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he gave orders for the evacuation, which began at CHAP. XX. midnight. He marched away from Yorktown with about 50,000 men. General McClellan, by his own morning report of the 30th of April, had in his camps and trenches, and scrambling in haste on board the transports that they had quitted the day before, an aggregate of 112,392 present for duty, the total aggregate present and absent being 130,378.
FROM WILLIAMSBURG TO FAIR OAKS
Webb, “The Peninsula,"
HE evacuation of Yorktown took General Mc
Clellan so completely by surprise that a good deal of valuable time was lost in hurried preparation to pursue the retiring enemy. Franklin's division, after their fortnight of delay on the transports, had been disembarked. They were hastily returned to their boats. Several hours were consumed in having the commands properly provisioned for
the march. The evacuation was discovered at May 4, 1862. dawn, and it was noon before the first column
started in pursuit. Johnston by this time had taken his entire command to Williamsburg. Knowing that McClellan's advance would soon reach him, he made his dispositions at his leisure. He posted a strong rear-guard there under Longstreet to protect the movement of his trains. The Union cavalry under George Stoneman came into collision with this force about dark and was repulsed, losing one gun. The main body of the pursuing army came up during the night, under the command of Generals Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes. It is strongly illustrative of General McClellan's relations with his corps commanders, that neither of these generals had any orders from him as to the conduct of
the battle which was inevitable as soon as they CHAP.XXI. overtook the enemy, and there was even serious doubt as to which among them was in command of the forces. Sumner had been ordered by the general-in-chief to take command in his absence, but these orders had not been communicated to Heintzelman, who thought that he was to take control of the movement. There was some confusion of orders as to the roads to be taken by the different commands, in consequence of which Hooker came into position on the left of the line and Smith on the right. The contrary disposition had been intended.
The morning of the 5th came with no definite May, 1862. plan of battle arranged. General Hooker, following his own martial instincts, moved forward and attacked the enemy at half-past seven and was soon hotly engaged. He fought almost the entire rearguard of Johnston during the whole forenoon. Heavy reënforcements thrown against him checked his advance and caused him to lose the ground he had gained. Hooker speaks in his report with much bitterness, not wholly unjustified, of the manner in which his division was left to fight an overwhelming force, “unaided in the presence of more than 30,000 of their comrades with arms in their hands,” and we search the reports of General McClellan and the corps commanders in vain for any adequate explanation of this state of things. Later in the day, Hancock had a hard fight, with greater success, on the right.
The whole day was bloody and expensive, and without adequate result. The zeal of Heintzelman, the heroism of Hooker and Hancock and their brave troops, were well-nigh wasted. There was no
W. R. Vol. XI., Part I.,
CHAP. XXL head, no intelligent director, no understood plan.
McClellan arrived late in the day and was unable to contribute anything to the result, although the cheers with which he was welcomed showed how fully he possessed the confidence and affection of his troops. He had not anticipated so early an engagement, and was spending the day at Yorktown to dispatch Franklin's division
the river. Actual contact with the enemy, however, made, as it always did, an exaggerated impression upon him. The affair which, when he heard of it at Yorktown, seemed to him a mere skirmish with a rear-guard, acquired a portentous importance when surveyed in the light of the bivouac at Williamsburg, amidst the actual and visible signs of a sanguinary conflict. His dispatch to the War Department, written at ten o'clock the night of the battle, betrays great agitation, and his idiosyncrasy of multiplying the number of his enemy, as a matter of course asserts itself. “I find General Joe Johnston in front of me in strong force, probably greater a good deal than my own.” After a compliment to Hancock he continues, “I learn from the prisoners taken that the rebels intend to dispute every step to Richmond.” One can only wonder what he expected them to say. “I shall run the risk of at least holding them in check here,
while I resume the original plan. My entire force vol. XI., is undoubtedly inferior to that of the rebels, who
will fight well.”] Thus while Johnston was profit
1 On the 6th of May the vet- the young general: “The deeran General Wool sent this dis- sponding tone of Major-General patch to the War Department, McClellan's dispatch of last evenshowing how his elders regarded ing more than surprises me. He at the time these jeremiads of says his entire force is undoubt
ing by the darkness to prepare to continue his CHAP.XXI. retrograde march at daybreak, McClellan was nerving himself to stand the risk of holding his ground at Williamsburg, while he “resumed the original plan” of a movement by water.
The next day, when he discovered that the enemy had moved away, leaving their wounded on the field of battle, his apprehension of attack subsided, but other difficulties rose before him. He telegraphed on the 7th to the Secretary of War: “Until the roads improve both in front and rear no large body Vol. XI., of troops can be moved.” Johnston had apparently no difficulty in moving his troops, which McClellan thought a larger body than his own.
Reaching a place called Baltimore Cross-Roads, Johnston halted for five days, and, after receiving intelligence of the evacuation of Norfolk and the destruction of the Merrimac, apprehending an attack upon Richmond by way of the James River, he ordered his forces to cross the Chickahominy on the 15th. Two days after this the rebel army encamped about three miles from Richmond, in front of the line of redoubts that had been constructed the previous year. It was a time of great apprehension, almost of dismay, at Richmond. The Confederate President, and most of his Cabinet, hastily sent their families to places of safety. Mr. Davis, whose religious feelings always took on a peculiar intensity in critical times, had himself baptized at home, and privately confirmed at St. Paul's Church. There was great doubt whether
edly considerably inferior to that that they should have abandoned of the rebels. If such is the Yorktown."— W.R. Vol. XI., Part fact, I am still more surprised III., p. 143.