that they had come over on their own account. They belonged to the Thirty-second Virginia regiment, which was one of the last to leave. They said that when our army arrived in front of Yorktown the rebel force under General Magruder was not more than eight thousand men. A few hours previous to this time our telegraph had been carried so far to the front as the old grist-mill, which has been used as the Headquarters of the generals of the trenches. General Jameson immediately telegraphed to General Fitz-John Porter, director of the siege, the intelligence which these deserters brought regarding the evacuation. He soon received a reply instructing him to push forward a small force to procure authoritative information as to the truth of their assertion. He took detachments from the Sixty-second Pennsylvania regiment, under Col. Black, the Twenty-second Massachusetts, under Col. Gove, with a support of two companies of the First Massachusetts, under Lieutenant-Colonel Wells, and advanced along the border of the woods, on the commanding bluff which overlooks the river. In the morning our outposts and sentinels on the works we were constructing were astonished when they missed the accustomed rebel watchmen from the walls. Our men in the trenches evinced, if possible, as much curiosity as those who were advancing towards the enemy's fortifications. Thousands of heads appeared above the top of our parallel, and every one manifested the deepest interest in the scenes which were transpiring. It was only by a stern command that the General kept the men from rushing headlong, heedless of all lurking danger, into the intrenchments. Very soon the detachments reached the ditch in front, and began to mount the parapets. General Jameson and Colonel Black mounted first. They were closely followed by Colonel Gove, Lieutenant Crawford and Captain Hassler, of the General's staff. The General jumped inside the work, which was seen to be deserted, and presently it was swarming with our soldiers. The glorious emblem of our nationality was raised above the deserted battlements, and, as its folds were kissed by the gentle breeze, the General uncovered his head and called for “three cheers for the good old Stars and Stripes.” A feeling of profound veneration arose in the hearts of all as we beheld the grand old flag waving over the deserted battlements, and planted once more on that historic ground. You may know that we all reverently uncovered, and the air resounded with our cheers. Two companies were placed on the parapets, and then we commenced an examination of the works. We soon found a Northern gentleman, who had reluctantly occupied an important position in the rebel army there, who managed to secrete himself when they were going, and from whom we received valuable information relative to the mines the rebels had laid to blow up the works. The fortifications around Yorktown itself were of the most formidable character. I have positive and reliable information that ever since the battle of Big Bethel, almost a year ago, and before it, the rebels have been hard at work fortifying the whole peninsula. The works at Big Bethel, and those at Howard's bridge — which were abandoned when we marched up here a month ago — required considerable labor. From the time of the occupation of Yorktown, about a year ago, by the rebel General Magruder, two thousand slaves have been constantly employed, principally on the fortifications in the immediate vicinity of Yorktown and across the river at Gloucester. These have been assisted by the effective rebel force, some seven thousand men, which Gen. Magruder has had under his command. They were composed chiefly of Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana troops. The fortifications of Yorktown are in the general shape of an elongated triangle, with the river for the base. In length they are five eighths of a mile. They are strong, but not neat. They might have been taken by storm with terrible loss; could have been taken by turning their right on the Warwick, after a severe battle; but have been taken without loss of any kind. One man was killed and three wounded by the explosion of a shell, attached to a torpedo in front of the works. They belonged to the Twenty-second Massachusetts. That immense connected fortification, with its numerous salient angles, on which their heaviest guns were mounted, is at once a beautiful and a wonderful work. The ditch is deep, but dry; the parapet is lofty, and would be difficult to scale. This work, with a water-battery below, commands the river on the Yorktown side. Running toward the right of the rebel lines there is a long breastwork, not pierced for guns, but having in front a ditch of the same depth as that before the fort. This breastwork connects an elegant redoubt of considerable magnitude, and another breastwork of the same description connects another redoubt beyond, still further to the left. On this redoubt there had been mounted a number of columbiads and Dahlgren naval guns, with one siege howitzer. It is now occupied by the Fortieth New-York regiment, whose banners are streaming from the walls. In front of these works there is an immense area of open ground which is completely commanded by their guns. Trees which were standing a year ago have been cut down by the rebels, to give free range to their artillery. Deep gorges and ravines are inside and about these fortifications. This natural advantage furnished good cover for their troops against artillery fire, and rendered the position difficult to assault. To the left of the Yorktown road — the enemy's right — as you approach the town, other fortifications have been constructed. On the line of the Warwick road, a few hundred yards from the Yorktown turnpike, there is a small ravine. An inconsiderable stream has been made to increase the extent of a natural swamp in front of the works at this point. This is near the spot where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Washington, and the British laid down their arms
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.