by forts and intrenchments, the ground in front of which was swept by the guns of Yorktown
After close personal reconnoissance, and after careful reflection and consultation, General McClellan
determined not to attempt to carry the lines of Yorktown
by immediate assault, but to assail it by the regular operations of a siege.
As this decision has been severely criticized by writers who conduct campaigns in their studies and judge of military movements and military men by the light of subsequent events, it may be well to pause for a moment and consider briefly the grounds of his determination.
He had with him at that time-General Franklin
's division not having then arrived — but a little over fifty thousand men. The number of the Confederate forces was not known; but General Johnston
had reached Yorktown
on the 6th of April with heavy reinforcements, and it was believed that the whole force of the enemy was, or soon would be, not less than a hundred thousand men. Our troops were admirable troops, as their subsequent conduct abundantly showed; but they were comparatively new; and nothing tries the temper and nerve of the soldier so much as the assault of a strongly-defended place.
, Chief Engineer
of the army, whose position entitled his opinion to the highest consideration, expressed his judgment that the works could not with any reasonable degree of certainty be carried by assault.
There are copious extracts from his Report embodied in that of