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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 River. 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.
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
wing of the army by two contrabands. The fugitives bringing the news came to the officer of the picket line, the Lieut. Colonel of the Thirty-third, before daylight, and stated that on the Thursday evening previous the artillery had been removed ; on Friday the wagon-trains and a portion of the troops, and that that night “they had all been leaving.” They were immediately conveyed to General Hancock's quarters.
Men of straw were posted as sentinels on the ramparts, and “Quaker Guns” had supplanted the formidable artillery, which for weeks had rained down its iron hail on the besiegers.
Not long after, the various Regiments commenced crossing, and by noon the entire Division was over. At the same time other portions of the army were crossing at various points on the right, and General Stoneman, with his cavalry and flying artillery, was started in pursuit of the enemy. General Hooker followed at supporting distance, with his Division. Generals Sumner, Heintzelman and Keys' corps, to which Smith's Division belonged, were also pushed forward.
BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG.
BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG.
FOUGHT MONDAY, MAY 5. AFTER crossing Warwick Creek, Sunday, May 4th, Smith's Division immediately pushed forward in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. The Thirty-third was ordered to halt near one of the rebel works, and, owing to the forgetfulness of an Aid, did not resume the march again until 5 o'clock P. M. Darkness coming on, and not being able to ascertain the whereabouts of the Division, the Regiment bivouaced for the night seven miles east of Williamsburg.
Several months before, the enemy had constructed a line of defence across the Peninsula, about two miles back of this city, consisting of a very extended entrenchment, called Fort Magruder, which covered the high road from Yorktown, at a narrow and easily defended point, and of five heavy square earthworks on the north side, and two others on the south.
On retreating from Yorktown, the rebels left several thousand men in these works to check our pursuit, and enable the bulk of their army to get across the Chickahominy. Smith's Division came up Sunday evening, as likewise did Hooker's, and other troops of Heintzelman's Corps, which was further to the left.