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the vessels were originally ordered to your positions will be good in a defensive rendezvous mainly at Annapolis ; but upon point of view. You may find it advisable the evacuation of Manassas and the to place one division on or near the road batteries of the lower Potomac by the leading to Yorktown from Newport News enemy, it became more convenient to the other upon that leading to Yorktown embark the troops and meterial at Alex- direct from Fort Monroe. If you find that andria, and orders to that effect were at the nature of the country will permit easy once given.
communication and mutual support between In making the preliminary arrangements the two divisions, it will be best to place for the movement it was determined that one on each road. It will be best to rethe first corps, Gen. McDowell's, should main pretty near the fort for the present, move as a unit first, and effect a landing in order to give the impression that our either at the Sand-box, some four miles object is to attack Norfolk rather than south of Yorktown, in order to turn all | Yorktown. • You will do well, however, the enemy's defences at Ship point, How to push strong reconnoissances well to the ard's bridge, Big Bethel, &c., or else, should front to ascertain the position of the enemy existing circumstances render it preferable, and his pickets. I will, as soon as possiland on the Gloucester side of York river ble, re-enforce you by the 3d division of and move on West Point.
your corps, and it is probable that a part The transports, however, arrived slowly or the whole of the 4th corps will also move and few at a time. In order, therefore, to from Fort Monroe. This will probably be expedite matters, I decided to embark the determined before your disembarcation is army by divisions, as transports arrived, completed, and you will be informed accor. keeping army corps together as much as dingly. possible, and to collect the troops at Fort "My desire would be to make no impor Monroe. In determining the order of em-tant move in advance until we are full, barcation, convenience and expedition were prepared to follow it up and give the enemy especially consulted, except that the first no time to recover. corps was to be embarked last, as I inten- ! “The quartermaster of your corps will ded to move it in mass to its point of dis- receive detailed instructions in regard to embarcation, and to land it on either bank land transportation from Gen. Van Vliet. of the York, as might then be determined. “It will be advisable to mobilize your
On the 17th of March, Hamilton's divi- corps with the least possible delay, and sion, of the 3d corps, embarked at Alexan- have it prepared for an advance. I have dria, and proceeded to Fort Monroe, with directed extra clothing, ammunition, &c., the following orders :
to be sent to Fort Monroe, so that all de“ Washington, D. C., March 17, 1862.
ficiencies may be supplied without delay.
“Please report to me frequently and “You will, on your arrival at Fort Mou- |
u | fully the condition of things on the new roe, report to Gen. Wool, and request him
ool, and request him field of operations, and whatever intellito assign you ground for encamping your
our gence you gain as to the enemy. division. You will remain at Fort Mon
“Engage guides in sufficient numbers at roe until further orders from Gen. McClel
once, and endeavor to send out spies. lan. Should Gen. Wool require the services | "Lam very truly yours of your division in repelling an attack, you
GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, will obey his orders and use every effort to
“Major-Gen. Com. carry out his views.
“Brig.-Gen. S. P. HEINTZELMAN, “R. B. MARCY, Chief of Staff.
“Com. 3d Corps.” * Gen. C. S. Hamilton, Com. Division." On the 22d of March, as soon as trans
The remaining divisions embarked as portation was ready, Gen. Fitz John rapidly as transports could be supplied. Porter's division, of the same corps, em
| On the 1st of April I embarked with the barked. Gen. Heintzelman was ordered headquarters on the steamer Commodore. to accompany it under the following in- , and reached Fort Monroe on the afternoon structions :
of the 2d.
In consequence of the delay in the arri. “ HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, val of the horse transports at Alexandria,
“Seminary, March 22d, 1862. but a small portion of the cavalry had « GENERAL: Upon the disembarcation of arrived, and the artillery reserve had not Porter's division at Fort Monroe, I have yet completed its disembarcation to request that you will move your two I found there the 3d Pennsylvania divisions, Porter's and Hamilton's, some cavalry and the 5th regular cavalry; the three or four miles out from the fort to find 2d regular cavalry and a portion of the 1st good camping places, where wood and had arrived, but not disembarked. So few water can be readily obtained, and where I wagons had arrived that it was not possi
ble to move. Casey's division at all for named, in all about 58,000 men and 100 several days, while the other divisions were guns, besides the division of artillery. obliged to move with scant supplies.
Richardson's and Hooker's divisions of As to the force and position of the enemy the 2d and 3d corps bad not arrived, and the information then in our possession was Cascy's division of the 4th corps was una. vague and untrustworthy. Much of it was ble to move for want of wagons. obtained from the staff officers of Gen. Before I left Washington an order had Wool, and was simply to the effect that been issued by the War Department placYorktown was surrounded by a continuous ing Ft. Monroe and its dependencies under line of earthworks, with strong water bat- my control, and authorizing me to draw teries on the York river, and garrisoned by from the troops under Gen. Wool a division not less than 15,000 troops, under command of about 10,000 men, which was to be asof Gen. J. B. Magruder. Maps which had signed to the 1st corps. been prepared by the topographical engi. During the night of the 3rd I received a neers under Gen. Wool's command, were telegram from the Adj. Gen. of the army, furnished me, in which the Warwick river stating that, by the President's order, I was represented as flowing parallel to, but was deprived of all control over Gen. not crossing the road from Newport News Wool and the troops under his command, to Williamsburg, making the so-called and forbidden to detach any of his troops Mulberry Island a real island; and we had without his sanction. no information as to the true course of the This order left me without any base of Warwick across the Peninsula, nor of the operations under my control, and to this forinidable line of works which it covered. | day I am ignorant of the causes which led
Information which I had collected during to it. the winter placed Gen. Magruder's com On my arrival at Fort Monroe the mand at from 15,000 to 20,000 men, inde- James river was declared by the naval pendently of Gen. Huger's force at Norfolk, authorities closed to the operations of their estimated at about 15,000
vessels by the combined influence of the It was also known that there were enemy's batteries on its banks and the constrong defensive works at or near Williams-federate steamers Merrimac, Yorktown, burg.
Jamestown, and Teazer. Flag-Officer Knowing that General Huger could Goldsborough, then in command of the easily gpare some troops to re-enforce United States squadron in Hampton roads, Yorktown, that he had indeed done so, and regarded it (and no doubt justly) as his thai Johnston's army of Manassas could be highest and most imperative duty to watch brought rapidly by the James and York and neutralize the Merrimac; and as he rivers to the same point, I proposed to designed using his most powerful vessels invest that town without delay
in a contest with her, he did not feel able The accompanying map of Col. Cram, to detach to the assistance of the army a U. S. Topographical Engineers, attached suitable force to attack the water batteries to Gen. Wool's staff, given to me as the at Yorktown and Gloucester. All this was result of several months' labor, indicated contrary to what had been previously stathe feasibility of the design. It was also ted to me, and materially affected my an object of primary importance to reach plans. the vicinity of Yorktown before the enemy At no time during the operations against was re-enforced sufficiently to evable him Yorktown was the navy prepared to lend to hold in force his works at Big Bethel, us any material assistance in its reduction Howard's bridge, Ship point, &c., on the until after our land batteries had partially direct road to Yorktown and Young's mills, silenced the works. on the road from Newport News. This I had hoped, let me say, by rapid move. was the more urgent, as it was now evidentments, to drive before me or capture the that some days must elapse before the enemy on the Peninsula, open the James first corps could arrive
river, and press on to Richmond before he Everything possible was done to hasten should be materially re-enforced from other the disembarcation of the cavalry, artillery, portions of the territory. As the narrative and wagons in the harbor; and on the 3d proceeds the causes will be developed the orders of march were given for the which frustrated these apparantly wellfollowing day.
| grounded expectations. There were at Fort Monroe and in its I determined then to move the two divivicinity on the 3d, ready to move, two sions of the 4th corps by the Newport divisions of the 3d corps, two divisions of News and Williamsburg road, to take up a the 4th corps, and one division of the 2d position between Yorktown and Williamscorps, and Sykes's brigade of regular in- burg, while the two divisions of the 3d fantry, together with Hunt's artillery re-l corps moved direct from Fort Monroe serve and the regiments of cavalry before i upou Yorktown; the reserves moving so as to support either corps as might prove ne- / vance,) by the James river road. The 5th cessary. I designed, should the works at regular cavalry, ternporarily assigned to Yorktown and Williamsburg offer a seri- this corps, will move with Smith's division, ous resistance, to land the 1st corps, re-en- which will encamp at Young's mills, forced if necessary, on the left bank of the throwing forward at least one brigade to York or on the Severn, to move it on the road from Big Bethel to Warwick, Gloucester and West Point, in order to take Couch's division will encamp at Fisher's in reverse whatever force the enemy might creek. have on the Peninsula, and compel him to i " The reserve cavalry, artillery and inabandon his positions.
fantry will move at 8.30 a. m., by the New In the commencement of the movement market bridge, to Big Bethel, where it will from Fort Monroe, serious difficulties were encamp. On the march, it will keep in encountered from the want of precise topo- rear of Sedgwick's division." graphical information as to the country in The following is an extract from the or in advance. Correct local maps were not der issued on the 4th, for the march of the to be found, and the country, though 5th: knowo in its general feature, we found to “The following movements of the army be inaccurately described in essential par. will be carried out to-morrow (5th:) ticulars in the only maps and geographic “Gen. Keyes will move forward Smith's ca! memoirs or papers to which access division at 6 a, m., via Warwick Court could be had. Erroneous courses to House and the road leading near the old streams and roads were frequently given, ship yard, to the ‘Half-way house' on the and no dependence could be placed on the Yorktown and Williamsburg road. information thus derived. This difficulty “Gen. Couch's division will march at 6 has been found to exist with respect to 1 a. m., to close up on Gen. Smith's division most portions of the State of Virginia, at the • Half-way House.' through which my military operations have! “Gen. Keyes's command will occupy and extended. Reconnoissances, frequently hold the narrow dividing ridge near the under fire, proved the only trustworthy Hall-way House,' so as to prevent the es. sources of information. Negroes, however cape of the garrison at Yorktown by land truthful their reports, possessed or were and prevent re-enforcem ints being thrown able to communicate very little accurate iu. and no comprehensive topographical infor- “Gen. Heintzelman will move forward mation,
Gen. Porter's two rear brigades at 6 a. m., On the 3d, the following orders were upon the advance guard. when the entire given for the movement of the 4th:
will advance to a point about two and “ Porter's and Hamilton's divisions and three quarters miles from Yorktown, where Averill's cavalry of the 3d corps, and Sed- the road turas abruptly to the north, and wick's division of the 2d corps, under Brig- where a road comes in from Warwick adier General Heintzelman, commanding Court House. 3d corps, will move to-morrow in the fol. “Gen. Hamilton's division, will move at lowing order: Porter's division with Aver- 6 a. m, and follow Gen. Porter's division, ills's cavalry, at 6 a. m., over the Newmar- camping as near it as possible. ket and New bridges to Big Bethel and Gen. Sedgivick's division, will march at Howard's bridge. This division will send 5 a. m., as far as the Warwick's road, forward to the batteries where the Ship which enters the main Yorktown road near Point road intersects the main Yorktown Dr. Power's house, and will await further road, a sufficient force to hold that point, orders. and cut off the garrision of the Ship Point “ The reserve will march at 6 a. m., upon batteries. The whole division may be used the main Yorktown road, halting for furfor this purpose if necessary, and if possi- ther orders at Dr. Powers's house; the ioble the batteries should be occupied by our fantry leading, the artillery following next, troops to-morrow. The portion of the di- ! and the cavalry in rear. vision not necessary for this purpose will “Gen. Sedgwick's division, will for the encamp at Howard's bridge
present, act with the reserve, and he will “ Hamilton's division will march at 7 a. receive orders from headquarters." m. by the New bridge road to Big Bethel, In giving these orders of march for the and will encamp on Howard's creek. 4th and 5th, it was expected that there
"Sedwick's division will march at 8 a. would be no serious opposition at Big m, by the Newmarket bridge, taking the Bethel, and that the advance of the 3d direct road to Big Bethel, and will also en corps beyond that point would force the camp at Howard's bridge.
enemy to evacuate the works at Young's "Brig. Gen. Keyes, commanding 4th mills, while our possession of the latter corps, will move with Smith's and Couch's would make it necessary for him to aban. division at 6 a, m., (Smith's division in ad-don those at Howard's bridge, and the advance thence on Yorktown would place I been planned-I may confess to having Ship point in our possession, together with been shocked at this order, which, with its garrison, unless they abandoned it that of the 31st ultimo and that of the 3d, promptly. The result answered the ex- removed nearly 60,000 men from my compectation.
mand, and reduced my force by more than During the afternoon of the 4th, Gen. one-third, after its task had been assigned ; Keyes obtained information of the presence its operations planned ; its fighting begun. of some 5,000 to 8,000 of the enemy in a To me the blow was most discouraging. strong position at Lee's mills. The nature It frustrated all my plans for impending of that position in relation to the Warwick operations. It fell when I was too deeply not being at that time understood, I in- committed to withdraw. It left me incastructed Gen. Keyes to attack and carry pable of continuing operations which had this position upon coming in front of it. been begun. It compelled the adoption
Farly in the afternoon of the 5th the of another, a different and a less effective advance of each column was brought to a plan of campaign. It made rapid and balt, that of Heintzelman (Porter's di- brilliant operations impossible. It was a vision) in front of Yorktown, after over- fatal error. coming some resistance at Big Bethel and It was now, of course, out of my power Howard's bridge; that of Keyes (Smith's to turn Yorktown by West Point. I had, division) unexpectedly before the enemy's therefore, no choice left but to attack it works at Lee's mills, where the road from directly in front, as I best could with the Newport News to Williamsburg crosses force at my command. Warwick river.
Reconnoissances made under fire on that The progress of each column had been and the following day determined that the retarded by heavy rains on that day, which sources of the Warwick river were near had made the roads almost impassable to Yorktown, commanded by its guns, while the infantry of Keyes's column, and im- that stream, for some distance from its passable to all but a small portion of the mouth on the James river, was controlled artillery, while the ammunition, provisions by the confederate gunboats; that the and forage could not be brought up at all. fords bad been destroyed by dams, the
When Gen. Keyes approached Lee's approaches to which were generally mills his left flank was exposed to a sharp through dense forests and deep swamps, artillery fire from the further bank of the and defended by exrensive and formidable Warwick, and upon reaching the vicinity works; that timber felled for defensive of the mill he found it altogether stronger purposes and the flooding of the roads, than was expected, unapproachable by caused by the dams, had made these works reason of the Warwick river, and incapable apparently inaccessible and impossible to of being carried by assault.
turn; that Yorktown was strongly forti. The troops composing the advance of fied, armed and garrisoned, and connected each column were, during the afternoon, with the defences of the Warwick by forts under a warm artillery fire, the sharp- and intrenchments, the ground in front of shooters even of the right column being which was swept by the guns of Yorktown. engaged when covering reconnoissances. It was also ascertained that the garrisons
It was at this stage and monent of the had been, and were daily being re-enforced campaign that the following telegram was by troops from Norfolk and the army sent to me:
under Gen. J. E. Johnston. Heavy rains " ADJUTANT Gexeral's OFFICE,
made the roads to'Fort Monroe impassable, April 4, 1862.
and delayed the arrival of troops, ammoni. “ By direction of the President, Gen. for several days the sailing of transports
tion and supplies, while storms prevented McDowell's army corps has been detached
from Hampton roads, and the establishfrom the force under your immediate com- ment of depots on the creeks of York mand, and the general is ordered to report river, near the army. to the Secretary of War. Letter by mail.
The ground bordering the Warwick river “L. THOMAS,
is covered by very dense and extensive “Adj. Gen.
forests, the clearings being small and few, “ Gen. McClellar."
This, with the comparative flatness of the The President having promised, in an country, and the alertness of the enemy, interview following his order of March 31, everywhere in force, rendered thorough withdrawing Blenker's division of 10.000 reconnoissances slow, dangerous and diffimen from my command, that nothing of cult, yet it was impossible otherwise to the sort should be repeated--that I might determine whether an assault was any. rest assured that the campaign should where practicable, or whether the more proceed, with no further deductions from tedious but sur operations of a siege must the forci' upon which its operations had l be resorted to.
I made, on the 6th and 7th, close per- speedily unde: my command as heretofore, sonal reconnoissances of the right and left or as if the n'w departments had not been of the enemy's positions, which, with infor-created. mation acquired already, convinced me “Since my arrangements were made for that it was best to prepare for an assault, this campaign, at least (50,000) fifty thog. by the preliminary employment of heavy sand men have been taken from my comguns, and some siege operations. Instant mand. Since my despatch of the 5th instor assault would have been simple folly. On five divisions have been in close observathe 7th I telegraphed to the President as tion of the enemy, and frequently exfollows:
changing shots. When my present com“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE Potomac.
mand all joins, I shall have about (85,000)
| eighty-five thousand men for duty, from “ April 7, 1862.
which a large force must be taken for “Your telegram of yesterday is received.
guards, scouts, &c. With this army I could In reply, I have the honor to state that
assault the enemy's works, and perhaps my entire force for duty amounts to only I carry them: but were I in possession of about (85,000) eighty-five thousand men. their intrenchments, and assailed by double Gen. Wool's command, as you will observe my numbers. I should have no fears as to from the accompanying order, has been the result. taken out of my control, although he has “Under the circumstances that have most cheerfully co-operated with me. The been developed since we arrived here. I only use that can be made of his command feel fully impressed with the conviction is to protect my communications in rear that here is to be fought the great battle of this point. At this time only fifty-three that is to decide the existing contest. I thousand men have joined me, but they shall, of course, commence the attack as are coming up as rapidly as my means of soon as I can get up my siege train, and transportation will permit.
shall do all in my power to carry the “Please refer to my dispatch to the
enemy's works, but to do this with a rea. Secretary of War to-night, for the details sonable degree of certainty requires, in my of our present situation.
judgment, that I should, if possible, have “GEO. B. MCCLELLAN, Major-Gen.
at least the whole of the 1st corps to land "To the PRESIDENT, Washington D. C.” upon the Severn river and attack Glouces. On the same day I sent the following: ter in the rear.
“My present strength will not admit of "HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, la detachment sufficient for this purpose,
“ IN FRONT OF YORKTOWN, I without materially impairing the efficiency
“ April 7, 1862–7 p. m. l of this column. Flag-Officer Goldsbo “ Your telegram of yesterday arrived rough thinks the works too strong for his here while I was absent, examining the available vessels, unless I can turn Glouenemy's righi, which I did pretty closely. cester. I send, by mail, copies of his let.
“ The whole line of the Warwick, which ter and one of the commander of the gunreally heads within a mile of Yorktown, is boats here. strongly defended by detached redoubts
“GEO. B. MOCLELLAN. and other fortifications, armed with heavy
“Major Gen. and light guns. The approaches, except “Hon. E. M. Stanton, Sec. of War." at Yorktown, are covered by the Warwick, over which there is but one, or, at most, I had provided a small siege train and two passages, both of which are covered moderate supplies of intrenching tools for by strong batteries. It will be necessary such a contingency as the present. Immeto resort to the use of heavy guns, and diate steps were taken to secure the neces. some siege operations, before we assault. sary additions. While the engineer officers All the prisoners state that Gen. J. E. were engaged in ascertaining the char. Johnston arrived at Yorktown yesterday acter and strength of all the defences, and with strong re enforcements. It seems the configuration of the ground in front clear that I shall have the whole force of of Yorktown, in order to determine the the enemy on my hands-probably not less point of attack and to develop the ap. than (100,000) one hundred thousand men, proaches, the troops were occupied in openand probably more. In consequence of the ing roads to the depots established at the loss of Blenker's division and the 1st corps, nearest available points, on branches of my force is probably less than that of the York rii:r. Troops were brought to the enemy, while they have all the advantage front as rapidly as possible, and on the of position.
| 10th of April the army was posted as fol. “I am under great obligations to you for lows: the offer that the whole force and material Heintzelman's corps, composed of Porof the government will be as fully and as ter's, Hooker's, and Hamilton's divisions,