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The battle of Williamsburg.

Yorktown was evacuated by Johnston May 4, 1862, at night. He marched steadily, but was delayed by mud, rain, slush and boggy roads caused by wagon and artillery trains.

Rodes' Brigade, during the afternoon of the next day, heard the firing of cannon and hastened forward in the direction of the fighting. As we passed through the Old Capital of Virginia, the doors, windows, balconies and side-walks were crowded with beautiful women and children who were wild with excitement, waving handkerchiefs and flags and handing us sandwiches, fresh water, etc., and speaking encouraging words. The men became enthusiastic, the very air rang with our shouts, and we pressed forward eager for the conflict. We hurried to the field, and were formed in line in the rear of General Early's command. Artillery and musketry and the shouts and shrieks of men; some in the tongues of triumph and others in those of pain, greeted us as we rushed along. Minie balls flew over the heads of our brave comrades in front, but none of our men were seriously wounded and we were not actively engaged.

Darkness fell and put an end to the fray, It was an unhappy night, we were wet and faint with hunger and fatigue. It was cold and we kept stamping our feet, marking time, and crowding together in groups to keep warm, as we halted and then moved on.

It was a memorable May day, this 5th of the month, and was our first actual experience in war. We marched before day through Williamsburg, and the men literally waded almost knee deep in [218] mud, as the road was rendered almost impassable from the constant rains and stirred by the artillery and baggage trains. I can never forget that some of my men, in pulling their feet along, left their shoes in the mud, and the rough words that came from Miller McCraw still ring in my ears, as I took his gun and knapsack and carried them for him. He was only 15 years old, and ought to have been at home at school.

The next day we had a new experience, that of eating parched corn, for our rations did not come up until late. Slowly we continued the retreat, or advance, as you may prefer to call it, and on the 13th of May we came to the Chickahominy river. Here we had a few drills, and the first day, I recall, that all of us, of the newly elected officers, were very ignorant of our duties, and when we were forming into divisions composed of two companies, as both Captain Keeling and Lieutenant McNeely were absent, I was thrown in command of Company F, and the captain of the company next to mine should have been in command of the division, but, with an imploring look, he placed himself along the line and called to me to take command of the division, that he didn't know what to do. Though I had but little more acquaintance with tactics than he, I had a little more assurance, and I assumed command of the division and held it until the close of a prolonged drill.

Next day I was sent with a squad of men to report to Major Early, a tall, dark-skinned, civil engineer, said to be a brother of General J. A. Early, and to assist in the construction of a pontoon bridge across the Chickahominy.

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