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[6] Warwick Creek, General McClellan was led to believe that Yorktown could be easily invested. On the 5th, when his right wing appeared before that place, his left encountered the unforeseen obstacle which imparted so much strength to the position of the Confederates. The latter, under General Magruder, had long been preparing for the defence of the peninsula. The fortifications erected by Lord Cornwallis around Yorktown in 1781, within which he had defended himself with a tenacity worthy of the English army, were still in existence. These works were not revetted with masonry, but their profile was considerable. They had been put in order, enlarged, and completed. They were mounted with fifty-six guns, some of very heavy calibre. Batteries had been erected, some along the water's edge and others on the hillocks commanding the river, all of which crossed their fire with that of a large redoubt occupying the sandy promontory of Gloucester Point.

The bastioned fortifications of Yorktown completely enclosed that small town. The line of Warwick Creek which Magruder had selected at the last moment was not so well fortified by art as by nature. The source of this brook lies at twenty-four hundred metres from the bastions of Yorktown, the space between these two points (for the most part open country) being commanded by a lunette, a few breastworks, and an unfinished redoubt. The course of Warwick Creek is bordered throughout by dense forests, through which wind tortuous roads difficult to find, laid out on a spongy and broken soil. The upper part of this stream is slow and muddy, about twenty metres in breadth, with marshy banks, and commanded on both sides by slight undulations in the ground. It was intersected by five dams, two of which were formerly used to collect the water for milling purposes, the three others having been constructed by Magruder. They produced, by retaining the waters, an artificial inundation, which is the best of all defences. In the rear of each of these dams, the only accessible points to an assailant, rose a small redan. The lower part of the Warwick, subject to the influence of the tide, was surrounded by a triple enclosure of hardened mud, impenetrable canebrakes, and swampy forests, which forbade approach even to the boldest hunter. This line presented all those peculiarities which render offensive war so difficult in America;

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