she did not attempt to comply with the requirements of the order. The rebel soldiers and negroes were at work on their entrenchments until one o'clock in the morning, when their rear-guard ordered the work to cease and the march for Williamsburgh to be taken up. In the house of Mrs. Nelson, where Gen. Magruder had slept the night before the evacuation, I found several open letters lying unfolded on a table. Two were addressed to Gen. McClellan, one to the first Yankee who come, one to Abe Lincoln. One of those to Gen. McClellan reads as follows:
The retreat of the rebels appears to have been precipitate. They commenced carrying all but their guns back to Williamsburgh four days ago. Wagons have been engaged in transporting their ammunition, provisions, and camp equipage for nearly a week past. Their sick and wounded, numbering over two thousand five hundred, were sent to Richmond ten days ago. The rebel council of war was held in Mrs. Nelson's house, at Yorktown, on Tuesday and Wednesday last. Jeff. Davis and two members of his Cabinet, Gens. Lee, Magruder, and nine other generals were present. The debates were warm and exciting; but finally it was resolved to evacuate. The generals entrusted with the orders of evacuation kept it a profound secret from the officers and men.General McClellan: You will be surprised to hear of our departure at this stage of the game, leaving you in possession of this worthless town; but the fact is, McClellan, we have other engagements to attend to, and we can't wait any longer. Our boys are getting sick of this damned place, and the hospital likewise; so, good-by for a little while.Adjutant Terry, C. S. A. M.
Yorktown, 10 A. M., Sunday morning, May 4.Another skedaddle. Yorktown and the peninsula defences are ours. Evacuated by the enemy at two o'clock this morning, and entered at sunrise by the trench-detail of the Federal army. My associate rides back to the camps to send you the first brief news by the ten o'clock boat to Old Point. I remain in the enemy's recent lines to examine their formidable works, and, if possible, become the discoverer of the redoubtable “last ditch.” For three weeks these fortresses and intrenchments have checked our march to Richmond, but only that they might the more surely, cheaply, and expeditiously fall into our hands. I look around at this village of Yorktown, now a broad and frowning fortress, covering hundreds of acres, twice as large as Fortress Monroe, big enough to inclose twenty of our own elaborate works on the Potomac heights; I see a bastioned and traversed flank-work, one fourth its size, and but a hundred rods to the west; I gaze from the further angle of the latter, and a chain of rifle-pits, redoubts, gabionades, and what not, stretches toward the James River as far as the eye can reach; seeing all these, and knowing how long and bravely an army fighting under the old flag would have held them — I almost wonder at the cowardly tactics of the braggart rebels, and more than ever realize the baseness and hopelessness of their cause. Our environments were all complete. Our parallels and batteries had gone up day after day, night after night, within point-blank range of the enemy, and under unceasingly vexatious fire. Our more than a hundred siege-guns and mortars were placed and ready for the reduction of the walls opposing us. The bombardment would have commenced at sunrise to-morrow morning. The rebels knew that we were ready; they must either fight a desperate, decisive battle, or surrender ignominiously the strongest defence of Richmond. They have chosen the latter alternative; and, if we experience a certain disappointment in not being able at once, and at any loss of life, to end this weary contest, it cannot be doubted that the general Southern public, deluded into a belief that the peninsula would be held, will be exasperated beyond measure by this last exposure of their leaders. Last night I wrote a letter, which the new phase deprives of interest, detailing the latest aspects and probabilities of the siege. The symptom which has made our officers, from the outset, half distrust the promise of the rebels to fight us, has been the worrisome and vicious, rather than vigorous and systematic, manner of their firing. They have popped away at our trenches and camps in the former style, exposing every one to the chance, without much danger, of being hit by their shells. They have not seriously retarded our engineering — which has been more rapidly executed than as much work by any previous army. Right in their teeth our hardy thousands have built fifteen earthworks and thrown up parallels of miles in length. But yesterday we had a suspicious symptom. In the afternoon the ascent of Prof. Lowe's balloon, and in the evening the display of Major Myers's signal lights, gave them certain ranges, and they began to pour in all sorts of projectiles from their three principal works. (Food and forage have been so limited here that we had accepted the first hospitable invitation to mess and bed received. Owing to this fact, my residence for the past two days has been in rather an exposed location, where a friend, connected with what may be called the “scientific corps” of the army, had been directed to pitch his tent and await orders. This spot was near the junction of the cross-fire poured in last night. The shells burst in and over a ravine behind us; sometimes in a field in front. No amount of experience can render people entirely comfortable within such nocturnal surroundings. A huge cloud, hanging over the rebel works, deflected the sound to the forest, and every discharge rang and echoed with a thousand thunders.) “For what are they raising such a row to-night?” was the question under discussion. Dispute ran high whether it was to cover a retreat or to use their newly acquired