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Williamsburg.- Condition of the Roads.- Pamunkey River
Contrabands.- Arrival of General Franklin.
The retreat of the enemy left Williamsburg in our possession. No place in the Old Dominion is fraught with more historic interest than this city, it having been the first incorporated town in the State; the Capital until 1769, and the seat of the Royal Government prior to the revolution of 1776. It is now the Capital of James City County, situated midway between the James and York Rivers, sixty miles east of Richmond and sixty-eight north-west of Norfolk. Among other public buildings is the Insane Retreat, which in years past has been one of the most popular institutions of the kind in the country. The College of William and Mary, founded here in the time of King William, is, next to Harvard, the oldest literary institution in the United States, having been projected during the year 1693. King William gave it an endowment of twenty thousand dollars and twenty thousand acres of land, together with a revenue of a penny a pound on tobacco exported from Virginia and Maryland. Other endowments were 'afterwards added. The College buildings, churches, and many private dwellings were used as hospitals for the confederate wounded.
After a delay of three or four days, in order to bring up supplies, the army resumed the march Friday May 9th, for the Chickahominy. The Thirty-third broke camp early in the morning, and proceeding through Williamsburg, bivouacked for the night, at “Burnt Ordinary,” a small hamlet some fifteen miles beyond. The next day it moved on again, encamping near New Kent Court House.
It was near this point that Gen. Stoneman had overtaken the rear guard of the fleeing enemy, who were drawn up in line of battle with a section of artillery to receive him. Evidences of the conflict were seen on every hand, and many of our own and the rebel wounded were scattered about in the neighboring farm-houses. While tarrying here, the roar of Gen. Franklin's artillery at West Point, seven miles away, could be distinctly heard, and the result of the battle, which was made known the next day, increased the buoyancy and confidence of our troops.
Owing to the rains, passage of trains, and steady tramp of men, the roads had now become reduced to a terrible condition. Scattered all along the route, were gun-carriages, caissons, ambulances and supply wagons, stuck fast in the mud or lying disabled by the road-side. Horses and mules, either dead or dying from exhaustion, were seen every few rods, and the ground was strewn with guns, cartridgeboxes, knapsacks and clothing, which the fleeing enemy had cast aside. Nearly two weeks time were occupied in reaching the Chickahominy, between forty and fifty miles distant from Williamsburg.
Smith's division resumed the march again on the 10th, reaching “Cumberland Court House" the same day, and remained there until the 13th, when it proceeded towards “Cumberland Landing," on the Pamunkey River...
A beautiful and after the long and tedious march exhilarating-sight here met the eye. Stretching far away to the left and front was a vast plain, variegated with green pastures, and field after field of cereals yellowing into maturity. To the right the tortuous Pamunkey appeared, skirted with dense forests and rich pasture lands, and bearing upon its sluggish waters Federal transports of every description. For the first time in a twelvemonth, vessels flying the stars and stripes were pursuing its serpentine course. No sooner had the order been given to halt and stack arms, than the soldiers began to scatter in every direction, some to bathe in the river, others to enjoy a siesta under the shade trees, or indulge in a pipe of the royal weed, that never failing solace for a soldier's griefs.
Reports of every description concerning operations elsewhere were served up to the troops here; one to the effect that Gen. Brooks with his whole brigade had been captured, another that we had made prisoners of Gen. Magruder and most of his force. The further we advanced the more filled the air became with these
“Flying rumors gathering as they rolled.” Moving five miles up the river, Col. Taylor's