The Peninsula Campaign.
General Magruder's official report.
Headq'rs Department of the Peninsula; Lees Farm, May 3, 1862.
Gen. S. Cooper. Adj't and Insp'r Gen'l, C. S. A:
General — Deeming it of vital importance, for a time, Yorktown
, on York river
, and Mulberry Island
on James river
, and to keep the enemy in check by an intervening line, until the authorities might take such steps as should be deemed necessary to meet a serious advance of the enemy in the Peninsula
, I felt compelled to dispose my forces in such a manner as to accomplish these objects with the least risk possible, under the circumstances of great hazard which surrounded the little Army I commanded.
I had prepared, as my real line of defence, positions in advance, at Harwood
's and Young's Mills
Both flanks of this line were defended by boggy and difficult streams and swamps.
In addition, the left flank was defended by elaborate fortifications at ship Point, connected by a broken line of redoubts, crossing the heads of the various ravines emptying into York river
and Wormley's Creek and terminating at Fort Grafton, nearly in front of Yorktown
The right flank was defended by the fortifications at the month of Warwick river
, and at Mulberry Island Point, and the redoubts extending from the Warwick
to James river
Intervening between the two mills was a wooded country about two miles in extent.
This wooded line, forming the centre, needed the defence of infantry in a sufficient force to prevent any attempt on the part of the enemy to break through it.
In my opinion, this advanced line, with its flank defences, might have been held by twenty thousand troops.
With twenty-five thousand, I don't believe it could have been broken by any force the enemy could have brought against it.
Its two flanks were protected by the ‘"Virginia
"’ and the works on one side, and the fortifications at Yorktown
and Gloucester Point
on the other.
Finding my forces too weak to attempt the defence of this line, I was compelled to prepare to receive the enemy on a second line, on Warwick river
This line was incomplete in its preparations, owing to the fact that a thousand negro laborers that I had engaged in fortifying were taken from me and discharged by superior orders, in December last, and a delay of nine weeks consequently occurred before I could reorganize the laborers for the engineers.
Keeping, then, only small bodies of troops at Harwood
's and Young's Mills
, and at Ship Point
, I distributed my remaining forces along the Warwick
line, embracing a front from Yorktown
's farm of twelve miles, and from the latter place to Mulberry Island Point of one and a half miles.
I was compelled to place in Gloucester Point
, and Mulberry Island
, fixed garrisons amounting to six thousand men, my whole force being eleven thousand (11,000,; so that it will be seen that the balance of the line, embracing a length of thirteen miles, was defended by about five thousand men.
After two reconnaissances in great force from Fortress Monroe
and Newport News, the enemy, on the 3d of April, advanced and took possession of Harwood's Mills.
He had advanced in two heavy columns--one along the old York road, and the other along the Warwick
road, and, on the 5th of April. appeared simultaneously along the whole front of our line, from Minor
's farm to Yorktown
I have no accurate data upon which to base an exact statement of his force, but, from various sources of information, I was satisfied that I had before me the enemy's Army of Potomac, under the command of Gen. McClellan
, with the exception of the two corps d' armee
respectively, forming an aggregate number of certainly not less than 100,000 men, since ascertained to have been 120,000.
On every portion of my lines, he attacked us with a furious cannonading and musketry, which was responded to with effect by our batteries and troops of the line.
His skirmishers were also well thrown forward on this and the succeeding day, and energetically felt our whole line, but were everywhere repulsed by the steadiness of our troops.
Thus, with 5,000 men exclusive of the garrisons, we stopped and held in check over 100,000 of the enemy
Every preparation was made in anticipation of another attack by the enemy; the men slept in the trenches and under arms, but, to my utter surprise, he permitted day after day to elapse-without an assault.
In a few days the object of his delay was apparent.
In every direction in front of our lines, through the intervening woods and along the open fields, earthworks began to appear.
Through the energetic action of the Government
reinforcements began to pour in, and each hour the army of the Peninsula grew stronger and stronger, until all anxiety passed from my mind as to the result of an attack upon us.
The enemy's skirmishers pressing us closely in front of Yorktown
, Brig.-Gen. Early
ordered a sorted to be made from the redoubts, for the purpose of dislodging him from Palmentary's peach orchard.
This was effected in the most gallant manner by the 2d Florida. Col. Ward
and 2d Mississippi Battalion, Lt. Col. Taylor
, all under the command of Col. Ward
The quick and reckless charge of our men, by throwing the enemy into a hasty flight, enabled us to effect, with little loss, an enterprise of great hazard against a superior force, supported by artillery, when the least wavering or hesitation on our part would have been attended with great loss.
line, upon which we rested, may be briefly described, as follows: Warwick river
rises very near York river
, and about a mile and a half to the right of Yorktown
and Redoubts Nos. 4, and 5, united by long curtains and flanked by rifle-pits, for the left of the line, until, at the commencement of the military road, it reaches Warwick river
, here, a sluggish and boggy stream, twenty or thirty yards wide, and running through a dense wood fringed by swamps.
Along this river are five dams--one at Wynne's Mill, and one at Lee's Mill
, and three constructed by me. The effect of these dams is to back up the water along the course of the river, so that for nearly three-fourths of its distance its passage is impracticable for either artillery or infantry.
Each of these dams is protected by artillery, and extensive earthworks for infantry.
After eleven days of examination the enemy seems, very properly, to have arrived at the conclusion that Dam No. 1, the centre of our line, was the weakest point in it, and hence, on the 16th of April, be made what seems to have been a serious effort to break through at that point.
Early on that morning be opened at that dam a most furious attack of artillery, filling the woods with shells, while his sharpshooters pressed forward close to our lines.
From 9 A. M. to 12 M. six pieces were kept in constant fire against us, and by 3 P. M. nearly three batteries were directing a perfect storm of shot and shell on our exposed position.
We had only three pieces in position at that point, but two of them could not be used with much effect, and were rarely fired, so that we were constrained to reply with one six pounder of the Troop Artillery, Cobb
's Georgia Legion, Capt. Stanley
, under the particular charge of Lieut. Pope
This piece was served with the greatest accuracy and effect, and by the coolness and skill with which it was handled the great odds against us was almost counterbalanced.
By 3½ P. M., the intensity of the cannonading increasing, heavy masses of infantry commenced to deploy in our front, and a heavy musketry fire was opened upon us.
Under the cover of this continuous stream of fire an effort was made by the enemy to throw forces over the stream and storm our six pounder battery, which was inflicting such damage upon them.
This charge was very rapid and vigorous, and before our men were prepared to receive it several companies of a Vermont regiment succeeded in getting across, and occupying the rifle pits of the Fifteenth North Carolina volunteers, who were some hundred yards to the rear throwing up a work for the protection of their camp.
This regiment immediately sprang to arms and engaged the enemy with spirit, under the lead of their brace but unfound to commander, McKinney
, aided by the Sixteenth Georgia regiment; but when the gallant McKinney
fell a temporary confusion was produced, which was increased by an unauthorized order to fall back.
At this moment, through the retreating North Carolinians
, the Seventh Georgia regiment, Colonel Wilson
, of Anderson
's brigade, Toombs
's division, with fixed bayonets and the steadiness of veterans, charged the rifle pits and drove the enemy from them with great slaughter, supported by the Eighth Georgia, under Colonel Lamar
, and the companies of Captains Martin
, under Major Norwood
, of the Second Louisiana.
Subsequently the enemy massed heavier bodies of troops, and again approached the stream.
It was now evident that a most serious and energetic attract, in large force, was being made to break our centre, under, it is believed, the immediate eye of McClellan
himself; but Brigadier General Howell Cobb
, who was in command at that point, forming, the 2d Louisiana, 7th and 8th Georgia, of Col. Anderson
's brigades, the 15th and 24th Georgia, and Cobb
's Legion, in line of battle on our front, received the attack with great firmness, and the enemy recoiled with loss from the steady fire of our troops, before reaching the middle of the water.
Brigadier General McLaws
, commanding the second division, of which General Cobb
's command formed a part, hearing the serious firing, he tend to the scene of action, and exhibited great coolness and judgment in his arrangement.
The 10th Louisiana, 15th Virginia, a part of the 17th Mississippi, and the 11th Alabama, were ordered up as reserves, and were placed in position, the 10th Louisiana marching to its place under a heavy fire, with the accuracy of a parades drill.
The other regiments were assigned positions out of the range of fire.
In addition, Gen. McLeon
placed the whole of his division under arms, ready to move as circumstances might require.
bad led two of his regiments (the 7th and 8th Georgia) into action, and held two others in reserve, while Brig. Gen. Toombs
advanced with his own brigade, under the immediate command of Brig.-Gen. Sommer
close to the scenes of action, and by my order, having just arrived, placed two regiments of this brigade in action, retaining the rest as a reserves.
These dispositions rendered our position perfectly secure, and the enemy suffering from his two repulses, darkness put an to the contest.
The dispositions of Gen. McLaws
were skillfully made.
His whole bearing and conduct is deserving of the highest commendation.
I cannot designate all the many gallant officers and privates who distaining themselves, and respectfully call the attention of the Commanding General
to the accompanying reports; but I would fall to do my duty if I did not specially mention some particular instances.
Brigadier Gen'l Howell Cobb
exhibited throughout the day the greatest courage and skill, and when once, at a critical moment, some troops in his line of battle wavered to himself in person, rallied the troops under a terrific fire, and by his voice and example entirely treatability their steadiness.
Brigadier General Toombs
had in the morning, by my order, detached from his division Col. Anderson
's brigade to support Brigadier General Cobb
and late in the evening, when ordered forward by me, promptly and energetically led the remainder of his command undersigned arriving just before the enemy ceased the vigor his attack, and in time to share its dangers.
's brigade, (the carter being in command of the division,) showed his usual promptness and courage.
, of the 2d Louisiana regiment, was the Colonel
commanding at Dam No. 1 and evinced judgment, courage, and high soldierly qualities in his conduct and arrangements, which I desire specially to commend.
was in command of two pieces of artillery, including the six pounder so effectively served.
Both he and Lieut Pope
conducted themselves with skill and courage.
's piece was in a very exposed place, and was soon disabled, after a few rounds, and was properly withdrawn.
Both he and his men exhibited great steadiness under the terrible fire which swept over them.
The enemy's loss, of course, cannot be accurately estimated, as the greater part of it occurred over on their side of the stream, but I think it could have scarcely been less than six hundred killed and wounded. Our own loss was comparatively trivial, owing to the earthworks which covered our men, and did not exceed seventy-five killed and wounded.
All the reinforcements which were on the way to me had not yet joined me, so that I was unable to follow up the action of the 16th April by any decisive step.
The reinforcements were accompanied by officers who ranked me, and I ceased to command.
I cannot too highly commend the conduct of the officers and men of my whole command, who cheerfully submitted to the greatest hardships and privations.
From the 4th of April to the 3d of May this army served almost without relief in the trenches.
Many companies of artillery were never relieved during this long period.
It rained almost incessantly; the trenches were filled with water; the weather was exceedingly cold; no fires could be allowed; the artillery and infantry of the enemy played upon our men almost continuously day and night; the army had neither coffee, sugar, nor hard bread, but subsisted on flour and salt meat, and that in reduced quantities, and yet no murmurs were heard.
The gallant comrades of the Army of the Potomac, and the Department of Norfolk, though not so long a time exposed to these sufferings, shared these hardships and dangers with equal firmness and cheerfulness.
I have never seen, and I do not believe that there ever has existed, an army (the combined army of the Potomac, Peninsula, and Norfolk
,) which has shown itself, for so long a time, so superior to all hardships and dangers.
The best drilled regulars the world had ever scene would have mutinied under a continuous service in the trenches for 29 days exposed every moment to musketry and shells, in water to their knees; without fire, sugar, or coffee; without stimulants, and with an inadequate supply of uncooked flour and salt meat.
I speak of it in honor of these brave men, whose patriotism made them indifferent it to suffering, to disease, to danger and death.
Indeed, the conduct of the officers and men was such as to deserve throughout the highest commendation.
The remainder of Gen.
M.'s report is occupied with well-deserved tributes to the many brave officers under him during the year's campaigning on the Peninsula
, which, owing to our crowded columns, we have not room to insert.