- Effects of reduction of the army
-- overthrow of the campaign
-- New campaign with reduced army
-- siege of Yorktown.
Soon after receiving the telegram I sent the following to the Secretary of War
, dated April 5:
The enemy are in large force along our front, and apparently intend making a determined resistance.
A reconnoissance just made by Gen. Barnard shows that their line of works extends across the entire Peninsula from Yorktown to Warwick river.
Many of them are formidable.
Deserters say that they are being reinforced daily from Richmond and from Norfolk.
Under the circumstances I beg that you will reconsider the order detaching the 1st corps from my command.
In my deliberate judgment the success of our cause will be imperilled by so greatly reducing my force when it is actually under the fire of the enemy and active operations have commenced.
Two of my divisions have been under fire of artillery during most of the day. I am now of the opinion that I shall have to fight all the available force of the rebels not far from here.
Do not force me to do so with diminished ranks; but whatever your decision may be, I will leave nothing undone to obtain success.
If you cannot leave me the whole of the 1st corps, I urgently ask, as a military necessity, that I may not lose Franklin and his division.
On the same day, at ten P. M., I sent the following to Secretary Stanton
Since Gen. Woodbury's brigade of volunteer engineer troops was only temporarily attached to the 1st corps for special service, and is much needed here, I have directed Gen. Woodbury to bring it here at once.
Their services are indispensable.
The following letter was written during the evening of April 5:
This, then, was the situation in which I found myself on the evening of April 5: Flag-Officer Goldsborough
had informed me that it was not in his power to control the navigation of the James river
so as to enable me to use it as a line of supply, or to cross it, or even to cover my left flank; nor could he, as he thought, furnish any vessels to attack the batteries of Yorktown
, or to run by them in the dark and thus cut off the supplies of the enemy by water and control their land-communication.
I was thus deprived of the co-operation of the navy and left to my own resources.
I had been deprived of five infantry divisions, and out of the four left to me there were present at the front five divisions of volunteer regiments, the weak brigade of regulars, Hunt
's artillery reserve, and a small cavalry force.
Owing to the lack of wagons Casey
did not reach Young's Mill until the 16th.
's division reached the front on the same day. Hooker
's division commenced arriving at Ship's Point
on the 10th.
The roads were so bad and wagons so fern that it was with the utmost difficulty supplies could be brought up, and the field-artillery moved with great difficulty.
Even the headquarters wagons could not get up, and I slept in a deserted hut with my saddle-blanket for a bed.
My telegram of April 7 to the President
shows that only 53,000 men had joined me, so that I had not more than 44,000 effectives, and found myself in front of a position which apparently could not be carried by assault.
The force was too small to attempt any movement to turn Gloucester
without the assistance of the navy, and I was obliged to abandon the plan of rapid turning movements which I had intended to carry out.
All that could be done was to halt where we were, and by close reconnoissances ascertain whether there were any weak points which we could assault, or, failing in that, determine what could be effected with the aid of siege-artillery to cover the attack.
Next day, April 6, I sent the following telegram to his excellency the President
The order forming new departments, if rigidly enforced, deprives me of the power of ordering up wagons and troops absolutely necessary to enable me to advance to Richmond.
I have by no means the transportation I must have to move my army even a few miles.
I respectfully request I may not be placed in this position, but that my orders for wagons, trains, and ammunition, and other material that I have prepared and necessarily left behind me, as well as Woodbury's brigade, may at once be complied with.
The enemy is strong in my front, and I have a most serious task before me, in the fulfilment of which I need all the aid the government can give me. I again repeat the urgent request that Gen. Franklin and his division may be restored to my command.
I received the following reply from Secretary Stanton
The President directs me to say that your despatch to him has been received.
Gen. Sumner's corps is on the road to you and will go forward as fast as possible.
Franklin's division is now on the advance towards Manassas.
There is no means of transportation here to send it forward in time to be of service in your present optrations.
Telegraph frequently, and all in the power of the government shall be done to sustain you as occasion may require.
And this from the President
To this I replied, April 7, to the President
Your telegram of yesterday received.
In reply I have the honor to state that my entire force for duty only amounts to about eighty-five thousand (85,000) men. Gen. Wool's command, as you will observe from the accompanying order, has been taken out of my control, although he has most cheerfully co-operated with me. The only use that can be made of his command is to protect my communications in rear of this point.
At this time only fifty-three thousand (53,000) men have joined me, but they are coming up as rapidly as my means of transportation will permit.
Please refer to my despatch to the Secretary of War of to-night for the details of our present situation.
I find on the back of my retained copy of this despatch the following memorandum made at the time by myself:
|Return of March 31, 1862, shows men present for duty||171,602|
|Deduct 1st corps, infantry and artillery,||32,119|| |
|Deduct Blenker,||8,616|| |
|Deduct Banks,||21,739|| |
|Deduct Wadsworth,||19,318|| |
|Deduct Cavalry of 1st corps, etc.,||1,600|| |
|Deduct Cavalry of Blenker,||800|| |
|Van Alen and Wyndham,||1,600|| |
|Officers, about 3,900.|
|Total absent from whole command, 23,796.|
As this memorandum was a calculation to ascertain only the number of troops left under my command, it did not take into consideration all the troops left behind which did not compose parts of the total of 171,602 for duty.
My letters of April 1, show that many more were left in addition to those mentioned in this memorandum.
The telegram referred to in my despatch to the President
was the following, of April 7, to Secretary Stanton
Your telegram of yesterday arrived here while I was absent examining the enemy's right, which I did pretty closely. . . . The whole line of the Warwick, which really heads within a mile of Yorktown, is strongly defended by detached redoubts and other fortifications, armed with heavy and light guns.
The approaches, except at Yorktown, are covered by the Warwick, over which there is but one, or at most two, passages, both of
which are covered by strong batteries.
It will be necessary to resort to the use of heavy guns and some siege operations before we assault.
All the prisoners state that Gen. J. E. Johnston arrived at Yorktown yesterday with strong reinforcements.
It seems clear that I shall have the whole force of the enemy on my hands — probably not less than (100,000) one hundred thousand men, and possibly more.
In consequence of the loss of Blenker's division and the 1st corps my force is possibly less than that of the enemy, while they have all the advantage of position.
I am under great obligations to you for the offer that the whole force and material of the government will be as fully and as speedily under my command as heretofore, or as if the new departments had not been created.
Since my arrangements were made for this campaign at least (50,000) fifty thousand men have been taken from my command.
Since my despatch of the 5th instant five divisions have been in close observation of the enemy, and frequently exchanging shots.
When my present command all joins I shall have about (85,000) eighty-five thousand men for duty, from which a large force must be taken for guards, scouts, etc. With this Army I could assault the enemy's works, and perhaps carry them.
But were I in possession of their entrenchments, and assailed by double my numbers, I should have no fears as to the result.
Under the circumstances that have been developed since we arrived here, I feel fully impressed with the conviction that here is to be fought the great battle that is to decide the existing contest.
I shall, of course, commence the attack as soon as I can get up my siege-train, and shall do all in my power to carry the enemy's works; but to do this with a reasonable degree of certainty requires, in my judgment, that I should, if possible, have at least the whole of the 1st corps to land upon the Severn river and attack Gloucester in the rear.
My present strength will not admit of a detachment sufficient for this purpose without materially impairing the efficiency of this column.
Flag-Officer Goldsborough thinks the works too strong for his available vessels unless I can turn Gloucester.
I send by mail copies of his letter and one of the commander of the gunboats here.
, commanding 4th army corps, after the examination of the enemy's defences on the left, addressed the following letter to the Hon. Ira Harris
, U. S. Senate, and gave me a copy.
It describes the situation at that time in some respects so well that I introduce it here:
The reconnoissances of the 6th and 7th and following days, pushed with great vigor and with some loss, confirmed the impressions gained on the 5th.
I verified all these reconnoissances
in person, going everywhere beyond our lines of pickets, and resuming my old trade of reconnoitring officer, so anxious was I to find a practicable point of attack.
In fact, during the whole siege I exposed myself more in this way than was proper for a general commanding an army; but I had had far more personal experience in sieges than any of those under my command, and trusted more to my own knowledge and experience than I then could to theirs.
It was found that the Warwick valley
headed within two thousand yards of the enciente
, and within half that distance of the White Redoubt
, or Fort Magruder, a strong work, essentially a part of the main works at Yorktown
, which were so strong-having ditches from eight to ten feet deep, and more than fifteen feet wide at the top — and so heavily armed with siege and garrison guns, as to render an assault hopeless.
The interval between Yorktown
and the Warwick
was occupied by strong works, and all the open ground in front, as well as the direct approaches to the town itself, so thoroughly swept by the direct fire of more than fifty guns of the heaviest calibres then known as to render it an act of madness to assault without first silencing the fire of the enemy's artillery.
From its head to Lee's Mill
was flooded by means of artificial inundations, which rendered it unfordable.
The dams constructed for this purpose were all covered by strong works so situated as to be unassailable until their artillery-fire was reduced.
Below Lee's Mill
the river was a tidal stream, not fordable at any stage of the tide.
That portion, moreover, was controlled by the fire of the Confederate gunboats in the James river
The valley of the Warwick
was generally low and swampy, the approaches to the dams were through dense forests and deep swamps, and every precaution had been taken by the enemy, in the may of felling timber and constructing works, to make a crossing as difficult as possible.
In his report of the 6th of May, immediately after the occupation of Yorktown
, Gen. Barnard
of the Army of the Potomac, says:
They (referring to the groups of works covering the Warwick) are far more extensive than may be supposed from the mention of them I make, and every kind of obstruction which the country affords, such as abattis, marsh, inundation, etc., was skilfully used.
The line is certainly one of the most extensive
known to modern times.
The country on both sides the Warwick from near Yorktown down is a dense forest with few clearings.
It was swampy, and the roads impassable during the heavy rains we have constantly had, except where our own labors had corduroyed them.
If we could have broken the enemy's line across the isthmus we could have invested Yorktown, and it must, with its garrison, have soon fallen into our hands.
It was not deemed practicable?
considering the strength of that line and the difficulty of handling our forces (owing to the impracticable character of the country), to do so. If we could take Yorktown or drive the enemy out of that place, the enemy's line was no longer tenable.
This we could do by siege operations.
It was deemed too hazardous to attempt the reduction of the place by assault.
The operations of the siege required extensive preparations.
I regret that there is not time and means to prepare a complete plan of this enormous system of defences.
They should form part of the record of the operations of the Army of the Potomac.
The forcing of such a line with so little loss is in itself an exploit, less brilliant, perhaps, but more worthy of study, than would have been a murderous assault, even had it proved successful.
I need only add to this that Gen. Barnard
never expressed to me any opinion that an assault was practicable upon any part of the enemy's defences.
From his first reconnoissances he was decidedly of the opinion that the use of heavy guns was necessary.
More than this, I never, at the time, heard of any contrary opinion from any one, and, so far as I know, there was entire unanimity on the part of the general officers
and chiefs of staff departments that the course pursued was the only one practicable under the circumstances.
From Lee's Mill
a line of works extended to the enemy's rear to Skiff's creek, se that if we had forced the passage of the Warwick
below that point we would have found a new line of defence in front of us, completely covering the enemy's communications.
During the progress of these reconnoissances every effort was made to bring up supplies and ammunition.
A violent storm beginning on the 6th, and continuing without cessation for three or four days, almost entirely interrupted the water-communication between Fortress Monroe
and Ship Point
, and made the already bad roads terrible beyond description.
In those days I more than once thought of a reply made to me by an old general
of Cossacks, who had served in all the Russian
campaigns against Napoleon
I had asked how the roads were in those days, to which he replied: “My son, the roads are always bad in war.”
It was not until the 10th that we were able to establish a new depot on Cheeseman
's creek, which shortened the haul about three miles. The rains continued almost incessantly, and it was necessary not only to detail large working parties to unload supplies, but details of some thousands of men were required to corduroy the roads, as the only means of enabling us to get up supplies.
As illustrating the condition of things, I insert the following despatch from Mr. John Tucker
, Assistant Secretary of War
, dated near Yorktown
, April 10, to Hon. E. M. Stanton
, Secretary of War
The following telegram was sent as indicated, on April 10, to Brig.-Gen. Thomas
I examined the works on enemy's left very carefully to-day.
They are very strong, the approaches difficult; enemy in force and confident.
Water-batteries at York and Gloucester said to be much increased; have not seen them myself.
Have not yet received reports of engineer officers.
I go to-morrow to examine our left.
Sharp firing on our right for some time to-day while I was there; no harm done, although their shells burst handsomely.
Am receiving supplies from Ship Point, repairing roads, getting up siege artillery, etc.
It seems now almost certain that we must use mortars and heavy guns freely before assaulting.
The naval officers urge an attack in rear of Gloucester; I think they are right, but am now too weak to attempt it, unless new circumstances come to my knowledge.
The affair will be protracted in consequence of the diminution of my force.
The following was sent to Hon. E. M. Stanton
, Secretary of War
, on April 8:
Weather terrible; raining heavily last twenty-eight hours; roads and camps in awful condition; very little firing to-day.
Reconnoissances being continued under disadvantageous circumstances.
Gen. Sumner has arrived.
Most of Richardson's division at Ship Point.
I cannot move it from there in present condition of roads until I get more wagons.
I need more force to make the attack on Gloucester.
To Brig.-Gen. L. Thomas
on April 9:
Weather still execrable; country covered with water; roads terrible.
It is with the utmost difficulty that I can supply the troops.
We are doing an immense deal of work on the roads.
Cannot land siege-tram until wind moderates.
Reconnoissances being pushed and point of attack pretty well determined.
Rebels have thrown ten-inch and twelve-inch shells yesterday and today without effect.
I have now placed all the troops in bivouac just out of shell-range, holding all our advanced positions with strong detachments well sheltered.
I shall not lose an unnecessary hour in placing our heavy guns in battery, and will assault at the earliest practicable moment.
The conduct of the troops is excellent.
At this time I received the following letter from the President
The portions of this letter referring to the arrangements for the defence of Washington
and the Shenandoah
have already been fully answered and need not be alluded to again in this place.
As regards the discrepancy of 23,000 men, it is sufficient to say that my estimate was made from the actual latest returns of the men present for duty, and was correct.
I have no doubt that the number furnished the President
was the aggregate present and absent — a convenient mistake not unfrequently made by the Secretary of War
The number I gave was correct; that furnished the President
In regard to the employment of Wool
's command, the authorities in Washington
failed to perceive the irony of my remark in my telegram of April 7, to the effect that the only use that could be made of his command was to protect my communications in rear of the point I then occupied.
There were no communications to protect beyond Ship Point
, and there was no possibility of the roads to Fortress Monroe
being troubled by the enemy.
's troops were of no possible use to me beyond holding Fortress Monroe
, and would have been of very great use if the surplus had been incorporated with the Army of the Potomac.
The whole force sent forward had not joined me at the date of this letter; it was not until seven days later that Casey
, and Richardson
reached the front line; they could not be brought up earlier.
I have already shown the impossibility of attacking earlier or otherwise than we actually did.
When in front of Sebastopol
in 1855 I asked Gen. Martimprey
, chief of staff
of the French
army in the Crimea, how he found that the cable worked which connected the Crimean with the European lines
He said that it worked admirably from
the Crimea to Paris
, but very badly in the opposite direction; and by way of explanation related the following anecdote: He said that immediately after the failure of the assault of June, 1855, the emperor telegraphed Pelissier
to renew the assault immediately.
replied that it was impossible
without certain preliminary preparations which required several weeks.
repeated the peremptory order to attack at once.
repeated his reply.
After one or two more interchanges of similar messages Pelissier
telegraphed: “I will not renew the attack until ready; if you wish it done, come and do it yourself.”
That ended the matter.
Referring for a moment to the President
's despatch of April 6, it is well to recall the facts that at that time, instead of 100,000 men, I had — after deducting guards and working parties — much less than 40,000 for attack, and that the portion of the enemy's lines which he thought I had better break through at once was about the strongest of the whole, except, perhaps, the town itself.
The impatience displayed at that time, after so greatly reducing my force, is in remarkable contrast with the patience which permitted Grant
to occupy months in front of the lines of Petersburg
, far inferior in strength to those of Yorktown
On the 22d of March I had prepared the following:
Before leaving Washington
I detailed Col. Robert Tyler
's 1st Conn. regiment as heavy artillery, and placed the siege-train in their charge; it will be seen, as the narrative proceeds, how admirably this splendid regiment performed their most important duties at all times and under the most trying circumstances.
As soon as it became clear that no aid was to be had from the navy, and that we must reduce Yorktown
by a front attack, I took steps to increase the number of heavy guns and mortars to the extent shown by the statement of batteries given hereafter.
The number of officers of the corps of engineers and of the topographical engineers
at my disposal was so small that it was necessary to supplement them by civilian employees kindly furnished by Prof. Bache
, of the U. S. Coast Survey, and by details from the line.
These civilian employees vied with the officers of the army in the courage, devotion, and intelligence with which they performed the dangerous and important duties devolving upon them, There were but twelve officers of the engineers, including four on duty with the three companies of engineer troops, and six of the topographical engineers
These officers at once proceeded to ascertain by close reconnoissances the nature and strength of the enemy's defences and the character of the ground, in order to determine the points of attack and the nature of the necessary works of attack.
Meanwhile the troops were occupied in constructing roads to the depots.
reached the front on the 9th of April, and was placed in command of the left wing, consisting of his own and the 4th corps.
He was in front of the line of the Warwick
, while the 3d corps was charged with the operations against Yorktown
The following despatch to Secretary Stanton
shows the condition of affairs at its date, April 11:
The reconnoissances of to-day prove that it is necessary to invest and attack Gloucester Point.
Give me Franklin's and McCall's divisions under command of Franklin, and I will at once undertake it. If circumstances of which I am not aware make it impossible for you to send me two divisions to carry out the final plan of campaign, I will run the risk and hold myself responsible for the results if you will give me Franklin's division.
If you still confide in my judgment I entreat that you will grant this request.
The fate of our cause depends upon it. Although willing, under the pressure of necessity, to carry this through with Franklin alone, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I think two divisions necessary.
Franklin and his division are indispensable to me. Gen. Barnard concurs in this view.
I have determined upon the point of attack, and am at this moment engaged in fixing the position of the batteries.
The same day the following reached me:
I replied to the secretary: I am delighted with Franklin
's orders, and beg to thank you.
I insert the following letter from my venerable friend, Francis P. Blair
, as an indication of the state of feeling at the time:
My retained copy of the following letter is not dated, but it must have been written somewhere about the 20th of April:
The affair known as the one-gun battery is explained by the following instructions and statement:
In compliance with these instructions Gen. Smith
placed two brigades and three batteries on his left to guard against any attack from Lee's Mill
, and commenced operations with his remaining brigade and battery.
He posted Mott
's battery opposite the dam at a distance of about eleven hundred yards from the works, sent in one regiment through the woods on the right with instructions to open fire on any working parties they might observe, another regiment on the left with similar orders, and held the remaining three regiments in reserve.
As soon as our infantry opened fire the enemy replied with shell, upon which Mott
opened and kept up a sharp fire for about an hour until he silenced the enemy.
About three o'clock Gen. Smith
had placed eighteen guns in position about five hundred yards from the works, supported on either flank by Brooks
's Vermont brigade, Hancock
's being brought up in support.
Our guns then opened, the enemy replying for some time with rapidity; when their fire slackened Smith
ordered four companies of the 3d Vermont to cross the dam and feel the enemy.
On arriving at the crest of the work they were met by the enemy in force, who had lain secreted, and were forced to retire with a loss of about 20 killed and wounded, after having held the work for some minutes.
Later in the day, after I had left the ground, another reconnoissance was made, under cover of the artillery-fire, by the 4th Vermont on the right, the 5th and 6th on the left, but it was found impracticable to push further than to the dam, which ground was held.
During the night strong entrenchments were thrown up, on the right for four guns within three hundred yards of the work, on the left one with eight embrasures, and in the centre one with four embrasures, the last two within five hundred yards' range.
This reconnoissances was conducted with skill and great gallantry, the Vermont
troops thus early giving earnest of the high qualities they so often displayed during all the war.
The losses in killed, wounded, and missing amounted to about
The objects of the operation mere completely achieved: we prevented further work at this point, prevented the enemy from using the crossing, and ascertained that the line could not be broken there without further preparation in the way of artillery, etc.
The general plan of operations determined upon was to establish batteries of heavy guns and mortars bearing upon Yorktown
, their water-batteries, a line of works between Yorktown
and the Warwick river
, Wynn's Mill, and the “one-gun battery” about a mile lower down the Warwick
The general order
regulating the details of the siege operations: as well as the instructions issued by Gen. Fitz-John Porter
, who, on the 25th of April, was assigned to duty as director of the siege, are for the present omitted.
I issued all orders relating to the siege through him, making him commandant of the siege operations, and at the same time chief of staff for that especial work.
Under the circumstances of the case some such arrangement was necessary to relieve me of too much personal labor, and it worked admirably.
Ground was broken on the night of the 17th of April upon batteries 1, 2, and 3, it being only at that date that the necessary roads and bridges mere completed and the requisite material collected.
The first parallel was commenced on the morning of the 25th.
The work was pushed with so much energy that by the night of May 3 all the batteries were completed and nearly all armed; the armament would have been completed on the night of the 5th, and fire opened the next morning.
In all sixteen batteries were constructed, their full armament being two 200-pounder rifled guns, twelve 100-pounder rifled, ten 13-inch mortars, twenty-five 10-inch mortars, seven 8-inch mortars, twelve 4 1/2-inch rifled siege-guns, twelve 30-pounder rifled guns, thirty-two 20-pounder rifled guns, and two 8-inch siege-howitzers, being 114 heavy guns and mortars in all.
In order to conceal our purposes and complete the work with the least possible exposure, none of the batteries were opened, except No. 1, which on the 30th of April opened with excellent effect upon the wharves of Yorktown
, in order to prevent the landing of supplies and men.
It was intended to open with all the 114 guns and mortars at once, in order to create the greatest possible moral and physical effect.
Towards the close of the siege it was apparent that the works at Gloucester
could not be carried by assault from the rear without some preliminary work in the way of reducing the fire of their batteries on the land side — a matter requiring a good deal of time, and force greater than a single division.
With the force at my disposal it was impossible to reinforce Franklin
for that purpose, and I determined, late on the 2d of May, to disembark that division and move it to the front, in order to employ all my force in the assault about to be given, and thus render the result as sure as human foresight could make it. On the 3d, then, Franklin
's division was disembarked, and was to have moved to the front on the 4th.
As soon as the fire of the water-batteries was silenced the gunboats, reinforced by the Galena
under the gallant John Rodgers
, were to run by and take up a position in rear, whence they could get a nearer fire on the defences and control the road leading from Yorktown
When this was effected, the artillery of the land defences silenced, and the garrison demoralized by the shell-fire, the columns of assault were to advance from the nearest cover.
The principal assault was to have been upon the line between the Warwick
, a column being ready to assault the latter if the effect of the batteries justified it. The enfilading and two counter batteries were prepared against Wynn's Mill, which, with the dam next above it, would also have been assaulted at the same time with the main attack.
The counter batteries against Wynn's Mill enfiladed the lines stretching thence towards the “one-gun” battery, against which latter a mortar battery was also prepared; under cover of these and the fire of the field-batteries an assault was also to be made on the “one-gun” battery.
Under cover of the field-guns of the 4th corps a feint was to be made upon Lee's Mill
, to be converted into a real attack if the effect of the operations at other points opened the way thereto.
The fire of our batteries would probably have enabled us to assault about noon.
As the enemy were practically without bomb-proof shelters, the fire of our forty-two mortars, ten
of which were 13-inch and twenty-five 10-inch, should in five or six hours have blown up their magazines and rendered the works untenable for the garrisons.
As many of their guns, all in the water-batteries, were en barbette
, the fire of our seventy-two heavy guns should in the same space of time have dismounted most of their guns; and as the mortars could well continue their fire until the assaulting columns had reached the immediate vicinity of the works, the success of the assault, with very little loss, was reasonably certain.
In order to diminish the risk to the gunboats as much as possible, I proposed to Flag-Officer Goldsborough
and to Capt. Smith
, commanding the gunboats, that the gunboats and the Galena
should run the batteries the night after we opened fire.
If the effect of our fire had equalled our expectations so as to justify an assault during the first day's firing, I am very sure that Capt. Smith
would have run by the batteries in broad daylight, without awaiting the cover of darkness.
I have no doubt whatever that at the latest the dawn of the second day would have seen the gunboats in the rear of the defences, and the assault delivered with entire success and without any heavy loss on our side.
told me in Washington
, during the winter of 1882 and 1883, that one of his strong objections to holding Yorktown
was his apprehension that the gunboats would force the batteries at night and thus render the position untenable.
Other Confederate general officers serving there have told me that in their opinion, at the time, the gunboats could easily have effected this on any dark night.
Early in the morning of the 4th of May it was found that the enemy had during the night evacuated all his positions, very wisely preferring to avoid the experiment of withstanding a bombardment and assault.
We captured in the works, including Gloucester
, seventy-seven guns and mortars, supplied with the ordinary complements, and seventy-six rounds of ammunition to each.
The captured pieces were as follows: one 10-inch Columbiad, thirteen 9-inch Dahlgren
guns, sixteen 8-inch Columbiads, two 7-inch heavy guns, one 6 1/2-inch rifle, one 4 1/2-inch rifle, one 2 8/10-inch rifle, two rifled 32-pounders, one 8-inch siege-howitzer, three 64-pounders, eight 42-pounders, seventeen 32-pounders, four
24-pounders, one 42-pound carronade, two 8-inch mortars, two 12-pounders, one 6-pounder.
They had evidently removed such guns as they could, probably light guns.
I have been much criticised for not assaulting Yorktown
Perhaps the point has been made clear enough, but at the risk of repetition I will say something more on the subject.
Before starting from Fortress Monroe
the best information in our possession clearly indicated that the Warwick river
ran nearly parallel with the James
, instead of heading at Yorktown
, and it seemed certain that the road from Newport News to Williamsburg
did not cross that stream, at least any important branch of it, and that it presented no obstacle to an advance.
Upon these data were predicated the orders of April 4 (for the march of the next day, the 5th), according to which Heintzelman
was to move into position close to Yorktown
, while Keyes
was to take up a position in rear of Yorktown
at the Halfway House
was also ordered to attack and carry whatever he found in front of him. Now, let it be observed that at all points (on the right, centre, and left) we found the enemy's works fully garrisoned and provided with artillery, and that Keyes
and his general officers reported that they found the position in their front so strong and so well provided with troops and artillery that it was impossible to assault with any hope of success.
The same state of things was clearly the case in front of the right column, where I was. Now, it is very certain that the only thing to be done was to make close reconnoissancess of the enemy's position, in order to discover a vulnerable point.
This course was followed, and the unanimous opinion of all was that certain preliminary siege operations were necessary.
I assert without fear of contradiction that no one at that time
thought an assault possible; moreover, that when we saw the works abandoned by the enemy it
remained the conviction of all that, with the raw troops we had, an assault would have resulted in simply an useless butchery with no hope of success.
The statements made long afterwards by such men as Barnard
were simply ex-post-facto
opinions, gotten up for political purposes, and never could have been really entertained by them.
The only fault to be found with the operations at Yorktown
is in regard to the slowness with which some of the engineer officers operated.
I was often obliged to
make just such reconnoissancess as I did at Vera Cruz
(when a brevet second lieutenant of engineers) to expedite matters.
been chief-engineer, operations would have progressed much more rapidly.
The co-operation of the navy amounted to little or nothing.