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[22] taking possession of all the works on the right of our lines, and handsomely flanking the rebel forces on their left, a result Gen. Keyes had been hoping for since noon, and which he thought likely, as it proved, to greatly annoy and alarm the enemy. This masterly movement, crowned with such complete success, elated our troops, and was hailed at headquarters as a harbinger of early victory. Words of warm congratulation were sent to the dashing Pennsylvanian by the Commanding General, and the reinforcements, advanced by order of Gen. Keyes, soon reached the fortifications, placing the holding of them beyond all question, and insuring the spirited Hancock a quiet night.

In the centre and to the left our troops rested on their arms. Wet, weary and hungry, with many depressing obstacles to overcome, they were nevertheless ready and even clamorous for an advance. Neither the darkness nor the dampness chilled their buoyant spirits, and in their eagerness to defend the old flag they quite forgot the risks and dangers of their bivouacs. Throughout the long night it required all the authority of the officers to keep them from dashing pell-mell into the enemy's lines, and everywhere discomfiting him, at the point of the bayonet, after the thrilling example of Hancock.

By four o'clock in the afternoon the large barn adjacent to headquarters, which had been prepared for the reception of our wounded, began to be filled with the victims of the deperate conflict, chiefly brought in from the right and centre of our lines, Gen. Hooker's division being too far away. The arrangements of the rude hospital were tolerably good, and the surgeons worked actively and well. By nine o'clock the wounds of upwards of one hundred sufferers had been carefully dressed, and after that hour few if any were brought in — the darkness, the storm, and condition of the fields and woods making it impracticable. I have frequently seen the torn victims of war, and witnessed with admiration heroic endurance, but never have I seen such patience under dreadful agony as that now displayed by our bleeding volunteers. With barely an exception they stood their tortures without a murmur, and while undergoing delicate and painful amputations, give utterance to little if any complaint.

The wounds were mostly from musketry, and spoke well for the accuracy of the enemy's fire. The suffering of the men was aggravated by the sorry condition of their clothes, which, on the straggling march and in the dripping woods, had become as wet as though soaked in the sea. It would seem to be proper that, besides surgical instruments and medicines, the hospitals should be provided with fresh clothing, that the poor fellows, wounded under such circumstances, may be made comfortable, rather than from necessity left in a condition which, even under ordinary circumstances, would be very unpleasant.

Of shell wounds there were several shocking cases. A man lost both legs, one had his arms broken like pipe-stems, and another was scalped as by a tomahawk. Brave fellows who a few hours before had stood erect and strong, were bent and exhausted, and as pale and haggard as though long in hospital. From hearts which at noon, or later, had beaten high and responsive to the dictates of a lively and courageous patriotism, the warm life-blood was rapidly oozing, and covered with a blanket or sheet many a cold body awaited the grave. Ah! how much of the vain glory of war vanishes before the carnage of the battle-field! How much of its stern and unpoetic reality is found in the hospital! What faithful messengers of pain and death are the shot and the shell!

During the day a number of prisoners had fallen into our hands, and some deserters had come to our lines. These were confined for the night in an outbuilding near to headquarters. Those who conversed with them found them mainly ignorant and disconsolate. All admitted the strength and excellence of our army, but none could give any good reason for the abandonment of Yorktown, which they concurred in pronouncing the best fortified place in Virginia. The prisoners were chiefly from North-Carolina, and professed to have been in Virginia but a few weeks. They were unable, or failed, to give us much information of the position of the enemy at Williamsburgh. Indeed, during the day our generals had attained no satisfactory intelligence, save from the ingenious contrabands, scores of whom hovered about headquarters, and imparted, in their curious way, all they could of the rebel movements. Gen. Keyes had frequent interviews with them, and it was by a comparison of their stories that he gained the knowledge of the country to the right of the enemy's lines, whereby Gen. Hancock was enabled to undertake the flanking movement and his brilliant charge, which turned the day in our favor. Gen. Keyes remarked that he had never been deceived by the contrabands, and I am convinced that they are generally truthful and well disposed, though often too ignorant to intelligently impart what they know.

With the morning of Tuesday the sunshine came, and the air was clear and bracing. Though everything was wet and soppy, and the mud almost fathomless, all felt that if the fight had to be continued it would be under much better circumstances than on the previous day. But the silence of the night had been generally interpreted to indicate the withdrawal of the enemy, and there was no surprise when a messenger from Gen. Hooker announced that all the forts on the left had been abandoned and were possessed by him, and when from Gen. Hancock we learned that the foe was nowhere in sight.

The news created much discussion as to the plan of the enemy, if he had any, and all who had tarried at headquarters were out at an early hour eager for the developments of the day. I was amused to see the Count de Paris struggling through the mud to the corn-crib, bag in hand, to procure feed for his horse, and Col. Astor giving directions as to the grooming of his fife animal,

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E. D. Keyes (4)
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