Page images

the emancipation of the slave, the people ed by old friendships and traditions. He of Newbern themselves, learning to ap- could not be expected to introduce the preciate the situation, became engaged new revolutionary policy which the rein teaching the negroes, that they might bellion had made a necessity in the be better members of society, and on bet- State. This was more especially felt by ter terms with the whites in the change him when the President's emancipation of law and society already apparent. proclamation of the 1st of January, 1862,

There was no occasion to judge came into effect, and new military operharshly of Governor Stanley. He left ations cast bis limited powers into the California with patriotic intentions, and shade. He then resigned his position, was, doubtless, disappointed at finding nor did the Government think it nehis native State so entirely out of reach cessary to appoint a successor in his of his friendly authority. In his efforts place. at conciliation he was naturally govern



APRIL-MAY, 1862.

The resolution having been fully de- command. The Prince de Joinville, in termined upon to transport the main por- his pamphlet reviewing the campaign, tion of the army of the Potomac to the estimates the force, consisting of eleven lower Chesapeake for active operations divisions of infantry, 8,000 to 10,000 against Richmond, the pursuit of the strong, one division of regulars, infantry enemy beyond Manassas was discon- and cavalry, 6,000, with 350 pieces of tinued, and the necessary measures were artillery-at, probably, 120,000 men. taken for the embarkation from Alexan- It was calculated from official returns by dria, the abandonment by the enemy of the secretary of war, on the 6th of April, their works on the Potomac giving that that General McClellan had then with route, of course, the preference to An- him over 100,000. The latter himself napolis, which had been selected while says that the whole number before the the passage up the river was interrupted arrival of Franklin's division, which arby the rebel batteries. There was some rived in transports before Yorktown on delay for the want of an adequate num- the 14th, was 85,800. General Barry, ber of transport vessels, so that a fort-chief of artillery, reports the embarkation night was consumed in forwarding the for the peninsula between March 15th troops to Fortress Monroe. The corps and April 1st, of 52 batteries of field arof General Heintzelman leading the way, tillery, of 299 guns. Franklin's and arrived at Fortress Monroe, and was McCall's divisions of McDowell's corps, landed on the peninsula on the 23d of subsequently sent, added eight batteries March. It was followed by successive of 44 guns, making a grand total* of field detachments till the arriral of General artillery at any time with the army of McClellan on the 2d of April. There is the Potomac on the peninsula, of 60 bata curious question as to the entire num

* General Barry to A. A. G. General Williams. Wasbber of troops thus gathered under his ington, Sept. 1. 1862.

[blocks in formation]

teries of 313 guns. The largest number more let me tell you that is indispensable of men General McClellan had at any to you that you strike a blow. I am time fit for duty on the peninsula he has powerless to help this. You will do me estimated at 107,000 men.* It was his the justice to remember I always wished desire at the outset that the number not going down the bay in search of a should be increased by the whole num- field, instead of fighting at or near Manber of McDowell's corps, but this was assas, as only shifting, and not surmountreversed by the President, in accordance ing a difficulty ; that we should find the with his original instructions for the pro- same enemy, and the same, or equal intection of the capital. General McDow- trenchments at either place. The counell, in consequence, instead of carrying try will not fail to note—is noting now, his force to the peninsula as he expected, that the present liesitation to move upon presently advanced and occupied the an intrenched position is but the story line of the Rappalannock at Fredericks- of Manassas repeated." burg

Yorktown, indeed, was made by the Prompt action was expected from the energy and concentration of the rebel army of the Potomac in its new position ; resources, in a short time, a little Manbut the public was again destined to be assas. When the Union army, traversdisappointed. When General Heintzel- ing the twenty-four miles which lay beman first landed he obtained information tween it and their landing place, apthat the enemy had not more than 10,000 | proached the spot, further progress troops at Yorktown and on the peninsula. appeared everywhere blocked by deGeneral McClellan states that he esti- fences. The naval entrance to York mated the rebel General Magruder's river was successfully opposed by forcommand in that quarter at from 15,000 midable batteries at the town, and at the to 20,000. It became afterwards that opposite Gloucester Point, a line of officer's title to distinction that, at this works immediately defended the town important crisis, he baffled the great itself on the land side, connected with a Union army with so comparatively an chain of defences which, following Warinferior force. On the 5th of April, when wick creek across the peninsula, rested General McClellan's force was getting in on James river, which, in turn, was efmotion toward Yorktown, General Wool, fectively guarded by the power or terror in command at Fortress Monroe, tele- of the redoubtable Merrimac. The first graphed to the secretary of war: "All advance of the Union troops was withgoes on very smoothly. I do not believe out any formidable opposition. A reconthe army of the Potomac will find many noisance, previous to General McCleltroops to contend with.” The impatience lan's arrival, beyond Big Bethel, found of the country for action, and the danger the earthworks at that place, the scene of delay was well expressed by President of one of the early conflicts of the war, Lincoln in a letter to General McClellan, deserted.

It was not till the army, on the 9th, “I suppose the whole force moving in two columns, General Keyes which has gone forward to you is with with three divisions to the left, toward you by this time, and if so, I think it is Warwick, General McClellan, with the the precise time for you to strike a blow. rest of the forces on the direct road to By delay the enemy will steadily gain on Yorktown, came upon the chain of rebel you—that is, he will gain faster by forti- fortifications, that the serious work befications and reinforcements than you can fore them became apparent. It will, by reinforcements alone. And once probably, long remain a subject of dis* Testimony bofore the Congressional Committee, Feb. cussion whether a bold push at the out

set, charging the enemy's line in force, might not have gained possession of the of the war constantly reproduced. Gentown. There were difficulties, however, eral McClellan, himself, admits that the in the way, in the extent, and unexpected maps of the peninsula proved entirely strength of the fortifications, and the inaccurate, frequently misleading the arhastily increased number of their de- my, while he had quite misapprehended fenders. The Confederates, apprised of the nature of the soil, expecting to find their danger, had sent large reinforce- it more favorable than it was. ments to Yorktown, wbere General Jo- In the meantime, on the morning of seph E. Johnston had arrived the day the 11th, the Merrimac having been rebefore the appearance of the Union ar- paired at the Norfolk navy yard, and my in its front. General McClellan, in for the last few days stationed at Craney fact, soon became convinced that the pru- island, came out into the open waters of dent course before him was the more de- the bay, accompanied by a fleet of six liberate method of a regular siege. He gunboats, including the Jamestown and had intended that the corps of General Yorktown, and proceeded towards James McDowell should be engaged in turning river. Arriving midway at the entrance the position by landing beyond Gloucester to the river, the Jamestown, leaving Point, and moving on the left bank of York Newport News on her left, captured two river, to the head of navigation at West brigs and a schooner anchored near the Point; but that force, as we have seen, shore. The prizes, transports laden with had been employed in another direction. hay and sutler's stores, were towed to

28, 1863,

From the first arrival of the troops Elizabeth river. While this was going before Yorktown, on the 6th of April on, there was a great flutter of expectathere was more or less skirmishing of the tion at Fortress Monroe of another consharpshooters—Berdan's notable corps, test, for which preparation had been with the enemy in their entrenchments made, between the Merrimac and Moniin front of the Union line. Days were tor, the latter, with the Naugatuck, Ocpast in cautiously reconnoitering the ene- torara, and other gunboats, lying at iny's position, and in the various prepa- hand prepared for action should the farations of the camp. To add to the em-mous iron-clad advance to a favorable barrassments, heavy rain storms, unusual position. In the afternoon, however, for the season, aggravated the ordinary the Merrimac, content with the recondifficulties of a campaign in an enemy's noisance and spoils of the day, returned country, which, at the best, afforded few to Elizabeth river. Previous to retiring facilities to an invading enemy.

The she came down towards the Monitor and ground, imperfectly drained, would have Naugatuck, when several shots were exbecome entirely impracticable had not changed, at too great a distance, howthe skill and energy of the troops-par- ever, to be effective. The rebel fleet had ticularly the Maine and Michigan regi- shown itself, and its presence in the ments, conquered the defect by construct- vicinity appeared to be admitted as a ing with great toil a series of corduroy sufficient protection to the Confederates roads, over which the artillery could be on James river. transported. “The complete absence The next signal incident in this quarof all information in regard to the counter was an attempt on the centre of the try, and to the position of the enemy, lines of Warwick creek, at a point about the total ignorance under which we a mile above Lee's mills, where the width labored in regard to his movements, and of the stream being increased by a dam. the number of his troops,” are noticed by the enemy had a fortified earthwork, the Prince de Joinville, who shared the protected to the right and left by. a series fortunes of the campaign, as curious traits of rifle pits. A cleared space on the



side of the stream opposite the fort offer- der the command of their accomplished ed a convenient position for the Union artillery officer-covered the Vermontbatteries, while the surrounding woods er's advance. They marched steadily were favorable for bringing up troops to at the quick to the edge of the creek, the attack. The fort being silenced, the and plunged in, on the run. The water stream, though waist deep, it was thought deepened unexpectedly. The men were could be passed by the men. Early on soon wading to their breasts, their carthe morning of the 16th of April, accor- tridge-boxes slung up on their shoulders dingly, a brigade of Vermont troops, of and their muskets held up high. The General W. F. Smith's division, with moment they entered the stream, the Mott's battery, were advanced to the rebels swarmed on the edge of their riflespot, the latter taking position about pit, and rained a fire of bullets on the 1,200 yards from the fort. A sharp con- advancing line. The stream, as dammed, test ensued, with skirmishing of musketry was about twelve yards wide. The Veron the right and left, between the guns monters loaded and fired as they waded. of the battery and the fort, which, in two Their killed and wounded began to fall hours, ended in silencing the rebel work, from the instant of entering the water. at an expense to the assailants of three Many of the latter were sustained by men killed and four wounded. General their arms and the collars of their coats, McClellan then arrived on the ground, and so helped across, and laid down on and the position of affairs was thought the opposite side. The 3d, as soon as sufficiently favorable to continue the at- they emerged and got foot-hold, received tack in the afternoon. Mott's battery on the order to charge! With a yell, the right, reinforced by additional bat- with true Green Mountain ring in it, they teries on the left, were then advanced to dashed at the extended rifle-pit. At within a thousand yards of the work, and least a regiment of rebels broke from beopened a heavy fire, while three Ver- hind it, and ran into the redoubt in the mont regiments were brought up through rear, leaving the Vermonters in the pit. the woods. A gallant attempt was made For at least an hour they fought from by several companies of the 3d to cross here against overwhelming numbers, rethe stream below the dam and charge ceiving reinforcements in that time, first the intrenchments, but they were driven of four companies of the 6th Vermont, back by the superior fire of the enemy. and afterwards of four companies of the The 6th also dashed through the stream, 4th Vermont. They shot their foe prinand reached the opposite bank to be re- cipally through the head, and so supepulsed by the enemy's riflemen. The rior was their fire, and their pluck so 4th also made a similar unsuccessful at- impressive, that the rebels moved two tempt. No actions of the war have fur- additional regiments into the fort, and nished more striking instances of courage into a flanking position on the left of the and devotion than this daring passage of rifle-pit. Exposed now to a cross-fire, the stream by the brave Vermonters. as well as an increased fire in front, the The scene is thus described by a corres- Vermonters, though they wanted to stay, pondent: “At four o'clock in the after- had to go. In good order, covering noon, the four companies of the 3d were themselves behind trees, and fighting as called up, formed into line, and told by they went, they recrossed the stream, their colonel, in a pithy speech, that the carrying with them all their wounded work expected of them was to charge whose condition at all promised survival across the creek and take the enemy's of their hurts. Many were now shot in entrenchments. Ayre's guns—all of the the water, and drowned beyond all posbatteries, numbering 22 pieces, were un-sibility of help. The language of a Le

[ocr errors]

moille county boy, not sixteen years old, The Vermonters were saved from utWhy, sir, it was just like sap-boiling in ter destruction by the unintermitted and that stream--the bullets fell so thick,' is well directed fire of the batteries, which so expressive that I use it as a measure swept the enemy's works with great acof intensity. These brave men having curacy. The Union loss in this attack backed out of the deep water, forined on or reconnoisance, as it was afterward the dry land, and began the fight anew, called, was 35 killed, 120 wounded, and while many, not detailed, but volunteer- 9 missing. ing through impulses of soldierly devotion After this, the movements of the Union and personal affection, dashed into the army were confined to the regular operstream again and dragged out the wound- ations of a siege. Heavy rifled guns, ed, who were clinging to the trees, and and mortars of extraordinary calibre, sitting with their heads just out of water. were brought up under cover of the forJulian A. Scott, of the 3d Vermont, est, which protected the assailants from Company E, under sixteen years of age, the operations of the enemy. The direcwas one of these heroes. He pulled out tion of the siege was especially assigned no less than nine of bis wounded com- by the commander-in-chief, to General rades. He twice went under fire way Fitz John Porter, whose activity was across the stream, and brought back from manifest in every direction in forwarding the slope of the rifle pit John C. Backum, tlic preparations. Balloon ascents, in of his own company, who was shot which be personally made observations through the lungs. Ephraim Brown, who of the enemy's works, furnished many a was helping him, was himself shot through paragraph to the newspapers of the day. the thigh in the inside, and disabled. In one of these flights, shortly after dawn, Scott waded back, like the boy-hero he it is recorded that “when about one is, and brought him safely over. Among hundred feet above the ground the rope the incidents of the fight, was the recor- anchoring the balloon broke, and the ery from a fever of Sergeant Fletcher, of general sailed off south-westerly toward Company E, 3d Vermont, on the sick Richmond, at a greater speed than the list, and excused from duty, and the use army of the Potomac is moving. He he made of his temporary health. He was alone, but had sufficient calmness to crossed the stream and went through the pull the valve rope, and gradually defight—then, on his return, was among scended, reaching the ground in safety, those who went back and rescued the about three miles from camp." wounded. On his return to camp: he General Porter, a native of New went into hospital and resumed bis fever, Hampshire, was a graduate of West with aggravation. John Harrington, a Point, of 1845, when he entered the 2d beardless orphan boy of seventeen, un- artillery. He served in Mexico, and armed, went over and rescued out of the was wounded before the capital, and was rifle-pit a disabled comrade. All will breveted major for his gallantry in the recall the case of private William Scott, final actions of the war. He was subseof the 3d Vermont, sentenced by Mc- quently engaged at the military academy Clellan last fall to be shot for sleeping as an instructor of cavalry and artillery. on bis post, while on the Potomac, and In 1856 he was appointed assistant adjuwhom Simon Cameron, then secretary of tant general, with the rank of captain. war, saved from his

his rigorous fate. At the outset of the rebellion he was made Among the foremost across the creek, colonel of the 5th regular infantry, and and the first to be killed yesterday, was shortly after, a brigadier-general of volthis very man--as brave a soldier as

Correspondence Nero York Evening Post. In front of ever died on the field of battle."

Yorktown, April 11, 1862,

« PreviousContinue »