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Yorktown: the Peninsula Campaign.

Henry W. Elson
A shattered and discomfited army were the hosts of McDowell when they reached the banks of the Potomac, after that ill-fated July Sunday at Bull Run. Dispirited by the sting of defeat, this motley and unorganized mass of men became rather a mob than an army. The transformation of this chaos of demoralization into the trained, disciplined, and splendid troops of the Grand Army of the Potomac, was a problem to challenge the military genius of the century.

Fresh from his victories in the mountains of West Virginia, imbued with the spirit of Carnot, that “military discipline is the glory of the soldier and the strength of armies,” General George Brinton McClellan began the task of transmuting the raw and untutored regiments into fighting men who were to bear the brunt of the conflict, until the victory should be theirs at Appomattox. Never, since the days of Baron Steuben at Valley Forge, had the American citizen soldier received such tuition in the art of war. It was a gigantic attempt; but with the flower of the youth of the North, the winning personality of a popular and efficient commander, in whom lived the enthusiasm of the creator and master whose soul was in his work — all deeply imbued with patriotism — there sprang up as if by magic, in the vacant fields about the capital city, battalions of infantry, batteries of artillery, and squadrons of cavalry.

Washington has become a camp. Day after day the trains bring from the shops and farms the inexperienced sons of the Northland. All during the summer and autumn months, the new recruits continue to march through the streets, with flags flying and bands playing. They come, two hundred thousand strong, that the “Young Napoleon” may forge them into a [255]

How pick and shovel served Rear Section, Seven Mortars, of Union Battery No. 4. In order to make it impossible for Confederate sharpshooters to pick off the gunners, the batteries were placed in elaborate excavations. At No. 4 the entire bank of Wormley's Creek was dug away. General McClellan personally planned the location of some of these batteries for the purpose of silencing the Confederate artillery fire.

Wasted transportation Both Sections of Union Battery No. 4. The heavy barge at the landing transported the ten huge mortars, with their ammunition, all the way from Fortress Monroe up the York River and Wormley's Creek to the position of the battery. There they were laboriously set up, and, without firing a shot, were as laboriously removed. On the day of the evacuation the six batteries equipped were in condition to throw one hundred and seventy-five tons of metal daily into the Confederate defenses around Yorktown.

[256] weapon, which later in the hands of the “Hammerer” will beat down the veterans of Lee before Richmond.

The autumn days come and go. The frosty nights have come. The increasing army continues its drill within the defenses. There are no indications of the forces moving. As if by instinct the men begin the construction of log huts for shelter from the cold of the coming winter.

“All's quiet along the Potomac.” The winter months wear on and Public Opinion is growing restless. “Why does not the army move?” Across the country, thirty miles away, at Manassas, is the Confederate army, flushed with its July victory, under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston.

It was the 8th of March, 1862. As the Union army looked toward Manassas, down along the horizon line, clouds of smoke were seen ascending. It was from the burning huts. The Confederates were abandoning Manassas. Johnston was evacuating his camp. The next day orders came for the Army of the Potomac to move. Through the morning mists was heard the bustle of activity. Across the Long Bridge the troops took up the line of march, the old structure shaking under the tread of the passing hosts. Filled with the spirit of action, the men were jubilant at the prospect. But this buoyancy was of short duration. There was the Virginia mud, yellow and sticky, into which the feet of man and horse sank till it was almost impossible to extricate them. Throughout the day the muddy march continued. At night the bivouac was made in the oozy slime, and not till the day after, near evening, were the deserted fortifications of Manassas reached. McClellan was putting his army to a test.

Next morning the two days return march to Washington began. The rain fell in sheets and it was a wet and bedraggled army that sought the defenses of the capital.

The strategic eye of the commander had detected two routes to the coveted capital of the Confederacy. One lost many of its possibilities by the Confederate retreat from [257]

“Little Mac” preparing for the campaign — a royal aide A picture taken in the fall of 1861, when McClellan was at the headquarters of General George W. Morell (who stands at the extreme left), commanding a brigade in Fitz John Porter's Division. Morell was then stationed on the defenses of Washington at Minor's Hill in Virginia, and General McClellan was engaged in transforming the raw recruits in the camps near the national capital into the finished soldiers of the Army of the Potomac. “Little Mac,” as they called him, was at this time at the height of his popularity. He appears in the center between two of his favorite aides-de-camp--Lieut.-Cols. A. V. Colburn and N. B. Sweitzer--whom he usually selected, he writes, “when hard riding is required.” Farther to the right stand two distinguished visitors — the Prince de Joinville, son of King Louis Phillippe of France, and his nephew, the Count de Paris, who wears the uniform of McClellan's staff, on which he was to serve through-out the Peninsula Campaign (see page 115). He afterwards wrote a valuable “History of the Cival War.”


Manassas. The other was determined on. Soon the Potomac will swarm with every description of water craft. It is to be the prelude to another drama on the military stage. On the placid river there come canal-boats, flat-bottoms, barges, three-decked steamers, and transatlantic packets.

On shore, the cities of tents are being deserted. The army is massing toward the piers of Alexandria. It is a glorious day of awakening spring, this 17th of March, 1862. From the heights above Alexandria a beautiful spectacle is seen. Armed men cover the hillside and the plain; columns of soldiers, with guns flashing in the sunlight, march and countermarch; thousands of horsemen with shining arms fill the meadows to the right; to the left are many batteries; beyond these, a long line of marching men stretch from the hills to the streets of Alexandria; regimental bands play familiar tunes, and flags and banners are waving over all. It is a magnificent pageant — a far different scene from that, three years hence, when many of these depleted, war-worn regiments, with tattered flags, will pass in grand review through the avenues of the capital.

Here upon this assortment of transports, without confusion and with the precision of a well-oiled machine, one hundred and twenty-one thousand men, with all the equipment for war, including fourteen thousand horses and mules, forty-four batteries, wagons, pontoon bridges, and boats are loaded. It comprises a fleet of four hundred vessels. On board men are swarming like ants; they unmoor from the landings and lazily float down the river. The unfinished dome of the Capitol fades away in the distance. The men gather in little knots and can but conjecture as to their destination.

Swinton tells us that it was an undertaking which “for economy and celerity of movement is without a parallel on record.” This vast army with its entire equipage was transferred in about two weeks a distance of two hundred miles without the loss of a man, from the scene of its preparation at Washington to the Flanders of the Civil War. [259]

McClellan's headquarters before Yorktown Camp Winfield Scott, near Wormley's Creek. General McClellan was a stickler for neatness. His headquarters were models of military order. The guard always wore white gloves, even in the active campaign. Here we see the general's chargers with their grooms, the waiting orderlies and the sentry standing stiffly at support arms. At the left is the guardhouse with stacked muskets.

The tented meadow Overlooking the Camp from near McClellan's headquarters. Little hardships had these troops seen as yet. Everything was new and fresh, the horses well fed and fat, the men happy and well sheltered in comfortable tents.


The army had already been divided into four corps, commanded, respectively, by Generals McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes, but at the last moment McDowell had been detached by President Lincoln. The van was led by General Hamilton's division of the Third Corps. On the afternoon of the second day the first transports entered Chesapeake Bay. In the shadowy distance, low against the sky-line, could be descried the faint outlines of the Virginia shore. The vessels passed toward Hampton Roads where a short time before had occurred the duel of the ironclads, the Monitor and Merrimac. To the right was Old Point Comfort, at whose apex stood the frowning walls of Fortress Monroe.

The first troops landed in a terrible storm of thunder and lightning. The sea became rough; great billows were breaking on the beach; cables broke, allowing vessels to grate against each other or drift helplessly from the docks. The landing was made in an unpitying storm. Shelter was unavailable, and there was no abatement of the gale with the night.

Then came the order to march. At the command the men gathered, and in the darkness, with the incessant rain beating in their faces, with but the lightning's flash to guide them, they crossed the bridge toward Hampton. Here, in an open field, with neither tents nor fire, with water standing in pools, preparations for the night were made. The following morning some pitched their tents under the guns of Fortress Monroe while others found tenting places amid the charred ruins of the once aristocratic village of Hampton. But the cold, dreary rains were unceasing. Transport after transport continued to unload its human freight. Day after day the men stood shivering about their tents. Wet and cheerless, but patient, they awaited the coming of their magnetic chief.

General McClellan reached Fortress Monroe on April 2d. The Confederate capital was yet seventy miles away, on the northern side of the James. The route of approach lay along the narrow neck of land between the James and the York. [261]

Nature's aid to the defenders Confederate magazines at the southeastern end of Yorktown. Tons of powder, shot and shell could be carried from this fastness in perfect safety to the guns on the heights, behind which the Confederate artillerymen stood and so long successfully defied the besiegers.

Whence the defense was directed Headquarters of General Magruder in Yorktown. This pre-Revolutionary dwelling was on the main street, and here the young commander planned so cleverly the disposition of his 15,000 men — not nearly enough to man the defenses of the city — that McClellan, with nearly 100,000, was held in check.


This peninsula, marshy and thickly wooded, is from seven to fifteen miles in width, cut by smaller streams into which the tides roll. The task before the army was not an easy one.

Again the splendidly equipped and matchlessly trained Army of the Potomac was ready to move. Out from the Camp at Hampton, from under the gun-bristling fort, the advance was made in two divisions along the mud-filled roads of the Peninsula. The troops marched with the precision of veterans. It was a bright April day, but the progress made was slow. Under the weight of unaccustomed burdens in the toilsome march, the men soon fell out of line and began to straggle. The warm sun and the wearisome tramp prompted many to lighten their burdens by throwing away some of their apparel. Soon the entire route was lined with an endless and reckless profusion of overcoats, blankets, parade-coats, and shoes. “Contraband” negroes were reaping a rich harvest, gathering up the discarded articles. Less than five miles was covered this first day. That night the rain came again and the soldiers who had thrown away their clothing found it a night of suffering. The morning march began in the rain. By the time Big Bethel was reached the water was coming down in torrents. The roads were cut till they were veritable rivers of mud. Along this wretched way stumbled and plodded horse and man.

Saturday afternoon, April 5th, the Federal advance guard on the right, consisting of Porter's division of Heintzelman's Third Corps, suddenly came to a river. It was the Warwick, a sluggish stream, nearly cutting the Peninsula from Yorktown to the James, a distance of thirteen and a half miles. Beyond the river was a line of trenches and forts, defended by a Confederate army. General Magruder had been stationed on the Peninsula with about eight thousand men. At the approach of McClellan reenforcements were hastened to him. The Union right wing was in front of Yorktown, the left at Lee's Mills. Now for the first time in the campaign the Union army found its way disputed. A flash of fire blazed [263]

The costliest rampart ever built Confederate Breastworks to the South and Southeast of Yorktown, Reenforced with Cotton. This device was used once before, in the War of 1812, by the defenders of New Orleans. Before the end of the Civil War, cotton was worth $1.00 a pound, gold. It is safe to say that no fortification was ever built of material so expensive. These cotton bales were used to protect the gunners serving the 8-inch Columbiad at the parapet. The gun in the center, though of archaic pattern, was deemed worth wrecking by the Confederates when they evacuated the position to fall back upon Richmond.

Fortifications of two wars Earthworks of the Revolution Used in the Civil War. The ditch, dug by Cornwallis in 1781, was deepened by Magruder in 1862. The higher earthworks to the left are also of Revolutionary origin. The sand-bag ramparts were added by the Confederates as further protection for guns and gunners, and as coverings to the magazines, one of which shows at the left of the picture.

[264] from the rifle-pits. It was returned with equal force and here on the historic soil of Yorktown men of North and South stood opposed, where eighty-one years before their fathers had stood together in the making of the Nation.

The defense confronting the Army of the Potomac was a strong one. Dams, protected by batteries and rifle-trenches, had been built in the river. Yorktown itself was fortified by a line of continuous earthworks, while across the York was Gloucester, also strongly fortified and garrisoned. The force defending the line comprised eleven thousand men, soon to be augmented by the army of General Johnston, who was assigned to the chief command on the Peninsula.

At Lee's Mills General Smith, of Keyes' corps, sent to make a reconnaissance by General McClellan, detected a seeming weak spot in the fortifications. Here would be the logical point to break the Confederate line. General Smith was ordered to send his men across the river. Accordingly four companies of “Green Mountain boys,” under cover of a heavy artillery fire from a battery of eighteen guns, plunged into the Warwick. The water reached above the waist-line, but they waded across the stream, emerging on the other side, and charged the Confederate rifle-pits. Eight additional companies came to their support. For one hour the Union troops held the trenches. The Confederates, after being driven to a redoubt, received reenforcements, reformed, and made a counter-charge. The Vermont soldiers were driven back by a galling fire, many being killed or wounded in recrossing the stream. The attempt to force the line could not succeed, since the condition of the roads and the low, boggy land rendered it impossible to use light artillery. It could not be brought close enough to do effective work.

Preparation for a protracted siege was now begun. Streams were bridged; corduroy roads constructed; a depot of supplies established. Facing the Confederate works, a parallel line extending from before Yorktown to the Warwick, a [265]

Ramparts that baffled McClellan. (Hasty fortifications of the Confederates at Yorktown.) It was against such fortifications as these, which Magruder had hastily reenforced with sand-bags, that McClellan spent a month preparing his heavy batteries. Magruder had far too few soldiers to man his long line of defenses properly, and his position could have been taken by a single determined attack. This rampart was occupied by the Confederate general, D. H. Hill, who had been the first to enter Yorktown in order to prepare it for siege. He was the last to leave it on the night of May 3, 1862.

Wrecked ordnance. (Gun exploded by the Confederates on General Hill's rampart, Yorktown.) Although the Confederates abandoned 200 pieces of ordnance at Yorktown, they were able to render most of them useless before leaving. Hill succeeded in terrorizing the Federals with grape-shot, and some of this was left behind. After the evacuation the ramparts were overrun by Union trophy seekers. The soldier resting his hands upon his musket is one of the Zouaves whose bright and novel uniforms were so conspicuous early in the war. This spot was directly on the line of the British fortification of 1781.

Another voiceless gun. (Confederate ramparts southeast of Yorktown.) A 32-pounder Navy gun which had been burst, wrecking its embrasure. The Federal soldier seated on the sand-bags is on guard-duty to prevent camp-followers from looting the vacant fort.

The missing rifle. (Extensive sand-bag fortifications of the Confederates at Yorktown.) The shells and carriage were left behind by the Confederates, but the rifled gun to which they belonged was taken along in the retreat. Such pieces as they could not remove they spiked.

Guns the Union lost and recovered. (A two-gun Confederate battery in the entrenchments south of Yorktown.) The near gun is a 32-pounder navy; the far one, a 24-pounder siege-piece. More than 3,000 pieces of naval ordnance fell into the hands of the Confederates early in the war, through the ill-advised and hasty abandonment of Norfolk Navy Yard by the Federals. Many of these guns did service at Yorktown and subsequently on the James River against the Union.

The Confederate command of the river. (Battery Magruder, Yorktown.) Looking north up the river, four of the five 8-inch Columbiads composing this section of the battery are visible. The grape-shot and spherical shells, which had been gathered in quantities to prevent the Federal fleet from passing up the river, were abandoned on the hasty retreat of the Confederates, the guns being spiked. The vessels in the river are transport ships, with the exception of the frigate just offshore.

[266] distance of four miles, was thrown up. Fourteen batteries and three redoubts, armed with the heaviest ordnance — some of the guns throwing two hundred pounds--were put in place.

Surrounding Yorktown were open fields. But the Federal troops could not remain there because of the shells from the batteries. The siege lasted less than thirty days and it rained on twenty of them. Violent thunderstorms rapidly succeeded one another. The Northern soldier, whether digging trenches, on the picket line, or standing guard, had to endure the fury of these storms. At night his bed might be in a pool of water. Sickness became prevalent, thousands were in the hospitals and many graves were dug in the marshy lowlands.

At last all was in readiness for the attack. The weather had cleared. The bombardment of Yorktown was about to begin. The shells were in position. Batteries capable of throwing sixty shells a minute were ready to belch forth.

Saturday morning, May 3d, Battery No. 1, opposite Yorktown, began its cannonading. The army waited in intense expectation of the grand spectacle. On Sunday, it was surmised, the great guns would play upon the works and ere the set of sun the victorious arms of the North would enter the historic town and unfurl the Stars and Stripes where the Father of his Country had placed them four-score years before.

Early Sunday morning a bright light from behind the Confederate works was seen by the Union pickets. A desultory cannonading had continued during the night and toward morning the firing was at times intense. The Sabbath dawned fair and warm, but no Southerners were to be seen. The Union men in the rifle-pits crept up to the very lines where but yesterday glinted the Confederate guns. The works had been abandoned. Under the cover of night the defenses had been evacuated, with masterly skill, as at Manassas. The troops were even now in full retreat toward Williamsburg.

Soon the Federals were in hot pursuit. General Stoneman with cavalry and horse artillery followed along the Williamsburg [267]

An unprecedented siege battery Federal Battery No. 1 Before Yorktown.--Never before had so heavy a siege battery been mounted. It was placed half a mile farther down the York River than Battery No. 4. From its six Parrott guns, five 100-pounders and one 200-pounder, it could at a single firing drop 700 pounds of shot and shell upon the fortifications and landing at Yorktown, two miles away. It opened up on May 1, 1862, with such telling effect that the evacuation of the town was greatly hastened, occurring two days later. These Parrott guns were in many cases failures. The reinforcement of the breach was not properly placed to stand the heavy charges and many burst, killing the artillerymen and wrecking everything in close vicinity. The life of these guns was short.

The pride of Union Battery number one A 200-pounder Parrott Gun.--This, at the time, mammoth piece of ordnance stood in the center of Battery No. 1, which was located on the west bank of the York River at the mouth of Wormley's Creek. The range of the battery was upstream toward Yorktown, and this huge Parrott gun in the very center of the battery was much relied upon by the Federals to do heavy damage. Here we see how carefully McClellan's engineers did their work. The wickerwork bastions were reinforced by tiers of sand bags. Well-constructed wooden stands were made for the gunners to facilitate the loading and swabbing. This battery was near the Farenholdt House.

[268] road, which was littered with the debris of a retreating army. Six miles from Williamsburg the pursuing cavalrymen came to a sudden halt. The rear guard of the Confederates had been overtaken. On the brow of the hill, in full view, was a Southern cavalry regiment, belonging to the famous brigade of J. E. B. Stuart. A quick passage of arms resulted. The advancing force pressed close but the resistance was stubborn. Stuart's men were covering the retreat of the main column toward the entrenchments of Williamsburg, which were reached by four o'clock.

Night came upon the marching troops, who all the day had been trudging the flooded roads of the Peninsula. The rain had fallen in torrents during the greater part of March. The cavalry prepared to bivouac in the rain-soaked fields in front of the Confederate works. All during the evening and even into the night the forces of Sumner and Hooker, floundering in the mud, were arriving on the scene of the next day's battle. It was a drenched and bedraggled army that slept on its arms that night.

Early in the morning the troops were again in motion. The approach to Williamsburg is along a narrow ridge, from either side of which flow the tributaries of the York and the James. At the junction of two roads stood the main defense of the fortified town. It was Fort Magruder with its bastioned front. To its right and left were a dozen redoubts for the placing of field artillery. In front of its half-mile of earthen wall ran a ditch full of water. In front of this and to the right was an open field, made so by the felling of trees, and beyond were the woods in which the army had bivouacked.

It was scarcely day when the attacking Confederate force emerged into the edge of the timber-strewn field. At once there burst from the wooded cover a vigorous fire. It was answered by the Confederate infantry and every gun in reach. The Federal troops, creeping through the slashes, steadily advanced. Heavy shot crashed amid the fallen timber, [269]

Silent after two days work. Union Battery No. 1, Two Miles Below Yorktown.--This section of the Parrott guns was in the peach orchard of the Farenholdt House. Never had so heavy a battery been set up before in siege work. McClellan hoped by it to silence the “impregnable” water batteries of the Confederates by dropping shot and shell upon Yorktown wharf and within the defenses on the bluff. After two days of action it was rendered useless by the evacuation of Yorktown, and had to be transported up the river after the change of the base. The Farenholdt mansion, a handsome old Colonial structure, was just in the rear of this battery, and from its roof the work of the shells could be clearly observed. The good shots were cheered and the men stationed here were in holiday mood — no Confederate fire could reach them.

The scene of Yorktown's only surrender Moore's House, about a Mile Southeast of the Town.--Near here, in 1781, Cornwallis laid down his arms to Washington and in this house the terms of the surrender which established the independence of America were drawn up. The damage to the house is the effect of the Revolutionary guns and not those of McClellan. The guns of Battery No. 1 fired their heavy shells over this house. Near here also many of the Continentals were buried, and across their graves and the old Camp of Cornwallis's beleagured troops the messengers of destruction hurtled through the air. The Federal fleet was anchored near where the Comte de Grasse's ships lay at the time of the surrender.

[270] plowing the earth as it struck or, rebounding, tore through the branches of the wood in the rear. Slowly the Federals made their way across the field, targets for the Confederate sharpshooter. Two Union batteries, those of Webber and Bramhall, advanced to within seven hundred yards of the Fort and began to play upon its walls.

Meanwhile there was seen emerging from a little ravine on the Union left a swarm of Confederates who opened at once a terrific fire. Giving their characteristic yell, they charged upon the Federals, pushing them back until the edge of the wood was again reached. There the Northerners halted, making a stand. Fresh troops came to their relief but they were insufficient. It seemed as if the Federals must give way. Both armies fought tenaciously. Neither would yield. The contest grew desperate. The Union brigades were being shattered. The last charges were made with ammunition taken from the cartridge boxes of fallen comrades.

Meanwhile “Fighting PhilKearny was hastening with his regiments over the bottomless roads of the Peninsula. They came most opportunely, and took the places of Hooker's tired and hungry men, who retreated in good order, leaving on the tree-strewn field seventeen hundred of their comrades, who had gone down before the Confederate fire.

On the York River side there had been no fighting during the early part of the day. But about noon, General Hancock, “the Superb,” took his men near the river's bank and occupied two Confederate redoubts. Planting his batteries in these new positions, he began throwing shells into Fort Magruder. This new move of the Federals at once attracted the attention of the Confederates, and General Jubal A. Early, with the Fifth and Twenty-third North Carolina and the Twenty-fourth and Thirty-eighth Virginia regiments, was sent to intercept Hancock's movements. At the bank of a small stream, the Carolina regiments under General D. H. Hill halted to form in line. The intrepid Early did not wait, [271]

The door to Yorktown Sallyport in the Center of the Southwestern Line of Entrenchments.--This commanded the road leading past Yorktown to Williams burg, upon which the Confederates fell back as McClellan advanced after the evacuation. This view looks into the town and toward the river. The advancing Federals entered the city from the other side. The inhabitants, who had first hidden in their homes, flocked to the street corners as regiment after regiment swept into the town with colors flying and bands playing. Out through this gate the detachment marched in pursuit of the retreating Confederates, who made a strong stand at Williamsburg.

The town McClellan thought worth a siege Near the Center of Yorktown.--Far from being the almost impregnable fortified city which McClellan appeared to think it, Yorktown was but a small village, to which the occupation by Cornwallis in 1781 had given an exaggerated strategic importance. It consisted chiefly of a single street, seen in the picture. Here a group of residents had gathered after the evacuation curious for a sight of the entering Union troops. A most remarkable thing to be noticed is the unharmed condition of most of the houses. The casualties among noncombatants were almost nothing. The food supply at this time was plentiful, the South as a whole had not begun to feel the pinch of hunger that it endured so bravely and so unflinchingly during the dark days of 1864.

[272] but riding at the head of the Twenty-fourth Virginia, rushed into the attack. Up across the field the column swept. On the crest of the hill stood Hancock's men--sixteen hundred strong — waiting for the charge. In front of his soldiers, with drawn sword, stood the man who later would display a similar courage on the field of Gettysburg. On came the Southerners' rush. The sword of Hancock gleamed in the light. Quick and decisive came the order to charge, and the trained soldiers, with the coolness of veterans, hurled themselves upon the Confederate column. Down by the stream, the gallant McRae of the Fifth North Carolina, seeing what was happening, dashed forward to take part in the fight. The Northern musketry fire sang in the afternoon air. So close did the opposing columns come to each other that the bayonets were used with deadly effect. The slaughter of the Fifth North Carolina regiment was appalling. The lines of the South began to waver, then broke and fled down the hill, leaving over five hundred men on the bloody field.

Now the sound of battle began to grow fainter in front of Fort Magruder. The Confederates were falling back behind its protecting walls. The Federal troops, wet and weary and hungry, slept on the field with their fallen comrades, and Hancock held undisputed sway during the starless night.

But it was not too dark for Longstreet's command to retreat once more in the direction of Richmond. It was a perilous road through the flat, swampy lowlands, with rain falling at every step of the way as they hastened toward the Chickahominy. The Union troops, too, had reason to remember this night as one of greatest suffering.

The next morning dawned in all the beauty of early May. The dead lay half buried in the mud. Many of the wounded had not yet been taken to the hospitals. But Williamsburg, the ancient capital of the Old Dominion, soon echoed with the tread of the hostile army as it swept through its quaint streets to the sound of martial music. [273]

The guns that did not take the town Federal Ordnance Ready for Transportation from Yorktown.--The artillery thus parked at the rear of the lower wharf was by no means all that McClellan deemed necessary to overcome the resistance at Yorktown. In the center are the Parrott guns. In the background, at the upper wharf, are the transports ready for the embarkation of the troops. The little mortars in the foreground were known as coehorns. They could be lifted by half a dozen men and transported by hand to any part of the entrenchments. Their range was only a few hundred yards, but with small charges they could quite accurately drop shells at almost a stone's throw. During the siege of Petersburg they were used by both armies. Here we see troops and artillery ready for the forward move. The Louisiana Tigers had been encamped here before McClellan's army took possession.

Loading the transports The Lower Wharf at Yorktown.--The steamer Robert Morris ready to depart, waiting for the embarkation of that portion of the Army of the Potomac which went up the York River to the mouth of the Pamunkey from Yorktown, May 6th, after the evacuation. Already the dismantling of both the Confederate and the Federal forts had begun. One sees gun-carriages, mortars, and tons of shot and shell, ready to be taken up the river for the operations against Richmond.


“On to Richmond!” near Cumberland, Virginia, May, 1862. With Confederate opposition at Yorktown and Williamsburg broken down, the Army of the Potomac was now ready for the final rush upon Richmond. The gathering of the Union army of forty thousand men at White House, near Cumberland, was felt to be the beginning of the expected victorious advance. That part of the army not at Yorktown and Williamsburg was moved up the Peninsula as fast as the conditions of the road would permit. After the affair at Williamsburg the troops there joined the main army before the advance to the Chickahominy. Here we see but part of that camp — the first to be established on a large scale, in the Peninsula campaign — looking north at the bend of the Pamunkey.

The far-stretching encampment.Cumberland Landing.) Three quarters of a mile from the landing, looking north toward the river. The distance is obscured by the haze of smoke from thousands of camp-fires. Every bit of dried wood had been collected and consumed, and standing timber was felled in all directions.

Where supplies were landed at Cumberland. The south bank of the Pamunkey, looking northwest across the lower camp. In this bend of the river was gathered the nondescript fleet of transports, steamers, barges, and schooners that conveyed Federal army supplies up to this point from Fortress Monroe, via York River.

Headquarters under canvas.Cumberland, May, 1862.) A photograph from a tree-top. Although a long distance from home, McClellan's army presented in the early days of its march up the Peninsula much of the panoply of war. The camera caught a cluster of officers' tents, probably the headquarters of a division or corps.

On the banks of the Pamunkey. (Looking south from Cumberland Landing.) The ground here slopes down directly to the river. The supplies for the camps farther up the river were hauled along a well-traveled road which bisected this stretch of encampment. This road, called New Kent Road, was the main highway of the region and led to Richmond.


A vista of the Federal camp. The Army of the Potomac waiting for the expected victorious advance on the Confederate capital. Yorktown had been evacuated on May 4th and Williamsburg abandoned on May 5th to the Union forces. During the week following, the divisions of Franklin, Sedgwick, Porter, and Richardson, after some opposition, gathered on the banks of the Pamunkey, the southern branch of the York River. Thence they marched toward White House which — after communication with the divisions that had been fighting at Williamsburg, was established — became headquarters for the whole army. This panoramic view shows a part of the encampment.

Idle days at Cumberland. The farm-lands occupied by the impatient, waiting army were soon stripped of fences for firewood. The men sat idly about, discussing the situation. Everyone expected to be in Richmond before the end of June, and no one dreamed that the great campaign would come to nothing.

Waiting for orders to move.Cumberland, May, 1862.) During the ten days of inaction the soldiers rested after their heavy labors on the elaborate fortifications before Yorktown. The Confederate general, Magruder, had completely deceived McClellan as to the number of men under his command. The siege delayed the army a month.

The city of tents. The Army of the Potomac encamped in readiness for the forward movement on Richmond. These comfortable canvas houses were transported by the army wagons. The Confederates had no such complete shelter during the spring of 1862, which was remarkable for the inclemency of the weather.

Headquarters of General McClellan.White House on the Pamunkey.) This house, the residence of W. H. F. Lee, son of General R. E. Lee, looked east over the river, which flows south at this point. It was burned in June, 1862, when the Federal army base was changed to the James River by order of General McClellan.


The Fort that stopped a panic In May, 1862, the news spread throughout Richmond that a Federal fleet of ironclads, led by the dread Monitor, was advancing up the James River. Panic at once seized upon the Confederate capital. The Government archives were shipped to Columbia, South Carolina, and every preparation was made to evacuate the city should the expedition against it succeed in passing up the James. Meanwhile the Confederate forces were working at Drewry's Bluff to establish a battery that would command the river. Earthworks were thrown up and guns were hastily gotten into position seven miles below Richmond. Sailing vessels were sunk in the channel; torpedoes were anchored, and every possible obstruction opposed to the approaching ironclads. When the Monitor and the Galena arrived they did not attempt to run the gantlet, and Richmond breathed freely again. These works ultimately formed Fort Darling.

The shower of shot and shell In the foreground of the picture we see what a mass of missiles were hurled into the fort, at the heads of the doughty defenders of Richmond. The Monitor, the Galena, and the gunboats-when Fort Darling opened on them to dispute the passage of the river, May 15, 1862--responded with a rain of projectiles in an effort to silence the Confederate battery and make it possible to proceed up the James. The Fort was not silenced, and the gunboats, thoroughly convinced of its strength, did not again seriously attempt to pass it. Fort Darling held the water approach to Richmond until the fall of Petersburg made it necessary for the Confederates to evacuate their capital. This picture was taken in April, 1865, after the Fort had been abandoned, and while it was occupied by the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery. The cabin seen in the picture was the quarters of the regimental chaplain.

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