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[487]

Some of my objections to the position were, that its length was too great for our force; that it prevented offensive movements, except at great disadvantage; and that it was untenable after the guns of Yorktown were silenced-a result admitted to be inevitable by all our officers — from the enemy's great superiority in artillery. York River being thus opened, a large fleet of transports and five or six hundred batteaux would enable him to turn us in a few hours.

It seemed to me that there were but two objects in remaining in the Peninsula: the possibility of an advance upon us by the enemy; and gaining time, in which arms might be received and troops organized. I determined, therefore, to hold the position as long as it could be done without exposing our troops to the fire of the powerful artillery which, I doubted not, would be brought to bear upon them.

I believed that, after silencing our batteries on York River, the enemy would attempt to turn us by moving up to West Point by water.

Circumstances indicating that the enemy's batteries were nearly ready, I directed the troops to move toward Williamsburg on the night of the 3d by the roads from Yorktown and Warwick Court-House. They were assembled about Williamsburg by noon on the 4th, and were ordered to march by the road to Richmond, Major-General Magruder leading.

Early in the afternoon the cavalry rear-guard on the Yorktown road was driven in, and rapidly followed by the enemy. Brigadier-General McLaws was sent with the brigades of Kershaw and Semmes to support the cavalry. He met the enemy near the line of little works constructed by Major-General Magruder's forethought, made his dispositions with prompt courage and skill, and quickly drove the Federal troops from the field, in spite of disparity of numbers. I regret that no report of this handsome affair has been made by General McLaws. Major-General Magruder's march was too late to permit that of Major-General Smith's the same afternoon. His division moved at daybreak on the 5th, in heavy rain and deep mud.

About sunrise the rear-guard was again attacked. The


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