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Doc. 7.-battle of Williamsburgh, Va.


General McClellan's despatch.

bivouac in front of Williamsburgh, May 5, 1862, 10 o'clock P. M.
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
after arranging for movements up York River, I was urgently sent for here. I find Gen. Jo Johnston in front of me in strong force, probably greater a good deal than my own.

Gen. Hancock has taken two redoubts and repulsed Early's rebel brigade by a real charge with the bayonet, taking one colonel and a hundred and fifty other prisoners, and killing at least two colonels and many privates. His conduct was brilliant in the extreme.

I do not know our exact loss, but fear that Gen. Hooker has lost considerably on our left.

I learn from the prisoners taken that the rebels intend to dispute every step to Richmond.

I shall run the risk of at least holding them in check here, while I resume the original plan.

My entire force is undoubtedly inferior to that of the rebels, who will fight well; but I will do all I can with the force at my disposal.

G. B. Mcclellan Major-General Commanding.


General Hooker's official report.

headquarters Hooker's division, Third army corps, Williamsburgh, Va., May 10, 1862.
Captain C. McKeever, Asst. Adjt.-Gen. Third Army Corps:
I have the honor to report that under the instructions received through the Headquarters Third Army Corps, dated May fourth, “to support Stoneman, and aid him in cutting off the retreat of the enemy,” my division marched from its camp before Yorktown, about noon that day.

We marched toward Williamsburgh. After advancing five or six miles on this road, I learned that Brig.-Gen. Stoneman had fallen upon the rear of the enemy's retreating column, and was there awaiting the arrival of an infantry force to attack them.

This was five or six miles in advance of me, and immediately I left my command and galloped to the front, in order to see what disposition it would be necessary to make of my force on its arrival. While here, I was informed that Brig.-Gen. Smith's division had filed into the road in advance of my command, and that, in consequence, my division would be compelled to halt until after Smith's had passed. I immediately returned to the head of my column, where I found my division halted; and as Smith's was extended, it was between three and four hours in passing. As soon as this was ascertained, and feeling that Stoneman would require no additional support, I applied to Brig.-Gen. Heintzelman, the superior officer charged with the advance on the Yorktown road, for authority to throw my command on to the Hampton road, which intersected that on which Brig.-Gen. Stoneman had halted, at the identical point his enemy occupied. The angle formed by the two roads is a little less than a right angle. Obtaining this permission, the head of my division left the brick church about dark, and it pressed forward in order, if practicable, to come up with the enemy before morning. This, however, I soon found would be impossible, for the roads were frightful, the night intensely dark and rainy, and many of my men exhausted from loss of sleep, and from labor the night before in the trenches. The troops were halted in the middle of the road, between ten and eleven o'clock P. M., resolved to stop until daylight, when we started again, and came in sight of the enemy's works before Williamsburgh about half-past 5 o'clock in the morning. Before emerging from the forest the column was halted, while I rode to the front to find what could be learned of the position of the enemy.

The first work that presented itself was Fort Magruder, and this was standing at the junction of the Yorktown and Hampton roads, and on each side of it was a cordon of redoubts extending as far as could be seen. Subsequently I found their number to be thirteen, and extending entirely across the peninsula, the right and left of them resting on the waters of the York and James Rivers. Approaching them from the south, they are concealed by heavy forest until the observer is within less than a mile of their locality. [14] Where the forest had been standing nearer than this distance the trees had been felled, in order that the occupants of the redoubts might have timely notice of the approach of an enemy, and early strike him with artillery. The trees had been felled in this manner on both sides of the road on which we had advanced for a breadth of almost half a mile, and the same was the case on the Yorktown road. Between the edge of the felled timber and the fort was a belt of clear, arable land, six or seven hundred yards in width. This was dotted all over with rifle-pits.

In connection with the redoubts themselves, I may be permitted to state, that I found them standing near the eastern and southern verge of a slightly elevated plain, the slopes of which were furrowed with widening ravines, with an almost boundless, gently undulating plain, reaching across the peninsula, and extending to the north and west as far as the eye can reach. The land-scape is highly picturesque and not a little heightened by the large trees and venerable spires of Williamsburgh, two miles distant.

Fort Magruder appears to be the largest of the redoubts — its crest measuring nearly half a mile, with substantial parapets, ditches, magazines, etc. This was located to command the Yorktown and Hampton roads, and the redoubts in its vicinity to command the ravines, which the guns of Fort Magruder could not sweep.

Being in pursuit of a retreating army, I deemed it my duty to lose no time in making the disposition of my forces to attack, regardless of their number and position, except to accomplish the result with the least possible sacrifice of life. By so doing, my division, if it did not capture the army before me, would at least hold them in order that some others might.

Besides, I knew of the presence of more than thirty thousand troops not two miles distant from me, and that within twelve miles (four hours march) was the bulk of the army of the Potomac. My own position was tenable for double that length of time against three times my number.

At half-past 7 o'clock, Brig.-Gen. Grover was directed to commence the attack, by sending the First Massachusetts regiment as skirmishers into the felled timber on the left of the road on which they were standing — the Second New-Hampshire regiment to the right — both with directions to skirmish up to the edge of the felled timber, and there, under cover, to turn their attention to the occupants of the rifle-pits, and the enemy's sharp-shooters and gunners in Fort Magruder.

The Eleventh Massachusetts regiment, and the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, were then directed to form on the right of the Second New Hampshire, and to advance as skirmishers until they had reached the Yorktown road, and when that was gained to have word sent to me.

Under my Chief of Artillery. Webber's battery was thrown forward in advance of the fallen timber, and brought into action in a cleared field on the right of the road, and distant from Fort Magruder about seven hundred yards. No sooner had it emerged from the forest, on the way to its position, than four guns from Fort Magruder opened on it, and after it was still further up the road, they received the fire from two additional guns from a redoubt on the left. However, it was pushed on, and before it was brought into motion, two officers and two privates had been shot down, and before a single piece of the battery had been discharged, its cannoniers had been driven from it despite the skill and activity of my sharp-shooters in picking off the rebel gunners. Volunteers were now called for by my gallant Chief of Artillery, Major Wainwright, to man the battery now in position, when the officers and cannoniers of Osborne's battery sprang forward, and in the time I am writing, had those pieces well at work. Bramhall's battery was now brought into action under that excellent officer, on the right of Webber's, and before nine o'clock every gun in Fort Magruder was silenced, and all the troops in sight on the plain dispersed. Between the sharp-shooters and the two batteries the enemy's guns in this fort were not heard from again until late in the afternoon.

One of the regiments in Brig.-Gen. Patterson's brigade — the Fifth New-Jersey--was charged with the especial care of these batteries, and was posted a little to the rear of them. The remaining regiments of Patterson's brigade, under their intrepid commander, were sent into the left of the road from where they were standing, in anticipation of an attack from that quarter.

Heavy forest trees cover this ground and conceal from the view the enemy's earthworks, about a mile distant. The forest itself has a depth of about three fourths of that distance. It was through this that Patterson led the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth New-Jersey regiments. Bodies of the enemy's infantry were seen drifting in that direction, and the increased musketry fire proved that many others were flocking thither, whom we could not see.

Prior to this movement, Brig.-Gen. Emory had reached my position with a light battery and a body of cavalry, which were promptly placed at my disposal by that experienced and gifted soldier; but, as I had no duty on which I could employ those arms of service, and as I was confined for room in the exercise of my own command, I requested that he would despatch a party to reconnoitre and observe the movements of the rebels to the rear of my left. This was executed to my satisfaction.

It was now reported to me that the skirmishers to the right had reached the Yorktown road, where word was sent to Col. Blaisdell to proceed with the Eleventh Massachusetts and Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania regiments cautiously down that road, to destroy any rebel force he might find, and break down any barrier the enemy might have thrown up to check the advance of our forces in that direction, and when this was executed to report the fact to the senior officer with the troops there, and on his return to send me [15] word of the result of his mission. This was done, and word was sent to me through Adjt. Currier, of the Eleventh regiment.

Up to this moment there had been a brisk musketry fire kept up on every part of the field, but its swelling volumes in the direction of Patterson satisfied me from the beginning of the engagement that the enemy had accumulated a heavy force in his front. Grover had already anticipated it, and had moved the main portion of the First Massachusetts regiment to receive it, while first, the Seventy-second New-York regiment, of Taylor's brigade, and soon after the Seventieth New-York regiment, of the same brigade, were ordered to strengthen Patterson.

Col. Averill, of the Third Pennsylvania cavalry, had, with great kindness and gallantry, tendered me his services, while Lieut. McAllister, of the engineers, volunteered to make a reconnaissance of such of the enemy's works as were hidden from view, preparatory to carrying them by assault, should a suitable opportunity present itself for that object. For this service I am under many obligations to that accomplished officer.

From the earliest moment of the attack, it was an object of deep solicitude to establish a connection with the troops in my immediate neighbor-hood on the Yorktown road, and as that had been accomplished, and as I saw no signs of their advance, at twenty minutes past eleven A. M. I addressed the subjoined note to the Assistant Adjutant-General, Third corps, under the impression that his Chief was still there. It was as follows: “I have had a hard contest all the morning, but do not despair of success. My men are hard at work, but a good deal exhausted. It is reported to me that my communication with you by the Yorktown road is clear of the enemy. Batteries, cavalry, and infantry can take post by the side of mine to whip the enemy.” This found General Heintzelman absent, but it was returned opened, and on the envelope endorsed, “Opened and read,” by the senior officer on that field. A cavalry man took over the note, and returned with it, by the Yorktown road, after an absence of twenty minutes.

To return, it was now after one o'clock, and the battle had swollen into one of gigantic proportions. The left had been reinforced with the Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth New-York regiments--the only remaining ones of my reserve — under Col. Taylor, and all were engaged; yet its fortunes would ebb and flow despite the most determined courage and valor of my devoted officers and men. Three times the enemy approached within eighty yards of the road which was the centre of my operations, and as often were they thrown back with violence and slaughter. Every time his advance was made with fresh troops, and each succeeding one seemed to be in greater force and determination.

The Eleventh Massachusetts and the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania regiments were ordered to the left — the support of the batteries and the Second New-Hampshire regiment were withdrawn from their advanced position in front, to take post where they could look after the front and left at the same time. The orders to the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania regiment did not reach it, and it remained on the right.

At this juncture word was received from Col. Taylor that the regiments of his command longest engaged were falling short of ammunition, and when he was informed that the supply-train was not yet up, a portion of his command presented an obstinate front to the advance of the enemy, with no other cartridges than were gathered from the boxes of the fallen.

Again the enemy were reinforced by the arrival of Longstreet's division. His troops had passed through Williamsburgh, on their retreat from Yorktown, and were recalled to strengthen the rebel forces before Williamsburgh. No sooner had they joined, than it was known that they were again moving to drive in our left; after a violent and protracted struggle they were again repulsed with great loss.

Simultaneous with the movement, an attempt was made to drive in our front, and seize the batteries, by the troops from Fort Magruder, aided by reenforcements from the redoubts on the left. The withdrawal of the supports invited this attack, and it was at this time that four of our guns were captured. They could have been saved, but only at the risk of losing the day. Whatever of dishonor, if any, is attached to their loss belongs to the Brigadier-General commanding the division, and not to his chief of artillery, or to the officers and men serving with the batteries — for truer men never stepped upon the field of battle.

While this was going on in front, Capt. Smith, by a skilful disposition of his battery, held complete command of the road, which subsequently, by a few well-directed shots, was turned to good account.

The foregoing furnishes a faithful narrative of the disposition of my command throughout this eventful day.

Between four and five o'clock, Gen. Kearney, with all his characteristic gallantry, arrived on the ground at the head of his division, and after having secured their positions, my division was withdrawn from the contest, and held as a reserve until dark, when the battle ended, after a prolonged and severe conflict against three times my number, directed by the most accomplished General of the rebel army, Major-Gen. J. E. Johnston, assisted by Gens. Longstreet, Pryor, Gohlson and Pickett, with commands selected from the best troops in their army.

The list of killed and wounded attests the character of the contest. The killed of the enemy must have been double my own; of the wounded we cannot estimate. Eight hundred were left in hospitals at Williamsburgh, and others were distributed among the private houses in the city, while all the available tenement, in the vicinity of the field of battle are filled with them. Three hundred prisoners were taken.

I have omitted to mention the arrival, early in the afternoon, of Brig.-Gen. Heintzelman, commanding the Third army corps, with his staff, [16] and to express my very grateful acknowledgment for the encouragement inspired by his presence, and for the aid and support he gave me by his counsel and conduct.

As soon as darkness concealed their movements, the rebels retreated in a state of utter demoralization, leaving behind artillery, wagons, etc., etc.

History will not be believed when it is told that the noble officers and men of my division were permitted to carry on this unequal struggle from morning until night, unaided, in the presence of more than thirty thousand of their comrades with arms in their hands. Nevertheless, it is true.

If we failed to capture the rebel army on the plains of Williamsburgh, it surely will not be ascribed to the want of conduct and courage in my command.

The field was marked by an unusual number of instances of conspicuous courage and daring, which I shall seek an early opportunity to bring to the notice of the Commander of the Third corps.

At this time I can speak but in general terms of the regiments and batteries engaged in the battle of Williamsburgh. Their list of the killed and wounded from among their numbers will forever determine the extent of their participation in this hard-fought and dearly-contested field. Their constancy and courage are deserving all praise. My profound and grateful acknowledgments are tendered to them.

I am under great obligations to the officers of my staff for eminent services, and especially to Capt. Joseph Dickinson, my Assistant Adjutant-General, and to my Aids-de-Camp, Lieutenants Wm. H. Lawrence and Joseph Abbot, who were with me throughout the day.

The loss of my division on this field was:

Commissioned officers killed,21
Commissioned officers wounded,65
Enlisted men killed,317
Enlisted men wounded,837
Enlisted men missing,335
 
Total,1575

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Joseph Hooker, Brigadier-General Commanding Division.


General Kearney's official report.

headquarters Third division, Heintzelman's corps, May 6, 1862.
Captain: I have the honor to report that, on receiving orders on the fifth instant, at nine A. M., the division took up its line of march, and shortly after came upon the crowded columns before us. At half-past 10 A. M., an order was received from Gen. Sumner to pass all others and to proceed to the support of Gen. Hooker, already engaged. With difficulty and much loss of time, my division at length made its way through the masses of troops and trains that encumbered the deep, single, muddy defile, until at the brick church my route was to the left, the direct road to Williamsburgh. At half-past 1 P. M., within three and a half miles of the battle-field, I halted my column to rest for the first time, and to get the lengthened files in hand before committing them to action. Capt. Moses, of the General's staff, with great energy assisted me in this effort. Almost immediately, however, on orders from Gen. Heintzelman, “our knapsacks were piled,” and the head of the column resumed its march, taking the double-quick wherever the mud-holes left a footing. Arrived at one mile from the engagement, you, in person, brought me an order for detaching three regiments, one from Berry's, the leading brigade, and two from Birney's, the second to support Emory's horse to the left of the position.

Approaching near the field, word was brought by an aid-de-camp that Hooker's cartridges were expended, and with increased rapidity we entered under fire. Having quickly consulted with Gen. Hooker and received Gen. Heintzelman's orders as to the point of onset, I at once deployed Berry's brigade to the left of the Williamsburgh road, and Birney's on the right of it, taking to cover the movement and to support the remaining battery that had ceased to fire, two companies of Poe's regiment. As our troops came into action the remnants of the brave men of Hooker's division were passed, and our regiments promptly commenced an unremitting, well-directed fire. However, from the lengthening of the files the gap occasioned by the withdrawal from the column of three regiments and the silence of this battery, I soon was left no alternative than to lead forward to the charge the two companies of the Second Michigan volunteers to beat back the enemy's skirmishers, now crowding on our pieces. This duty was performed by officers and men with superior intrepidity, and enabled Maj. Wainwright, of Hooker's division, to collect his artillerists and reopen fire from several pieces. A new support was then collected from the Fifth New-Jersey, who, terribly decimated previously, again came forward with alacrity. The affair was now fully and successfully engaged along our whole line, and the regiments kept steadily gaining ground. But the heavy strewn timber of the abattis defied all direct approach. Introducing, therefore, fresh marksmen from Poe's regiment, I ordered Col. Hobart Ward, of the Thirty-eighth New-York volunteers (Scott Life-Guard) to charge down the road and take the riflepits on the centre of the abattis by their flank. This duty Col. Ward performed with great gallantry, his martial demeanor imparting all confidence in the attack. Still the move, though nearly successful, did not quite prevail; but with bravery every point thus gained was perfectly sustained. The left wing of Col. Riley's regiment, the Fortieth New-York volunteers, (Mozart,) was next sent for and the Colonel being valiantly engaged in front came up brilliantly conducted by Capt. Mindil, chief of Gen. Birney's staff. These charged up to the open space and silenced some light artillery, and gaining the enemy's [17] rear caused him to relinquish his cover. The victory was ours.

About this period, Gen. Jameson brought up the rear brigade, and the detailed regiments having previously reported, in the midst of a severe fire, a second line was established and two columns of regiments made disposable for further moves. But darkness, with the still drizzling rain, now closed, and the regiments bivouacked on the field they had won. The reconnoissance during the night, and the early patrols of the morning, revealed the enemy retiring, and Gen. Heintzelman in person ordered into the enemy's works (which our pickets of the One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania regiment, under Lieut. Gilbert, were entering with Gen. Jameson) the Fourth Maine regiment to erect thereon its standard and take possession in full force. I have to mark out for the high commendation of the General-in-Chief Gens. Jameson, Birney, and Berry, whose soldierly judgment was alone equalled by their distinguished courage. I refer you to their reports to do justice to the names of the gallant officers and men under their immediate command. Having confined myself to the centre, principally the key of the position, I report as having conspicuously distinguished themselves, imparting victory all around, Cols. Poe, Second Michigan volunteers, and Hobart Ward, Thirty-eighth New-York volunteers. Never in any action was the influence of the staff more perceptible. All were most efficient and defiant of danger. I especially notice Capt. Smith, Assistant Adjutant-General of Gen. Berry, and predict for him a career of usefulness and glory. My own staff were truly my means of vision in this battle in the woods. I have to deplore the loss of my. chief of staff, Capt. Wilson, who was killed while putting in execution my desire for a general onset at the period of the last charge, falling within the enemy's lines. Also, of Lieut. Barnard, late of West-Point, at the end of the engagement, after having previously lost a horse. Capt. W. V. Sturgis, my aid, was brave, active, and judicious. Lieut. Moore, another of my aids, renewed on the field his previous distinction gained abroad. My volunteer aid, Mr. Watts Depuyster, bore himself handsomely in this his first action. I have the honor to append the list of killed and wounded, which, though not impairing our future efficiency, was a severe loss for the few engaged. Our batteries were on the field but not required, Maj. Wainwright, of Hooker's division, having by much personal effort resumed the fire of several pieces; but Capt. Thompson, U. S.A., chief of my division of artillery, in the midst of a heavy fire, gave me the benefit of his experience.

I have the honor to be your ob't serv't,

P. Kearney, Brigadier-General Third Division, Third Corps. Captain C. Mckeever, Assistant-Adjutant General, Heintzelman's Corps.

The following is the report of Gen. Kearney to Gov. Curtin:

headquarters Third division, Heintzelman's corps, camp Berry, May 10, 1862.
To His Excellency, Gov. A. G. Curtain, of Pa.:
sir: As the commanding officer of this division, of which three regiments, the Fifty-seventh, Sixty-third, and the One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania volunteers form a portion, I cannot refrain from calling to your notice the important part performed by them in the battle of Williamsburgh, on the fifth instant, and if not themselves the sufferers in loss, they contributed, by steady and imposing attitude, to the success of those more immediately engaged, and would have formed a means of subduing all opposition should the enemy have resisted on the following day. A picket of one hundred and twelve men of the One Hundred and Fifth, under Lieut. Gilbert, were the first to enter the enemy's works, followed by the Fourth Maine, of Gen. Birney's brigade.

Col. A. A. McKnight, One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania, Col. Alexander Hays, Sixty-third, and C. T. Campbell, Fifty-seventh, are in my first brigade, commanded by Gen. Jameson. In conclusion, your Excellency, it is not by her noble regiments Pennsylvania was distinguished in the last great battles. I have to bring to your notice, and to that of the people of the State, that the second brigade of my division was commanded by a Pennsylvanian, Gen. Birney. This officer displayed coolness and courage, and brought into the field the talents which distinguished him among his fellow-citizens. He has proved himself a good colonel — his brigade is the model of good discipline. His genius of command was equally conspicuous on this day.

I have the honor to be, sir, your ob't serv't,

P. Kearney, Brigadier-General Third Division, Third Corps.


General Birney's report.

headquarters Birney's brigade, Kearney's division, camp near Williamsburgh, Va., May 6, 1862.
sir: I have the honor to report that after a wearisome march of six hours on yesterday, through deep mud and a drenching rain, my brigade being heavily burdened with knapsacks, haversacks, and shelter-tents, I received an order from Gen. Kearney to relieve the troops under my command from all encumbrances and move forward to the scene of action, some three miles distant, as rapidly as possible. Leaving under guard all encumbrances, the brigade, although jaded and wearied, moved forward as rapidly as the roads would permit. On nearing the front, by order of Gen. Heintzelman, through Captain McKeever, I detached the Third and Fourth Maine regiments, and proceeded with the Thirty-eighth and Fortieth New-York regiments to the front. When I reached the front, under Gen. Kearney's orders, I deployed the Thirty-eighth and right wing of the Fortieth New-York regiments to the right of the road, and relieved, opportunely, fragments of regiments that had been in the fight. They marched steadily to the front, and drove the enemy, after a furious contest, from the woods. They fell back over fallen timber, and opened a destructive fire from rifle-pits. [18] They were supported by their batteries, which poured a well-aimed and destructive fire into our ranks. The Thirty-eighth and right wing of the Fortieth New-York behaved nobly, and maintained their position. During the contest, the Thirty-eighth New-York regiment, under Colonel Ward, were ordered to charge down the main road in advance of the Michigan regiments, and, piercing the enemy's centre, to carry the rifle-pits by the flank, and the left wing of Col. Riley's regiment (Fortieth New--York) were ordered in like manner to follow the Thirty-eighth New-York, to take the enemy in the rear. I sent with this wing Capt. Mindel, of my staff, and under Gen. Kearney's presence he led them to the dangerous position assigned them. Capt. Gesner, of the left wing, and Capt. Mindel behaved well under the terrible fire that greeted them, and led the brave officers and men under them gallantly and worthily. Night coming on, put an end to the pursuit, and, amidst the darkness and rain, we waited the morning. During the night the Third and Fourth Maine regiments, that had been, previous to the contest, detached by order of Gen. Heintzelman, reported to me for duty in front, and by order of Gen. Kearney I moved them to the front, to relieve the Thirty-eighth and Fortieth New-York regiments. I pushed them on to the enemy's works, found them deserted, and troops to the left of us in possession. My brigade has lost several gallant officers and many brave men in this contest. Annexed you will find a list of killed, wounded, and missing.

Where so much gallantry was displayed it is difficult to select the most deserving of notice. To Col. Ward, Capts. Mindel and Gesner fell the good fortune to lead the most important charges, and they were well supported by the gallant officers and men under them. Col. Riley maintained well his position, and executed the orders with coolness and efficiency. The loss of the rebels in front of my regiments was terrible; those that remained on the ground, some forty, were decently buried. The Thirty-eighth New-York regiment, or “Scott life-guard,” preserved well the high reputation it gained for gallantry at Bull Run, and although in that engagement and in this it has lost fifteen officers and one third of its members, it is still ready to devote the balance to support our flag. I ask that Congress will, by special resolution, authorize this regiment to place upon its flag, “Bull Run” and “Williamsburgh,” and the Fortieth New-York or Mozart regiment, “Williamsburgh.” I trust that the General commanding division, seeing how well two of my regiments carried out his orders, will never hesitate to rely on my brigade.

Lieut.-Col. Strong, Thirty-eighth New-York regiment, deserves special mention for his gallant conduct. His wound, although disabling him, I am happy to report is not mortal, and he will be soon returned to his regiment.

I am yours truly,

D. B. Birney, Brigadier-General. Lieut. W. G. Sturgis, A. A. General, Kearney's Division.


Letter from General Kearney.

headquarters Third division Heintzelman's corps, camp Berry, Barhamsville, May 10, 1862.
To His Excellency Gov. Morgan:
sir: It is with great satisfaction that I have the honor of bringing to your notice the distinguished conduct of officers and regiments of the State of New-York, comprised in my division, and as particularly illustrated in the late severe but victorious engagement of the fifth instant in front of Williamsburgh. These were the Thirty-seventh, Col. Hayman; the Thirty-eighth, Col. J. H. Hobart Ward, and Fortieth, Colonel Riley. New-York will ever hold her place as Empire State as long as she has such sons to represent her.

If, Your Excellency, I do not particularize individual officers, it is that I could not, where all was zeal, distinguish one without injustice to the other. The Colonels are of the same opinion as myself. Colonels of two of them stop before the difficulty of a selection; another, Col. Hayman, includes his entire list.

The services of these regiments were most necessary. Each of the three bore the frill brunt of the battle. The Thirty-seventh, Col. Hayman, constituted our extreme left, part of Gen. Berry's brigade. The Thirty-eighth and Fortieth Regiments served on the right flank. During the action, the Thirty-eighth, Col. Ward, and a wing of the Fortieth regiment, were marshaled for the desperate work of piercing the enemy's left centre and carrying the rifle-pits in the nearly impassable abattis — a desperate undertaking. But I knew their reputation, and I was sure of their success. Col. Hobart Ward lost nine officers out of the nineteen that went into action. Two of them were prisoners, and were rescued.

Your Excellency, I particularly name to you these Colonels, as most meritorious and gallant officers, and trust that their State will ever be mindful of them as her proud representatives.

Your Excellency, in making you this, my first official communication, I am happy to embrace the occasion to assure you how sensible I have ever been of your having recommended me originally as one of the Generals within your nomination.

I enclose the list of killed and wounded of these three New-York regiments.

Most respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

P. Kearney, Brig.-Gen. Commanding Third Division Heintzelman's Corps.


Compliment to the Maine troops.

headquarters Third division Heintzelman's corps, camp Berry, Barhamsville, Va., May 10.
To His Excellency, Israel Washburn, Jr., Governor of Maine:
sir: As Commanding General of this division, of which two of the Generals commanding brigades, (Gen. Jameson and Gen. Berry,) as well as two regiments, the Third Maine, Col. Staples, and the Fourth, Col. Walker, form a part, I take this opportunity of calling to your notice their [19] meritorious conduct in the late fight, and to display the fact that, although these regiments were not sufferers in the late engagement at Williamsburgh, having been detached by Gen. Heintzelman to guard the left flank, by their steady and imposing attitude, they contributed to the success of those more immediately engaged. And I assure you, sir, that with such material, commanded by such sterling officers, nothing but success can crown our efforts when the occasion requires. I have the honor to enclose the report of Gen. D. B. Birney, who commanded the noble brigade, of which these two regiments form a part. Gen. Birney commands two New-York and two Maine regiments.

It is peculiarly appropriate, after having rendered justice to the regiments and Colonels, to bring Gens. Jameson and Berry to the especial attention of yourself and citizens at home, who look to them for noble deeds, to illustrate their annals; and I am proud to state that they have amply filled the full meed of anticipated distinction.

Gen. Berry, charged with the left wing of our line of battle, evinced a courage that might have been expected of him, (when, as Colonel of the Fourth regiment of Maine volunteers, he nearly saved the day at Bull Run,) and also a genius for war and a pertinacity in the fight that proved him fit for high command — for he was most severely assailed on the left, and had most difficult rifle-pits and abattis to face and carry.

Gen. Jameson, who commands the First brigade, (One hundred and Second, Sixty-third and Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania volunteers, and Eighty-seventh New-York,) forming the rear of the column on the march from camp, on the fifth inst., used vigor in bringing up his men, under every difficulty, and was with me under severe fire when he arrived, and gave guarantee of a resolution that promised success, in case daylight, remaining to us, he had been advanced to the attack of Fort Magruder, and those works which the enemy evacuated to us during the night, and which he was the first to enter at daylight.

I have the honor, sir, to be your obedient servant,

P. Kearney, Brigadier-General Commanding Third Division Heintzelman's Corps.


McClellan's tribute to his troops.

camp, 19 miles from Williamsburgh, May 11, 1862.
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War:
Without waiting further for official reports, which have not yet reached me, I wish to bear testimony to the splendid conduct of Hooker's and Kearney's divisions, under command of Gen. Heintzelman, in the battle of Williamsburgh. Their bearing was worthy of veterans. Hooker's division for hours gallantly withstood the attack of greatly superior numbers, with very heavy loss. Kearney's division arrived in time to restore the fortunes of the day, and came most gallantly into action. I shall probably have occasion to call attention to other commands, and do not wish to do injury to them by mentioning them now. Had I had the full information I now have in regard to the troops above named when I first telegraphed, they would have been specially mentioned and commended. I spoke only of what I knew at the time, and I shall rejoice to do full justice to all engaged.

Geo. B. Mcclellan, Major-General Commanding.


Order of Brig.-General Couch.

headquarters Couch's division, camp near New-Kent Court-House, Va., May 14, 1862.
General order no. 37.

The Brigadier-General Commanding desires to express his thanks to the division for the heroic courage and fortitude displayed by them at the battle of Williamsburgh, Va., on the fifth inst.

Gen. Peck, with his brigade, consisting of the Sixty-second New-York, Ninety-third Pennsylvania, One Hundred and Second Pennsylvania Fifty-fifth New-York, and Ninety-eighth Pennsylvania, had the good fortune to be in advance: and arriving on the battle-ground at a critical time, won a reputation greatly to be envied.

Gen. Devens, with his brigade, hurried forward. The Second Rhode Island and Seventh Massachusetts were pushed to support Gen. Peck at a trying period of the fight, and were faithful to their trust. The Tenth Massachusetts was sent to the right to support Gen. Hancock, and did good service. The General Commanding deeply regrets the absence at Warwick of the Thirty-sixth New-York.

Graham's brigade came up too late to share in the glory of the fight, but not too late to assure the Division-General that they were ready for any duty which soldiers could be asked to perform.

Friends! we have gained the confidence of our country; let us in future battles, as in the last, show that we can face our rebel foes, and whip them, too.

By order of

Brigadier-General Couch. Francis A. Wale A. A. G. Official — Wm. H. Morris, Captain, A. A. G.


New-York evening post narrative.

Yorktown, Va., May 8, 1862.
Amazed by the proportions and strength of the rebel fortifications at Yorktown, the Northern public could hardly have expected that at a point so near as Williamsburgh our army would encounter works of the same elaborate and formidable character, and meet a stout and protracted resistance on the part of the retreating enemy. The march to Williamsburgh, which began at an early hour on Sunday, the fourth instant, was made with much caution, and yet with a rapidity which quite astonished the fleeing foe. The prisoners, taken at one point and another upon the road, all expressed the greatest surprise at our hasty advance, “never dreaming,” as one remarked to me, “that we would so soon venture beyond Yorktown.”

The weather has been dry for some days, and the roads were in tolerably fair condition. The [20] 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,
The hum of either army stilly sounds,
That the fixed sentinels almost receive
The secret whispers of each other's watch.

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 [21] good troops, though weary with long and rapid marching, under the sturdy lead of Heintzelman, were not long in turning the tide in our favor, though it cost them, especially the Scott Life-Guard and Mozart regiments of New-York, a heavy outlay of life.

Troops of less experience and hardihood would have flinched where these faced the music with a stubbornness which must have surprised the enemy.

Meantime Smith's division was doing nobly on the right and centre. Hancock's brigade, composed of the Fifth Wisconsin, Forty-third New-York, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, and Sixth Maine regiments, was on the extreme right, while Brooks's Vermont brigade occupied the centre, and both bore the heat of battle most nobly. Every few moments couriers brought tidings of the steadiness of these fine brigades, and our expectation that they would do themselves great honor during the day was by no means disappointed. Everywhere the enemy found them stern and determined combatants, and worthy their exalted reputation.

At headquarters, Whittaker's house, a sightly locality opposite the centre of our lines, between which and the enemy's works there was a narrow wood, Gens. Sumner, Keyes, and Heintzelman were in frequent consultation. The former, though few troops of his corps were upon the field, by virtue of his rank was in command. The active duties of the day were, however, performed by Keyes and Heintzelman, who were indefatigable, and by their clear comprehension of the exigencies of the contest added, if possible, to their excellent fame as commanders. The Union army boasts of no better soldiers than these two gallant and popular men. Whatever of unnecessary delay there may have been in bringing forth reinforcements during the day, it cannot be attributed to them.

At four o'clock in the afternoon the battle was at its height. The scene from headquarters at that time was exciting and imposing beyond description. Skirting the woods to the left, to the right, and before us, forming a half-circle two or three miles in extent, were thousands of our infantry men, pouring a steady fire into the dense forests, where the enemy was steadily advancing. From my horse I could see the smoke of the muskets gracefully curling among the tall trees and hear the crackling reports, which at every moment announced the severity of our attack, and brought forth the prompt response of the confederates; and now for the first time the rebel artillery began to be effective in the centre of our lines. The hissing shells were thrown nearer, and with greater precision, and even burst beyond headquarters, to the consternation of some of the youthful aids-de-camps who had never been under fire, and to the greater alarm of the women and children yet remaining in the house.

Now, also, our own reserves were coming up. Gen. Keyes had, in person, driven back a mile or two and urged them forward. Casey's division, headed by that venerable officer, who has so long and faithfully served his country, reached the plateau to the rear of headquarters. Couch's division also appeared. Now, too, the artillery and cavalry held in reserve drew near to the scene of action, and prepared for an immediate engagement. Several additional batteries were sent forward. Ayres was throwing his screeching missiles far into the enemy's ranks, and Mott opened an “infernal fire” on the centre, while far on the right and left the din of our guns was incessant, the tumult of battle loud and furious. Yet messengers, their steeds

Bloody with spurring, fiery-red with haste,

flew to headquarters with the report that on our left the desperate enemy was again pressing us in, while from the right Hancock sent for reenforcements without delay. The sombre clouds, dispensing their copious waters upon the marshaled armies, were not darker than our prospects now appeared; but the arrival of additional armies, their careful placing and strength, and the knowledge that the main body of our force could not be far behind, inspired fresh confidence in our ranks. The battle waged savagely. Men never fought more doggedly. Death was never met with more of genuine heroism. The vacancies in the lines were speedily filled, the enemy was met shot for shot and gun for gun. The army of the Potomac, long drilled, long in waiting, eager to avenge the slaughter and repulse at Bull Run and Ball's Bluff, knew no such word as fail.

When the firing was the most terrific, and the anxiety the most intense, there came from the rear of our ranks a sound which seemed for the moment to subdue the roar even of the artillery. All eyes and ears were turned to discover its origin, which proved to be the approach of Gen. McClellan and staff. Throughout the day he had been momentarily expected, and his opportune coming was hailed with long and enthusiastic cheering. Regiment after regiment, as he was quickly recognised, gave utterance to a welcome of which Napoleon might have been proud. Arriving at headquarters, he — without dismounting from his horse — held a brief consultation with Gen. Keyes, and approving his course, and especially his order for reenforcements to Gen. Hancock, joined him in a ride throughout our lines. His appearance was everywhere the signal for an outburst of the wildest applause. He wore a plain blue coat, and had his cap enveloped in a glazed covering. The rapidity of his ride to the field had well spattered him with mud, and the drenching rain had penetrated his every garment. He, however, showed no signs of fatigue, and it was not until he had in person familiarized himself with the entire field, and by critical observation studied the exact position of the enemy, that he accepted the shelter of a room which had been reserved for him at headquarters.

Thus matters stood at nightfall, when word came that Gen. Hancock had met the enemy in a bayonet charge and thoroughly routed him, [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, [23] which had stood in the rain all night, while he warmly denounced the adhesive character of the “sacred soil.”

In the hospital the wounded were comparatively comfortable, and I thought the occasion a good one to secure their names, but red tape would not permit it. The doctors feared I would disturb the patients, and so, by their own neglect and their interference with others, many an anxious parent is kept in painful suspense, tremulously awaiting a report which, whether favorable or not, would at least be a source of relief to thousands.

At nine o'clock General McClellan and staff left headquarters for the battle-field. It was my privilege to accompany the party. Going to the right, we soon reached the scene of Hancock's brave exploits, and examined the formidable works which had fallen into his hands, and the obstacles he had so nobly overcome on the previous afternoon. The enemy had evidently thought him an easy prey, and a man with less resolution and deliberate courage would have fallen back, at least until reinforcements came up; but not so Gen. Hancock. Waiting until the rebel brigade with which he had been contesting the ground, inch by inch, left its shelter, and on the open field, a broad and beautiful expanse, undertook to advance rapidly upon him, he had recourse to the bayonet, and led the splendid charge which must forever be honorably associated with his name. It was a marvellous encounter, and our men speak highly of the bearing of the foe. The field was literally strewn with the dead and dying, and it is believed that the enemy nowhere suffered so severely. His force is said to have consisted of North-Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia troops.

Already our troops had begun the solemn work of burying the rebel dead on the right. The bodies had, many of them, been gathered from the field, and conveyed to different points where pits had been dug for their reception. I halted at several of these to look at the mangled remains. Death had found the unfortunate victims in various attitudes. One was in the act of raising his gun to fire, and had stiffened in the same position — another was opening his cartridge-box and had died in the attempt--a third was evidently retreating, and had fallen with his back to our advance — a fourth clasped his hands to his pistol and so received the fatal shot. The wounds were even more singular and repulsive than I had noticed in our hospital. Several were shot in the mouth, some through the face. By the bursting of a shell, one had his head blown off, another had his back fairly broken, and still another had his heart torn to pieces. Already the blackness of corruption darkened many of the faces, and it seemed imperatively necessary that the bodies should be put under the earth as speedily as possible.

The barns, fences, and trees near the battlefield were sadly injured, and even the brute creation had suffered in the conflict, for at one point I saw the remains of a young colt which had been killed by a round shot. Here and there pools of clotted blood showed where the dead and dying soldiers had lain, and the bodies of a number remained as they had fallen. Ever and anon a musket, a coat, a sword on the ground, indicated the hasty withdrawal of its owner, and his determination to suffer no impediment in his flight.

The wheat, which had grown to the height of a foot in most of the fields where the severest fighting took place, was of course sadly trampled, and it is doubtful whether the liberal infusion of human blood which the earth received will be sufficient to restore the crop to a vigorous growth. As there was no rebel cavalry or artillery engaged at this part of the field, few dead horses were to be seen. Here and there one, probably the property of a colonel or a major, was stretched in death, or lingering in a miserable existence, from which it were a kindness to relieve it by a well-directed shot.

The forts on the right, taking Fort Page as the centre-piece of the works, were shrewdly located and admirably built, but poorly defended. One or more of them had not been used to any extent. Rifle-pits were abundant, and are more popular with the rebel engineers than with ours. They were, however, considerably exposed and used to little purpose. The forts were not unlike those of our construction near Washington, and were, as we learned from the contrabands and prisoners, built, like those at Yorktown, by the negroes, under the superintendence of overseers, some of whom, according to the contrabands, were cruel task-masters. Mention was made of one, who continually lashed the poor blacks, repeating a hundred times a day: “Not a spadeful of earth shall be wasted.” Most of the contrabands have worked upon the fortifications, and one cause of their rejoicing at the arrival of our army is, that they will no longer, in all probability, have to labor so severely, and in a line for which they are not especially fitted and certainly have no taste.

Passing on to the centre fort, called Fort Page, we found it occupied by Neal's (late Birney's) Twenty-third Pennsylvania regiment, which, having come up in the night, with Graham's brigade, of Casey's division, as a reserve to Gen. Hancock, had early scoured the field.

The great fort was much damaged by our artillery fire. Only a siege-gun remained in it. Several broken caissons and some ammunition had been left. The trees around were many of them splintered by our shells, and the barracks on the Williamsburgh side were more or less shattered. Our men were exploring them, finding bacon, flour, and hominy, garments, muskets, and filth. The barracks, like all on the road from Yorktown, were better built and altogether more substantial than those occupied by our troops during the winter. Indeed, they were quite commodious and comfortable houses.

A drive to the left afforded an opportunity to examine the ground upon which Hooker had made his desperate stand, and performed, if not so brilliant, as heroic service as Hancock. At one o'clock in the morning the eagle-eyed Gen. Jameson, [24] whose brigade of Kearney's division had come to Hooker's support, had discovered the enemy's departure, and placed his men in the abandoned forts. These works were of the same character as those on the right, fitted for four, six to ten guns each. They had been occupied by light artillery, which, as from the others, had been removed, I believe the siege-gun found in Fort Page the only one of that character used by the enemy during the day.

Where Hooker had fought the signs of slaughter were abundant. Though many of the bodies had been buried, there were enough yet exposed to show the terrible effect of his shot. Bramhall's horses were thickly scattered over the ground, a certificate to his precarious position. That he managed to escape with his life is a wonder of the day. Here, too, we saw where Massachusetts and New-Hampshire men and the Sickles brigade had met the enemy, and where the Jerseymen, under the younger Patterson, had proven worthy their fathers of Monmouth and Trenton. The acres of felled and tangled trees had greatly impeded our progress, and held many of our brave fellows under the enemy's galling fire. This was by far the best defended portion of his lines, and would probably have been held much longer but for Hancock's coup de maitre.

All over the battle-field our inquisitive troops were exploring the enemy's defences — now examining the forts, now measuring the rifle-pits, and anon surveying the stockades and parallels. Many and original were the criticisms passed upon the enemy's manoeuvres. An Irish soldier thought the rebels would never forget the Sickles brigade. A Dutchman, smoking his long pipe, wondered if Jeff Davis expected to escape the halter after such vast and bold preparations for resisting the Government. A brawny Yankee, with his arm in a sling, said the “mudsills and greasy mechanics” had been heard from, and would be again. The sentiments expressed, touching the vanquished, were generally more in pity than in anger, and the wounded rebels left on the field received only the kindest treatment.

From the main range of forts, which must be about a mile from Williamsburgh, that old town could be plainly seen. An open but desolate field extended to its leading street, and was in continuation of a road leading from Fort Page. Jameson's brigade, leaving at daylight, entered and garrisoned the city; Gen. McClellan and staff determined to advance and inspect it. Fearing the planting of torpedoes in the road, as at Yorktown, they proceeded across the field, passing an earthwork near to the city, and several rebel cabins, from which the groans of wounded men, who had crawled there from the bloody field, were painfully audible.

The most conspicuous building in the city, the State Lunatic Asylum, displayed hospital flags from its tall towers, which are modelled after those of the Abbey of Westminster, and towered loftily among the low white dwellings surrounding them.

It was about eleven o'clock when the General and his staff, with their cavalry escort, and Gen. Heintzelman and his body-guard, entered the main street of the ancient city of Williamsburgh. Few white persons were to be seen, save those in the uniform of our army. White flags were hoisted on many of the houses, and the yellow bunting freely displayed, indicating what we soon found to be the fact, that the city was filled with the enemy's dead, wounded, and sick. The shops and stores were, with scarcely an exception, closed, and seemed to have been abandoned for some length of time. On several of them were notices to the effect that they had been closed for want of goods, probably a correct announcement.

The condition of the streets was such as to defy description. Generally lower than the side-walks, they had been the receptacle of the flood of the previous night, which, with the hasty movement of the retreating army, with its artillery and stores, had made them almost impassable. Prairie roads in spring were never worse. Our horses floundered about as though in an extended quagmire, and the mud flew in every direction. For much of the way, even in the best street, we were obliged to drive upon the side-walks, and their condition was far from inviting.

Negroes of every shade and size gazed at us from the streets and yards, and carefully watched our advent. There was much bowing and scraping on the part of the dusky spectators, and an evident relief at our occupation of the town. I entered into conversation with several of the intelligent, and found their knowledge of the war and its causes very clear and complete, while their confidence in our purpose to do them no harm was constantly manifested. One yellow fellow assured me that he waved a white flag from the window of his cabin a long time, hoping it would induce us to hasten on. He claimed to have told the frightened rebels the night before that he hoped the Yankees would come, as he had been too badly used by his master and was sure of good treatment from the Northern people. When I suggested to him that many of his folks thought freedom preferable to bondage, he replied that “nobody liked to be a slave.” He said that needing money and fearing the effects of the war, his master had taken him and two of his brothers South to sell. That the brothers had been disposed of, but he, probably owing to a defect in his eyes, found no market, a result with which he was evidently gratified. He asked many questions about the North and the means of getting there, and when I afterward looked for him to make me a hoe-cake he could not be found. I doubt not that, like hundreds of his companions, he has started for a taste of the free air and independence to which he has so long eagerly looked forward.

By carefully comparing the various reports, I concluded that the enemy's forces evacuated the forts at midnight and Williamsburgh at daylight, and that they numbered from thirty to forty thousand. The Generals in command during the [25] day were Longstreet, the former Methodist preacher, and Early, who led the brigade which was so decisively repulsed by Hancock.

The notorious Joe Johnston reached the field in the afternoon, but it does not appear that he assumed any important part in the conduct of affairs, and his retreat must have been hurried, for he left his personal baggage and papers in the city. Several of the shells from our rifle cannon entered the eastern end of the city, and the inhabitants were much scared throughout the day. Some ladies with whom I conversed had not yet recovered from their alarm, and were quite too nervous to talk with composure. They were disposed to treat our army with respect-refused to accept pay for such simple refreshments as they were able to provide, and opened their houses for our officers, but had nothing to say in favor of the old Government or the old flag. Only the negroes uttered sentiments of loyalty.

I found it quite impossible to correctly estimate the enemy's loss. Some five or six hundred, perhaps more, of his wounded were left at Williamsburgh, while it is reasonable to presume that many not so severely injured made good their escape. The dead found upon the field and in the hospitals will probably reach five hundred. We have several hundred prisoners. Our own loss, killed, wounded, and missing, will, I think, be less than a thousand, and principally from the regiments engaged on our left. Hancock lost in all but twenty-five or thirty killed and fifty wounded, a very small number in view of his position and success, while he took a number of prisoners. Our own loss in prisoners is light. All the wounded were left in Williamsburgh by the flying enemy, and of course fell into our hands, much to their joy.

Gen. McClellan and staff drove directly through the city to the college building, from the roof of which the Stars and Stripes caught the breeze, and our signal corps had already established a station communicating with the several divisions of the army. Entering the edifice, which is of brick and somewhat imposing, though less so than the structure burned some years since, a visit was made to the several rooms, in all of which were more or less of the rebel wounded, abandoned by their fleeing brethren. General McClellan had a kind word for each, and a smile which carried consolation to the pale sufferers, most of whom had not yet received the slightest surgical attention. To the various inquiries he replied so pleasantly, so promptly, and with so much apparent feeling, that we might have thought him an old and intimate friend and companion.

Few of the wounded recognised him, and when afterward told who had so generously cheered and comforted them, they were greatly surprised. It had not occurred to them that a victorious Major-General would stoop to tenderly inquire into their casualties and provide for their relief.

At noon a dozen confederate surgeons reached the city under a flag of truce, and were given permission to visit their wounded in the several hospitals. Our own surgeons had many of them already engaged in the humane work and were alleviating the distress as far as in their power. I went into several of the buildings — all the churches are hospitals — but only to find them as slovenly as the college. In conversation with the wounded I ascertained that they were from all the rebel States, the majority, I think, from the extreme South. The only Virginia regiment which seemed to have been much cut up was the Twenty-fourth.

I cannot forget my first observations in the hospitals. Such sights I never before witnessed, and pray I never may again. Hurried from the battle-field and thrown together in the most reckless manner, the sufferers were just as they had fallen. Neither washed nor dressed, with the blood of their ghastly wounds drying upon them; without refreshment or consolation, they presented a picture of woe rarely equalled. Here and there the stiff bodies of those who had died in the night were lying in utter neglect. In one room I counted a half-dozen such. The floors and cots were red with blood. Many of the sufferers were speechless, and some of the wounds worse than any I had seen on the battle-field. One poor fellow, whose skull was crushed, had slipped from his cot out on the floor, and was dying in dreadful agony. The clothes of all were wet from the drenching storm of Monday, and their plight was melancholy beyond relation. Those who were able to speak begged for surgical attendance and for food, and a hundred times I was asked to dress their wounds.

They acknowledged that our troops fought splendidly. Several said they had never known such fighting. One told me he thought General McClellan's army the best in the world. When I expressed my regret that they had been wounded in a bad cause, they usually made no reply, or said that they had been forced into the service. Many repudiated the idea of our success, and bore their pains with striking composure. A man with three ugly wounds smoked his pipe and appeared as happy as a lark. But not a few owned the desperation of their cause. One hand — some boy, covered with wounds, remarked that we would soon have the whole Southern army in our hands, and I thought rather liked the idea.

I observed that not a few of the wounded — and the same is true of the prisoners — were men advanced in years. There are more of such in the rebel army than in ours, doubtless the result of the inexorable system of drafting. I talked with several grey-haired men who were wounded and exceedingly forlorm. They were inclined to reticence, but intimated a thorough disgust with the fortunes of war. One of the number had been shot through the tongue, and presented a most revolting spectacle. The blood streamed from his mouth, while from some cause or other his cheeks and eyes were swollen in an extraordinary manner, and the latter were blackened as though he had been in a prize-fight. His nearest friends would have difficulty in recognising him, and I am sure that he will never again enter the army, even though he should quite recover from his frightful wound. [26]

In an upper room of the college our wounded of the Excelsior brigade were found. The enemy had not time to carry them off, and very fortunately, for the journey to Richmond must have proved painful, if not fatal, to many. Colonel Dwight, of the First regiment, was stretched upon a cot in the centre of the room. His wound in the leg had been partially dressed, but he was by no means comfortable. In response to the General's commendation of his conduct on the field, he stated that he would not have given up, but for the severity of his wound, and that the approbation of his commanding officer more than compensated for his suffering. By the order of the General he was at once removed to a private house near at hand, and attended by a skilful surgeon.

The appearance of the college hospital was not at all creditable to its rebel keepers. The floors, the stairs, the walls, and even the windows, were covered with filth, and we had only to open the pantries, or stroll in the yards, to detect as many distinct and well-defined stenches as Coleridge counted in the dirty streets of Cologne. Medical stores and implements, fragments of furniture and clothing, broken crockery, cooking utensils, and kindred rubbish, was strewn all over the building, while the grounds, heretofore so picturesque and well-protected, which for their historic associations, if for nothing more, should have been jealously guarded, were a complete waste. The fences prostrate, the stone gate-posts overturned, the sod and trees destroyed, and even the marble statue of Baron de Botetourt disfigured and begrimed with mud.

The houses lately occupied by the professors, and situated on either side of the college building, had been used by rebel officers, and profiting by their example, Gen. Jameson, now made Military Governor of the place, had made one of them his headquarters. The General was highly complimented by the Commander for his prompt detection of the enemy's retreat and his early movement into the city. The Ninety-third and One Hundred and Fifth Pennsylvania regiments were placed upon patrol duty. Every house in the city was promptly guarded, and there was soon an air of order and quiet in the streets which must have satisfied the people that the stories of the plundering and rioting of our army were but foul aspersions. Victors were never more charitable and forbearing.

After looking well about the town, Gen. McClellan, having chosen for his quarters a large brick house on the main street, said to have been recently occupied by General Johnston, he there established his staff, and himself returned with one or two aids to the battle-field.

Graham's brigade and others soon arrived, and before evening thousands of Federal troops were encamped in and about the city, while a reconnoissance as far as the Chickahominy Creek, some eight miles beyond Williamsburgh, made by the energetic Averill, discovered no signs of the enemy but an abandoned magazine or two, several guns, many muskets and some straggling soldiers, who were only too glad to give themselves up and return to the city which their companions had so summarily left.



Richmond Dispatch account.

Richmond, May 8.
An official despatch was yesterday morning received at the War Department giving intelligence of a severe engagement near Williamsburgh, on Monday, in which the enemy were repulsed with a heavy loss in killed and wounded. They also lost twelve pieces of artillery and nine hundred prisoners. The fight lasted from seven o'clock to eleven o'clock A. M.

The troops engaged on our side consisted of a portion of the division of Major-General Longstreet.

An official letter from Gen. Johnston states that “a handsome affair” took place at Williamsburgh on Monday. The enemy attacked our rearguard in great force, and were driven back to the woods about a mile.

Our latest information is complete upon the main points of the result of the engagement. Our loss in killed and wounded was two hundred and twenty. The Federal prisoners captured by our forces numbered six hundred and twenty-three, and the number of field-pieces eleven. The extent of their casualties is not correctly known, but it is believed that their loss amounts to up-ward of a thousand in killed and wounded. They numbered six thousand strong, and were deployed in a skirt of wood opposite our position, from which they were driven, subjected to a disastrous fire from the right, left and front. The prisoners taken were yesterday on their way to this city, and were expected to reach here last night. They were but a few miles from the city late in the afternoon. They were marched by land under guard.

Among others killed or wounded we have the names of the following officers: Killed-Colonel Ward, of the Fourth Florida regiment; Major William H. Palmer, of the First Virginia regiment, (and son of Mr. Wm. Palmer, of this city,) and Capt. Jack Humphreys, of the Seventeenth Virginia regiment. Wounded--Col. Corse, of the Seventeenth Virginia regiment; Col. Kemper, of the Seventh Virginia regiment, and Col. Garland, of Lynchburgh, severely.

Another heavy battle took place yesterday near Barhamsville, in the county of New-Kent, but with what result was not known, as the courier who brought the intelligence to this city left at twelve o'clock. The enemy landed their forces from gunboats (twenty-four in number) at or near West-Point.

The number engaged on either side is not known, but that of the enemy was supposed to be very large. A general engagement of the two armies is expected. The loss on both sides in the fight of yesterday was very heavy, ours believed to be not less than one thousand up to twelve o'clock. The enemy had up to that hour been driven back three times to within range of their gunboats.



[27]

Later

At a late hour last night we learned some further particulars of the fight on Monday.

Gen. Early is mortally wounded.

Gen. Anderson, of North-Carolina, we believe, killed.

Col. Mott, of Mississippi, killed.

Gen. Raines, slightly wounded.

Capt. Echols, of Lynchburgh, slightly wounded.

Capt. Irwin, of Scales's North-Carolina regiment, wounded.

The First Virginia regiment was badly cut up. Out of two hundred men in the fight, some eighty or ninety are reported killed or wounded.

Colonel Kemper's regiment suffered terribly, though we have no account of the extent of the casualties.

We learn that Gen. Magruder has been for several days quite sick at Westover, on James River.

The enemy had not occupied Jamestown at six o'clock on Tuesday evening, but were in large force at Grove wharf and King's mill. They are also understood to be landing forces at West-Point.

The Virginia (No. 2) was passed on James River yesterday, and will be at Richmond to-day.

We have conflicting reports of the fight at Barhamsville yesterday, and prefer to wait for an official statement before giving publicity to rumors.

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