- Advance from Williamsburg -- Franklin's movement -- alarm of prisoners in Williamsburg -- plan of the campaign -- orders to move towards north of Richmond -- fatal to the campaign -- movements on this line.
It became clear that we had been opposed by only a portion of the Confederate army, at first by a single rear-guard, which was subsequently considerably reinforced by troops brought back during the first night and the next day to hold the works as long as possible and enable their trains to escape. Longstreet's and D. H. Hill's divisions, more than half their army, were engaged. Their losses were heavy, and we captured eight guns and many caissons and wagons, which the deep mud prevented them from carrying off. Wilcox's Confederate brigade, having received no orders, found itself at half-past 10 P. M. of the 5th entirely alone, and moved back beyond Williamsburg, being the last to leave the field. It has been stated that G. W. Smith had been ordered to move at half-past 2 A. M. of the 5th and take a position north of Barhamsrille. He moved at the hour designated, just as a heavy rain commenced. The roads soon became axle-deep in mud, and extraordinary efforts were required to get the wagons along. Late in the afternoon, when the head of the column had nearly reached Barhamsville, Smith received an order from Gen. Johnston to suspend the movement, as a heavy attack had been made on the fortifications at Williamsburg, in which Longstreet's and D. H. Hill's divisions had been engaged. On the two following days Gen. Johnston, learning of Franklin's disembarkation at Brick House, concentrated the greater part of his army near Barhamsville. It has already been stated that Franklin's division was disembarked on the 3d of May to take part in the approaching assault of Yorktown. Gen. Franklin passed the night of the 3d at general headquarters, his division remaining at Cheeseman's landing. As soon as the evacuation was known I instructed him to re-embark his division immediately and bring it by water to  Yorktown, where he would receive further orders. He at once returned to it and commenced the work, which he carried on with all possible speed, completing it about one o'clock on the 5th. The embarkation was much delayed by the atrocious weather; by the facts that all the ordinary means for loading and unloading were fully occupied with putting supplies ashore for the rest of the army, so that Gen. Franklin was obliged to improvise his own means; that forage and provision for several days had to be reloaded; but most of all by the difficulty of re-embarking the artillery, all the carriages of which had to be unlimbered and floated out on rafts and then hoisted upon the transports. Gen. Franklin's letter explains this subject in detail, and I need only say that the delay was unavoidable and that Gen. Franklin did not lose an unnecessary moment in carrying his order into effect:
The flotilla experienced great difficulty in reaching Yorktown, which it effected about four o'clock on the 5th. Meanwhile Gen. Franklin, when the greatest difficulties had been overcome, preceded it, and must have reached Yorktown before one o'clock, where he received his final instructions from me. When the flotilla arrived Gen. Franklin visited Com. Missroom on his flagship and informed him that he was ready to start. The commodore replied that he would not consent to go up the river on a night as dark as that approaching (it was then raining in torrents), and the joint expedition, therefore,  waited until next morning. The commodore was entirely correct in this decision to await the morning, for I have not the slightest doubt that the result of an effort to move on such a night would have been the loss of many transports and lives, and the disorganization of the whole expedition. The flotilla started at daybreak of the 6th; the infantry transports arrived off West Point about noon, and the landing commenced at once. The artillery transports did not arrive until nearly night, and were unloaded without wharves during the night and early in the morning of the 7th. The process of landing was necessarily slow, but not so much so as that of loading up. At about seven A. M. of the 7th the pickets of Newton's brigade, forming the left of the line, were driven in, but soon regained the ground. Skirmishing continued for a couple of hours, when a sharp attack was made by Whiting's division; this was repulsed, and everything then became quiet, our people having regained their original positions, and at some points having made considerable advances. Franklin's orders were simply to hold his position until reinforced sufficiently to justify an advance. That this was a wise decision is shown by the fact that G. W. Smith witnessed the disembarkation, and, refraining from opposing it, suggested to Gen. Johnston to take measures to cut him off if he advanced beyond the protection of the gunboats. G. W. Smith's entire division, much stronger than Franklin's, was in his front, and soon after the greater part of the Confederate army, ready to overwhelm Franklin had he advanced. By the time Sedgwick's division was in position to support him, the morning of the 8th, the enemy's rear had passed on towards Richmond; but Franklin's movement had fully served its purpose in clearing our front to the banks of the Chickahominy. On my way into Williamsburg on the morning of the 6th I passed a cluster of barracks, and, seeing some men lying in them, I dismounted to see who they were. They were filled with our own and the enemy's wounded. The first man I spoke to was one of ours. I asked him who the men around him were. “Oh! that's a secesh; that is one of our men; that's a secesh,” and so  on. In reply to my question as to how they had been treated by the enemy he said: “Just like their own men.” Here were these poor fellows lying together in perfect amity who had met in mortal combat the day before. The College and other large buildings in Williamsburg were crowded with wounded, almost all Confederates. While in one of the larger hospitals one of my aides came to me and said that a wounded Confederate desired to speak to me. I went there and found a wounded private soldier belonging to a Virginia regiment, an intelligent, honest-looking man, who said that he had been deputed by his comrades to beg me to spare their lives. I told him that I did not understand him, whereupon he repeated his petition, and I again said that I could not imagine what he meant. He then said that they had been told that we Northern men had come down there to destroy and slay, and that our intention was to kill all the prisoners, wounded and unwounded alike; but that they had been told that I had treated kindly the prisoners I had taken in West Virginia the year before, and thought that perhaps I might be induced to spare their lives. I then relieved his mind by telling him that, although I was perhaps the most brutal among the Northern generals, I would treat them precisely as I did my own wounded. The poor fellows stretched on the floor around him followed the conversation with keen interest, and I saw by the expression of their faces that they felt much relieved when my final answer came. I was told, after the battle of Fair Oaks, that when the Confederates were for a time in possession of the camp of Casey's division Gen. Roger Pryor went around among the wounded, giving them whiskey and water, and that he told them it was a repayment of the kindness with which their wounded were treated at Williamsburg. During the forenoon of the 6th Confederate surgeons came in (as before stated), under a flag of truce, to offer their services in tending their own wounded. I entertained them as well as could be done without baggage or supplies, and found them to be very agreeable gentlemen. Their services were not needed. Having gained possession of Williamsburg, the first thing to be done was to get up supplies for the troops, to care for the wounded, to hasten supports to Franklin by water, and to force the pursuit by land in order to open direct communication with  Franklin, or to bring the enemy to battle if he halted south of the mouth of the Pamunkey. The frightful condition of the roads rendered the supply question very difficult, but by repairing the nearest landings on the York river, and by the energy of the quartermaster's department, that task was soon accomplished. So great were the difficulties of land-transportation that even the headquarters wagons did not reach Williamsburg until the forenoon of the 9th, up to which time I was absolutely without baggage of any kind. Sedgwick's division reached Franklin during the 7th; one brigade of Porter's division got off from Yorktown by water on the afternoon of the 7th, the rest on the 8th, without cavalry or artillery; two brigades of Richardson's division got off on the 11th, the remaining brigade on the 12th. The regular infantry, Duane's engineer battalion, and the light batteries of the reserve artillery marched from Yorktown on the 8th. Immediately upon our arrival in Williamsburg Gen. Averill was sent forward with a cavalry force to push the enemy's rear-guard. He found several guns abandoned, and captured a number of stragglers. But the roads were so bad and his supplies so scanty that he was obliged to return after marching a few miles. On the next day, the 7th, Stoneman moved with the advanced guard, consisting of the cavalry, horse-batteries, and two regiments of infantry, the 2d R. I. and the 98th Penn. At ten A. M. his artillery and cavalry had reached a point only two and a half to three miles from Williamsburg; the infantry had not yet joined him. At half-past 1 P. M. he had come up with the enemy's rear-guard, at about six miles from Williamsburg, and while here he heard heavy firing in the direction of Franklin's position. Stoneman's infantry joined him here, coming up at the double-quick. He encamped for the night at a church about ten miles from Williamsburg, having been delayed by the condition of the roads and the necessity of procuring and cooking meat for the infantry, who were almost in a famished condition. At nine A. M. of the 8th he had reached a point fourteen miles from Williamsburg. At half-past 3 P. M. he reached with his main body Hockaday's Springs, about six miles and a half from Franklin's position, and there learned that his advanced guard had communicated with Franklin's pickets.  Stoneman learned here that a Confederate force of ten regiments of infantry, one battery, and some cavalry had encamped the night before at Hockaday's Springs, and left that morning via Diascund Bridge, and that the enemy were in full retreat upon the Chickahominy. He sent cavalry in pursuit to harass the enemy until dark. This detachment found the enemy at dark strongly posted at New Kent Court-House, and, in accordance with instructions, then returned to the main body of the advanced guard. On the 9th Stoneman occupied and held the junction of the West Point and Williamsburg roads, about three miles from New Kent Court-House. The occupation of this place occurred as the result of a brisk skirmish in which a portion of the 6th U. S. Cavalry, under Maj. Williams, and Robinson's battery took part; one squadron of the 6th, under the personal command of Maj. Williams, made two very handsome charges. On the 10th Stoneman sent Farnsworth's 8th Ill. Cavalry some six miles beyond New Kent Court-House, and with his main body moved to Cumberland, leaving New Kent Court-House occupied by two New Jersey regiments and four guns from Franklin's division. On the 11th he sent Maj. Williams with six companies of cavalry to occupy the railroad-crossing at White House and scout the surrounding country. He was again delayed on the 11th by the necessity of awaiting provisions from Franklin. Stoneman says: “The men have had no sugar or coffee since leaving Williamsburg, and but a very limited amount of hard bread and pork. We have lived principally on fresh meat, sometimes without salt, for the past week; but I have not heard a complaint or murmur.” D. R. Jones's division constituted the rear-guard of the enemy. It consisted of ten regiments of infantry, sixteen pieces of artillery, and the 1st Va. Cavalry. The rear of the rear-guard consisted of one regiment of infantry, three pieces of artillery, and three squadrons, with which they would check us at every difficult place and then leave. Owing to the peculiar nature of the country, admirably adapted for the operations of an active and vigorous rear-guard, which we had in our front, we could get but one chance to attack him and make it tell — this at Slatesville, from which he was driven with loss. Three miles  from Slatesville, at New Kent Court-House, the whole division was drawn up in line of battle: and I thought it expedient to retain with me the New Jersey brigade (two regiments and four guns) and Farnsworth's cavalry. As soon as a reasonable amount of supplies were received and the roads improved somewhat I resumed the movement by land from Williamsburg. Smith's division marched on the afternoon of the 8th, Couch, Casey, and Kearny on the morning of the 9th. The reserves came up to Williamsburg on the morning of the same day. During the night of the 9th headquarters were four miles in front of Williamsburg with the regulars, the other four divisions just mentioned in advance, Hooker still at Williamsburg. On the evening of the 10th headquarters were at Roper's Church, nineteen miles beyond Williamsburg, in easy communication with Franklin; the regulars, Smith, Couch, Casey, and Kearny near headquarters. We now began to draw supplies from Elthan. Headquarters remained at Roper's Church until the morning of the 13th, while the troops were moving in such a manner that at the close of that day the disposition was as follows: headquarters, with the divisions of Porter, Franklin, Sykes (regulars), and the artillery reserves, at Cumberland, now a temporary depot; Couch and Casey at New Kent Court-House; Hooker and Kearny near Roper's Church; Richardson and Sedgwick near Elthan. Gen. Van Alen was left, with a small force, as military governor of Yorktown; Col. Campbell with his regiment, the 5th Pa. Cavalry, at Williamsburg. On the 14th and 15th it rained heavily and continuously, and somewhat on the 16th. On the 15th and 16th the divisions of Porter, Franklin, and Smith were with great difficulty advanced to White House. The roads were so bad, narrow, and infrequent as to render the movements of large masses very slow and difficult; so much so that in the movement to White House on the 15th and 16th it required forty-eight hours to move two divisions and their trains five miles. On the 16th headquarters advanced to White House; and on that day and the next Sykes and the reserve artillery moved up to the same point with no little difficulty, and a permanent depot was established. The weather changed on the night of the 16th, so that the 17th and 18th were clear, warm days.  The 17th and 18th were occupied, while the roads were drying, in closing up all the troops and trains, with the final preparations to advance, and in numerous and extensive reconnoissances pushed in all directions. It was at this moment, May 18, 1862, that, in consequence of my earnest representations, the President authorized me to organize two provisional army corps, the 5th and 6th, which soon became permanent corps, and the organization of the Army of the Potomac was now as follows:
|2d||Corps||-||Gen. Sumner. Consisting of the divisions Sedgwick and Richardson.|
|3d||Corps||-||Gen. Heintzelman. Consisting of the divisions Kearny and Hooker.|
|4th||Corps||-||Gen. Keyes. Consisting of the divisions Couch and Casey.|
|5th||Corps||-||Gen. Fitz-John Porter. Consisting of the divisions Morell Sykes, and Hunt's reserve artillery.|
|6th||Corps||-||Gen. Franklin. Consisting of the divisions W. F. Smith and Slocum.|
To which, on the 18th of May, I received this reply:
This order rendered it impossible for me to use the James river as a line of operations, forced me to establish our depots on the Pamunkey, and to approach Richmond from the north. Herein lay the failure of the campaign. The order obliged me to extend and expose my right in order to secure the junction. As it was impossible to get at Richmond and the enemy's army covering it without crossing the Chickahominy, I was obliged to divide the Army of the Potomac into two parts, separated by that stream. As the order for Gen. McDowell's advance was soon suspended, I incurred great risk, of which the enemy finally took advantage and frustrated the plan of campaign. Had Gen. McDowell joined me by water I could have approached Richmond by the James, and thus have avoided the delays and losses incurred in bridging the Chickahominy, and could have had the army united in one body instead of being necessarily divided by that stream. McDowell's movement by water would not have jeopardized Washington in the slightest degree. There mere troops enough without him to hold the works against anything that the enemy could have sent against them, and the more they sent the easier would my task have been in front of Richmond. But Jackson's movement was merely a feint, and if McDowell had joined me on the James the enemy would have drawn in every available man from every quarter to make head against me. A little of the nerve at Washington which the Romans displayed during the campaign against Hannibal would have settled the fate of Richmond in very few weeks. The following telegram was received at headquarters, Army of the Potomac, May 24, 1862: 
The following is a copy of the instructions to Gen. McDowell:
Having some doubts, from the wording of the foregoing orders, as to the extent of my authority over the troops of Gen. McDowell, and as to the time when I might anticipate his arrival, on the 21st of May I sent this despatch to President Lincoln:
On the 24th I received the following reply:
This information, that McDowell's corps would march for Fredericksburg on the following Monday (the 26th), and that he would be under my command, as indicated in my telegram of the 21st, was cheering news, and I now felt confident that we would on his arrival be sufficiently strong to overpower the large army confronting us. At a later hour on the same day I received the following:
From which it will be seen that I could not expect Gen. McDowell to join me in time to participate in immediate operations in front of Richmond, and on the same evening I replied to the President that I would make my calculations accordingly.