fields were barren until three or four miles beyond Yorktown, where there were signs of cultivation and many acres of thrifty wheat. The houses were, with scarcely an exception, abandoned. White flags — a plea for protection — were floating from some of them; and in one instance, where a mother and her little ones remained, each waved a white handkerchief in a manner so touching and plaintive that the stoutest hearts in our ranks were affected by the sight. I made a request for a cup of cold water, which was promptly supplied, my excuse for tarrying a moment at this house. Both mother and children were trembling at the sight of our armed hosts, but the good woman assured me that her trust was in the Lord, and she knew that he would protect her. The father had fled; two or three negro servants remained, but were in great trepidation. The buildings and fences were well preserved, and in the garden were pretty flowers, the first I had seen on the march. Yet to an inquiry for luncheon the mother replied that she had nothing in the house but a little hominy, and that it had long been impossible to procure a supply of provisions. She earnestly deprecated the war; and well she might, for her little household had felt its terrors most keenly. The corps d'armee of Heintzelman and Keyes had first moved forward, the divisions of Hooker and Smith taking the lead, the former by the road from Yorktown and the latter by a road from Warwick Court-House, which joined the Williamsburgh road at the Cheesecoke Church, an antiquated building used by the “Oldside Baptists,” erected in colonial times, and some six miles from Yorktown. Here again the divisions parted, Hooker going to the left and Smith ad vancing to the right. Of course both were preceded by cavalry and artillery, and on the afternoon of Sunday, at a distance of not more than two or three miles from the church, there were two considerable skirmishes. In the first of these, to the left, Gen. Emory was in command, and had with him Gilson's battery, detachments of the First and Sixth regular cavalry, including the McClellan dragoons, under Major Barker, and the Third Pennsylvania cavalry, Col. Averill. Meeting the enemy's cavalry, they were thoroughly routed by one of Gilson's guns, which he fired himself with rare coolness and precision, and a charge of the dragoons and the Third Pennsylvania cavalry, a volunteer regiment, which, under the control of the accomplished and fearless Averill, is fitted to render most efficient service. On the right, at Whittaker's mill, Gen. Stoneman, chief of cavalry, with three batteries and portions of the First and Sixth regular cavalry, also Farnsworth's Eighth Illinois cavalry, captured a fine twelve-pounder gun, which had been moved from an earthwork and drawn to the edge of the pond. Here also Frank Lee, a captain in the Thirty-second Virginia infantry, was made prisoner. A couple of miles further on, and beyond Whittaker's house, which subsequently became the headquarters of our generals, Stoneman was met by a strong force of the enemy, and fell back, for want of infantry, after a sharp and unprofitable skirmish. He had imprudently approached the very works of the enemy, and charged them without any adequate support, and the result was a repulse, with the loss of a gun and a dozen wounded men. His troops fell back to the old church before referred to, and that building was made a hospital for his injured as well as for those of Emory's command. Here, too, our prisoners, some score or more, were detained, and a bevy of contrabands of all shades, who had come to our lines during the day, with their effects upon their backs, were halted for the night. While the surgeons were busy in the church, the venerable walls of which were soon crimsoned with blood, the prisoners and contrabands were quartered around blazing fires. The former were several of them officers of intelligence--one a graduate of Yale College, another a well-known New-Orleans merchant. They bore their capture with considerable equanimity, while the contrabands were as merry and loquacious as though they had reached the goal of their highest ambition. During the night Hooker's and Smith's divisions pressed forward to their respective destinations on the left and right, in front of the enemy's works at Williamsburgh. Slowly but steadily they marched by the old church, with its surrounding fires. At midnight it began to rain, and the darkness, before oppressive, became absolutely impenetrable. As the companies filed by, they were at once lost to view, and speedily the moistened earth began to quiver under the tramp of the troops. Far away to the left Hooker's men approached the enemy's position, while to the centre and right Smith's division formed in front of his forts.
From camp to camp, through the foul womb of night,A dark, dreary morning, with torrents of rain, found the contending armies face to face. Flushed with their repulse of Stoneman, the rebels early began to advance their pickets on the left, and as quickly the determined Hooker drove them back. Bramhall's and Smith's batteries, both from New-York, were soon in action, but their progress was thwarted by the condition of the roads. The former was eventually lost, after a gallant defence, the horses being unable to move the guns. It was retaken on Tuesday. Throughout the morning Hooker struggled manfully against the rain, the mud, and the rebels, who appeared on the left in great strength. Gen. Heintzelman was on the field much of the time, and pronounces the contest extremely severe; other experienced officers represent it as terrible beyond precedent. Grover's, Patterson's, and Sickles's brigades were battled with a fury, under odds, and with a slaughter which had well-nigh exhausted and driven them from the field, after the artillery had withdrawn, but for the timely arrival, at two o'clock, of Kearney's division, consisting of the brigades of Berry, Birney, and Jameson. These
The hum of either army stilly sounds,
That the fixed sentinels almost receive
The secret whispers of each other's watch.