by George L. Kilmer, Co. D, 27TH New York Volunteers.
The withdrawal of General McClellan
's army from Malvern Hill
, a position that seemed to be impregnable, was a surprise to the men in the ranks, and for the first time in the campaign they became discouraged.
During July 2d rain fell copiously, and when the columns arrived at Harrison's Landing
the fields were soaked and the soil was quickly reduced to paste by the men and trains.
The infantry and the division wagons and batteries were drawn up in an immense field of standing wheat near the Harrison mansion, also called Berkeley
The grain was trampled into the soil, or laid down so as to serve under the tents as protection from the wet ground.
Neither wood nor boards were to be had, and the army was exceedingly uncomfortable.
Transports in the James
landed rations, which proved a great blessing, since many of the men had not had food in forty-eight hours. The rain continued all night, and the flimsy wheat foors were soon floating in pools of water; besides, the soil would not hold the tent-pins, and in the morning the tents were nearly all down, exposing men whose beds were sinking deeper and deeper into the mud to the pelting rain.
About 8 o'clock, while some of the men were yet asleep and others were attempting to get breakfast, the camp was startled by a sudden outburst of artillery fire, and shells came whistling over the plain.
The shots were scattering, and seemed to be directed principally at the shipping.
The troops were summoned to arms, but, as very little damage was done by the shells, the affair was soon turned to account as a joke.
General J. E. B. Stuart
for some days had been operating in the center of the Peninsula
, and learning of the exposed position of McClellan
's army on the James
had hastened there and stationed his battery near Westover Church, across Herring Creek
, north of the landing.
A few shells from our gun-boats caused his guns to speedily shift their position, and General Nathan Kimball
's division (just arrived from the Shenandoah
), advanced and cleared the field after some lively skirmishing.
The army immediately took position on the high ground about Harrison's Landing
, and went into camp on an intrenched line several miles in extent.
The air was filled with rumors about future operations.
To the soldiers McClellan
was less a hero now, perhaps, than before, but he was more a martial leader than ever.
The unusual strain imposed upon the men, the malarial character of the region around Richmond
, the lack of proper nourishment, the want of rest, combined with the excitement of the change of base, and the midsummer heat prostrated great numbers.
In my notes written at the time, it is stated that 50 of the regiment, about 15 per cent of the duty men, were sick in the camp hospital July 24th.
This was in addition to the casualties of 162 sustained in the “Seven days.”
According to the report of Surgeon Jonathan Letterman
, Medical Director
XI., Part I., “Official Records
,” pp. 210-220), about 6000 sick were sent away soon after the army reached Harrison's Landing
, over 12,000 remaining in camp.
On July 30th, the report says, there were 12,000 sick with the army, and of these only 2000 were able to take the field.
Fortunately the Sanitary Commission hastened to our relief with tents, food, medical supplies, and competent nurses.
After the departure of Stuart
, July 4th, the army did not see or hear the enemy, with a slight exception, until search was made for him toward Richmond
early in August.
The exception was on the night of Thursday, July 31st.
About midnight the whole army was startled by a lively cannonade and by shells flying over the lines, some bursting within them.
The troops turned out under arms, and it was soon discovered that a mild fusillade from across the James
was being directed on the shipping and on the supply depots near the camps.1
Comparatively little damage was done.
The next day a Union force was thrown across the river to seize Coggins's Point
, where the elevated ground favored that style of attack on our camps.
The army soon became restless for want of work, and there was great rejoicing at the prospect of a forward movement.
On the 2d of August, Hooker
marched a portion of his division to Malvern Hill
, and on the 4th extended his advance to Charles City Cross-roads, near Glendale
But orders came to withdraw from the Peninsula
, so we marched to Williamsburg
, Newport News, and Fort Monroe
The Fifth and Third Corps embarked, on August 20th and 21st, for Aquia Creek
; the Sixth (August 23d and 24th), and the Second (August 26th), and the Fourth for Alexandria
, except Peck
's division, which remained at Yorktown
Dummies and Quaker guns left in the works at Harrison's Landing on the evacuation by the Army of the Potomac.
From a sketch made at the time.|