, he himself losing only 31 men. This was one of the most brilliant engagements of the war, and General Hancock merits the highest praise for the soldierly qualities displayed, and his perfect appreciation of the vital importance of his position. Night put an end to the operations here, and all the troops who had been engaged in this contest slept on the muddy field, without shelter, and many without food. Notwithstanding the report I received from General Heintzelman, during the night, that General Hooker's division had suffered so much that it could not be relied on next day, and that Kearney's could not do more than hold its own without re-enforcements—being satisfied that the result of Hancock's engagement was to give us possession of the decisive point of the battlefield during the night, I countermanded the order for the advance of the
divisions of Sedgwick and Richardson, and directed them to return to York
town, to proceed to West Point by water. Our loss during the day, the greater part of which was sustained by Hooker's division, was as follows: Killed, 456; wounded, 1,400; missing, 372; total, 2,228. On the next morning we found the enemy's position abandoned, and occupied Fort Magruder and the town of Williamsburg, which was filled with the enemy's wounded, to whose assistance eighteen of their surgeons were sent by General J. E. Johnston, the officer in command. Several guns and caissons, which the enemy could not carry off on account of the mud, were secured. Colonel Averill was sent forward at once with a strong cavalry