Richmond, May 16, 1862.
To the Editor of the Dispatch:
I send you a brief history of the engagement near Williamsburg
, as viewed by one acquainted with the occurrences that preceded it, and who was a participant in the fight.
Our forces commenced the evacuation of the Yorktown
line on the night of Thursday, May 1st, and the rear division of our army left the entrenchments late on Saturday night, the 3d instant.
On Sunday morning, the 4th, the ‘"grand army"’ of McClellan
entered the abandoned ‘"rebel"’ fortifications, and their advance guard rapidly followed, and constantly harassed our rear on the entire march from Yorktown
a distance of some ten miles.
The fight of Sunday.
About two o'clock Sunday afternoon, having followed us very closely they had arrived in front of the line of redouble last outside of Williamsburg
, which were occupied by Gen. Semmes
's brigade and Manly
's North Carolina battery.
At this point the Yankees
brought out in front of our redoubts, and near the edge of woods, a field battery, has limbered, and commenced a vigorous shelling of the works, which was handsomely and affectively replied to by the North Carolina Artillery.
At the same time they advanced their cavalry and infantry skirmishes, who were engaged by a portion of General Semmes
's brigade, deployed as skirmishers.
As our wagon trains had not passed through the town.
It was very necessary to hold the enemy firmly in check and accordingly Gen. Johnston
sent for Col. Wickham
's and Col. J. Luclus Davis
's regiments of Virginia
cavalry, and the 1st Company Richmond Howitzers, to hasten back as reinforcements. -- Col. Wickham
's cavalry moved to the right of Fort Magruder, and Col. Davis
's to the left, which a section of the Howitzer battery was planned to the open field, in front of our redoubt, on either side of the fort.
The cavalry charged across the field and down the road into the woods with great gallantry while the guns of the Howitzer battery kept up a rapid and well directed fire.
On the right the enemy retreated rapidly, leaving a portion of their artillery, whilst overcoats, knapsacks, &c., covered the ground.
On the road down which Col. Davis
charged, the Yankee Cauvery
were drawn up and turned upon him with considerable fierceness, but were again driven into the woods with some loss.
The result of this fight was the entire repulse of the enemy, and reflected the greatest credit upon the gallantly of our troops.
A fine iron rifled gun and three caissons were captured, the artillery horses having been killed or ridden off by the fugitive canonists, the pieces were brought off the field by the Howitzer company to whom the gun was given.
The gun, a most excellent weapon, was used against the enemy during the entire fight of the following day. About 15 prisoners were taken in this engagement, nearly all of whom belonged to the 6th regiment of regular U. S. cavalry.
[Our correspondent entirely omits to mention the gallant conduct of Manly
's North Carolina battery--Eds.]
The battle of Monday.
Early Monday morning intelligence was brought in that the enemy were advancing in heavy force.
Shortly afterwards our pickets, and skirmishers were driven in, and retired behind the resonate.
The field in front of our works was soon filled with their sharpshooters and skirmishers, and the guns of the Fayette Artillery and the Howitzers were opened upon them from Fort Magruder and the adjacent redoubts.
An hour later they brought into the field a fine battery of rifled guns, which kept up a rapid, but very wild fire upon our line, whilst their infantry moved up and took position in the edge of the woods and cleared ground.
About eleven o'clock the First brigades of Gen. Longstreet
's division, composed of the 1st, 7th, 11th, and 17th Virginia regiments, were advanced on the right to attack their line.
This gallant brigade engaged the enemy with invincible spirit and energy.
The fight now became terrible.
The musketry was very heavy and prolonged whilst our artillery kept up a constant fire upon the enemy's position.
The contest was long and stubborn, but the fire of musketry gradually and surely receded as Longstreet
's Division, with a perseverance that could only result in success, pressed the enemy back.
Further, and still further, were the Yankee
legions driven, until the victorious ‘ "rebels"’ stood upon the ground from which they had been driven, and had possession of their entire battery of eight guns.
The Federal loss was very heavy.
The field and timber were full of their killed and wounded, and many prisoners were harried to the rear.
In the mean time the Federal
had occupied an abandoned work about three quarters of a mile to the left of Fort Magruder, and opened a terrible cross fire of artillery upon us, which completely enfiladed our redoubts.
This clever put a new face on the aspect of things.
A section of the Lynchburg
artillery, and one piece of the Howitzer battery, immediately engaged this enkindling battery, which, at this time, really promised very disastrous results to our side.
It was by this fire that Lieut. Richardson
, of the Lynchburg
artillery — a brave and gallant officer — was killed.
To capture this Federal battery, Gen. Hill
's division, on the left, formed in line of battle in open field, under fire of the enemy's artillery, and advanced in magnificent style.
The Federal infantry supporting their battery and occupying an eligible position, poured into their ranks a galling fire.
Nothing daunted, however, our troops gave a cheer, and moved on to the charge.
The fighting was very spirited, and owing to the nature of the engagement, mostly in open field, very bloody; but the enemy finally gave way and retreated in confusion.
The Confederates pushed on them very closely, and made good use of their advantage.
Upon arriving on top of a slight eminence, large Federal reinforcements were brought up, and our troops in turn were driven back, fighting as they retired, with severe loss.
We, however, continued to hold the position from which we had first driven them, in this part of the field, until after nightfall.
In this action Gen. D. H. Hill
acted with conspicuous bravery, he himself leading his troops to the charge.
The day had now drawn to a close, and the night set in upon a decided and brilliant victory for the Confederate
The substantial fruits of this victory are a splendid battery of eight guns, which were brought from the field, several Federal flags, and some 400 prisoners. We drove them from every position which they held in the commencement of the fight, and inflicted such heavy loss upon them that our further retreat has not been interfered with in that direction.
The Confederates feel renewed confidence in themselves and their leaders, and are satisfied of success in the impending battles.
was himself on the field and superintended the operations of our troops.
In conclusion, let me state that all the Richmond
troops acted with their usual and conspicuous bravery.
The First Regiment Virginia Volunteers fought-gallantly, and suffered severely.
You have already published a list of their casualties.
The 1st company Richmond Howitzers, Captain E. S. McCarthy
, were in the fight from morning till night, and managed their guns with great coolness, skill, and activity.
The casualties in this company were two: Harry C. Townsend
, wounded in the cheek, and Thomas L. Whiting
, in the leg. They also lost several horses.
The old ‘"Fayette Artillery,"’ Capt. Miles Mason
, fought gallantly and well.
They lost four men killed: Delaware Crafton
, and --Back, and 11 wounded. The day was very wet, and heavy showers of rain every hour or two.
On Monday night Gen. Johnston
continued the retreat, begun on the Thursday before, and has not since been molested from the direction of Williamsburg