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"Headquarters Aemy Of The Potomac, "in Fkont Of Yorktown,
"'April 7, 1862—7 P.m.
4i Your telegram of yesterday arrived here while I was absent examining the enemy's right, which 1 did pretty closely.
"The whole tine of the Warwick, which really heads within a mile of Yorktown, is strongly defended by detached redoubts, and other fortiScations, armed with heavy and light guns. The approaches, except at Yorktown, are covered by the Warwick, over which there is but one, or at most, two passages, both of which are covered by strong batteries. It will be necessary to resort to the use of heavy guns, and some siege operations, before we can assault. All tie prisoners state that Gen. J. E. Johnston arrived in Yorktown yesterday with strong reinforcements. It seems clear that I shall have the whole force of the enemy on my hands, probably not less than (100,O0u")one hundred thousand men, and possibly moie. In consequence of the loss of Blenker's division, and the 1st corps, my force is possibly less than that of the enemy, while they have all the advantage of po-iiion.
.'! I am under great obligations to you for the offer, that the whole force and material of the government, will be as fully and speedily under my command as heretofore, or as if the new departments had not been created.
44$»ne« niy arrangements were made for this campaign, at least (5v,vb"»)} -fifty thousand men have: been taken from my command.
44 Since my dispatch of the 6th inst, five divisions have been in close observation of the enemy, and frequently exchanging shots. When my present command all joins, I shall have about (85,U0u) eighty-five thousand men for duty, from which a large force must be taken for guards, escorts, etc. With this army I could assault the enemy's works, and perhaps carry them, but were I in possession of their intrenchments, and assailed by double my numbers, I should have no fears as to the result.
"Under the circumstances that have beendveloped since my arrival here, I feel fully impressed with the conviction, that there is to be fought the great battle that is to decide the existing contest.' I shall, of course, commence the attack as soon as lean get my siege train, and shall do all in my power to carry the enemy's works; but to do this with a reasonable degree of certainty, requires, in my judgment, that I should, if possible, have at least, the whole of the 1st corps to land upon the Severn river, and attack Gloucester in the rear. My present strength will not admit of a detachment sufficient for this purpose, without materially impairing the efficiency of this column. Flag-officer Goldsborough, thinks the works too strong for his available vessels, unless I can turn Gloucester. I send, by mail, copies of this letter, and one of the commander of the gun-boats here. "Geo. B. Mcclellan,
I had provided a small siege train, and moderate supplies of intrenching tools, for euch a contingency at the present. Immediate steps were taken to secure the necessary additions.
While the engineer officers were engaged in ascertaining the character and strength of all the defences, and the configuration of the ground in front of Yorktown, in order to determine the point of attack, and to develop the approaches, the troops were occupied in opening roads to the depots established at the nearest available points on branches of York River. Troops were brought to the front as rapidly as possible, and on the 10th of April the armywas posted as follows: II einf/cl man's corps, composed of Porter's, Hooker'* and Hamilton's divisions, in front of Yorktown, extending, in the order named from the mouth of Wormley's creek to the Warwick road opposite Winn's mills; Sumner's corps, Sedgwick's division onlv .having arrived, on the left of Hamilton, extending down the Warwick and opposite the Winn's mills woiks; Reyes's corps, (Smith's, Couch's, and Casey's divisions), on the left of Sedgwick, facing the works at the one-gun battery, Lee's milis, etc., on the west bank of the Warwick. Sumner, after the 6th of April, commanded the j left wing, composed of his own and Reyes's
corps. j Throughout the preparations for, and during i the aeige of Yorktown, 1 kept the corps under I Gen. Reyes, and afterwards the left wing under j Gen. Sumner, engaged in ascertaining the <:harj acter of the obstacles presented by the Warj wick, and the enemy intrenched on ihe right | bank, with the intention, if possible, of over| coming them and breaking that line of defenc*:, j to as to gain possession of the road to Wili:tinif*j burg, and cut oil' Yorktown from its suooort.* j and supplies. 'Ihe forces under Gen. ileini>^aI man were engaged in similar, efforts upon the i works between Winn's mills and Yoiktown. | Gen. Reyes's report of the K>th of A mil, en; closing reports of brigade commanders engaged ; in reconnoissunces up to that day, said, "that no part of his (the enemy's line opposite his) line, as far as discovered, can be taken by a sank without 0ii enormous waste of life.'t Rcconnoissances on the right flank demonstrated the fact that the Warwick was not. passable in that direction except over a narrow dam, the approaches to which were swept by several batteries and intrenchments, which could be tilled quickly with supports sheltered by the timber immediately in rear.
General liariiuid, chief engineer of ihe ,.rmy of the Potomac, whose position entitled hi* opinions to the highest considers*, ion, exj ;•» sse<f the judgment that those foiinidable woiks could not, wiih any reasonable dega-e of certainty, be carried by assult. General Reyes, commanding 4rh a:my corps, afer rhv examination of the enemy's defences on ihe left, before alluded to, addressed the following letter to ihe Hon. Iia Harris, U. S. Senate, and gave me a copy. Although not strictly ( ftieial. ii ascribes the situation at that time in some resj cct:-- so well that I have taken the liberty of introducing it here.
"Hkad Quarters 4th Corps, '' Warwick Cmirt House, Va., Ajvll 7, 1SC2 "my Dear Senator: The plan of canr aigti on this line was made with the disinct -uuh-rstanding that four army corps should be cmployed, and that the navy should co-opera:*- in thr »iking of York town, and also (as I understood if support us on our left by moving guuU.ai> up James river.
•To-day I have learned that the 1st corps, wldca, by die President's older, was to embrace tour ilivisiou.% and one division (Blenker's') of iin* 2d corns, have been withd.awn altogether t'r..ni tins line of o; craaous, and from ilie army of the Ponmiic. At the snme time, as I am informed, .he navy has not means to attack Yorklow n. and is afraid to send gun-boats up James river Ibrtoar of the Mernmac.
•• The above plan of Cain; aign was adopted unanimously by Geueial McDowell and iirig. Generals Sumner, lleintzelnian and Reyes, mid was concurred in by Major General McClellan, who tii'Bi proposed Urban a as our base.
■* Tiiis army being reduced by forty-live thousand troops, some of Lhern among the best in the service, and without the support of the navy, tlie plan to which we are reduced hears sea reelv any resemblance to the one I voted for.
"I command the James river column, and [ left my camp, near Newport News, the morning of flie 4 h instant. I only succeeded in ge ling my' artillery ashore the afternoon of the day b-oie, and one of my divisions had not all arrived in camp the day I lef , and. f>r the want oi ii'U) poriaiou. has imt ye joined me. So you will uh.-erve I hut not a day was lost in the advance; and in fact we maiclied so quickly and si. i-.\ idly that many of our animals were tweniv-imii- and forty-eight hours without a ration «*■!' forage. • But. notwithstanding the rapidity of our advance, we are stopped by a line of detenu-* ni.ie or ten miles long, strongly fortified by b.easiworks, ereco-d nearly the whole (lis tance. behind a stream or succession of ponds nowhere f-rdabl' one erminus being Yorktown a.id 'he o her « ruling in the James river, which is commanded by die enemy's gun-boars. Yoi'kowu i- fortified all around with basiioned wurk<. and on the waterside, it aid Gloucester are so siroiig that the navy are afraid to attack either.
•' The approaches on our side are generally diroug i low. swampy, or thickly wooded ground, over roads which we are obliged to repair or to make, before we can get forward our ca, riages. The enemy is in great force, and is constantly receiving reinforcements from the two rivers. The line in front of us is therefore one of the strongest ever opposed to an invading force in }v,y country.
•• Yon will then ask, why 1 advocated suc'i a line for our opora'ious? My reasons are lew, bur. 1 ;hink good.
■k W'nii j ropor assistance from the nary, wo con Id .ake Yorktown. and then, wilh gun-boats on both rive s, we could h'*at. any force opposed to us on Warwick river, because the shot and shells f'-m he gun-boa's would nearly overlap aero^ i e Peninsula, so that, if the enemy should retreat, and retrea' he must, he would have a long wav to go without rail or steam traisporm, ion. and every soul of his at my must fall into our hands or 1m» destroyed.
"Another reason for my supporting the new base and plan was, that this line, it was ex]>ected would furnish water transportation nearly to Richmond.
Now, supposing we succeed in breaking
through the line in front of us, what can we do next? The roads are very bad, and if the enemy retains command of James river, and we do not first, reduce Yorktown, it would be impossible for us to subsist this army three marches beyond where it is now. As the roads are at present, it is with the utmost difficulty that we can subsist it in the position it now occupies.
"Yon will see, therefore, by what I have said, that the f "e originally intended for the capture of lli' mond should be all sent forward. If I the .i-i;' me four army corps necessary when I suppv>'<l the navy would co-operate,, and when I judged of the obstacles to be encountered by what I learned from maps and the opinions of officers long stationed at Fort Monroe,aud from all other sources, how much more should I think the full complement of troops requisite, now that the navy cannot co-operate, and now that the strength of the enemy's lines and the number of his guns and men prove to be almost immeasurably greater than I had been led to expect.
"The line in front of us, in the opinion of all the military men here who are at all competent toju'^ge, is one of the strongest in the world, and the force of the enemy capable of being increas'd beyond the numbers we now have to oppose to him. Independently of the strength of the lines in front of us, and of the force of the enemy behind them, we cannot advance until we get command of either York river or James river. The efficient co-operation of the navy is, therefore absolutely essential, and so I considered it" when I voted to change our base from the Potomac to Fort Monroe.
"An iron-clad boat mu -t attack Yorktown, and if several strong gun-boats could be sent up James river also, our success will be certain and complete, and the-rebellion will soon be put down.
"On the other hand, we must butt against the enemy's works with heavy artillery and a great •wasie of time, life and materiel.
"If we break through and advance, both our Hanks will be assailed from two g.eat watercourses in the hands of the enemy; our supplies would give out, and the enemy, equal, if not superior in numbers, would, with the other advantages, beat and destroy this army.
"The greatest master of the art of war has said that if you would invade a country successfully, you must have one line of operations and one army, under one general. But what is our condiiion? Tlie State of Virginia is made to constitute the command, in part or wholly, of some six generals, viz: Fremont, Banks, McDowell, Wool, Bumside and McClellan, besides the scrn.", over the Chesapeake, in the'eure of Dix.
"•The great, battle of the war is to come off here. If we win it, the rebellion will be crushed. If we lose K the consequences will be more horrible than 1 care to foretell. The plan of campaign I voted for, if carried out with the means proposed, will certainly succeed. If any part of the means proposed are withheld or diverted, I deem if due to myself to say that our success will be uncertain.
uIt is no doubt agreeable to the commander of the first corps to have a separate 'department, ami, a* this letter advocates his return to General McOlellan's command, it is proper to stato that I am not at all influenced by personal re
gard or dislike to any of iny senior in rank. If I were to credit all the opinions which have been poured into my ears, I must believe that, in regard to my present fine command, I owe much to General McDowell and nothing to General McCIellan. But I have disregarded all such officiousness, and I have, from last July to the present day, supported General McClelian and obeyed all his orders with as hearty a good will as though he hav been my brother or the friend to whom I owed. ost. I shall continue to do so to the last, and long as he te my commander, and I am not tfcairous to displace him, and would not if I could. He left Washington with the understanding that he was to execute a definite plan of c mpaign with certain prescribed means. The plan was good and the means sufficient, and, without modification, the enterprise was certain of success. But, with the reduction of force and means, the plan is entirely changed, and is now a bad plan, with means insufficient for certain success.
"Do not look upon this communication as the offspring of despondency. I never despond; and when you see me working the hardest, you may be sure that fortune is frowning upon me. I am working now, to my utmost.
"Please show this letter to the President, and I should like also that Mr. Stanton should know its contents. Do me the honor to write to me as soon as you can, and believe me, with perfect respect,
"Your most obedient servant,
"E. D. Keyks, "Brig. Gen. Commanding 4th Army Corps. "hon. Ira Harris, U. S. Senate."
By the 9 th of April I had acquired a pretty good knowledge of the position and strength of the enemy's works, and the obstacles to be overcome.
On that day I received the following letter from the President.
On the 7th of April, and before the arrival of the divisions of Generals Hooker, Richardson, and Casey, I received the following dispatches from the President and Secretary of War.
Washington, April C, 1832—8 r. M.
"Yours of 11 A. M. to-day received. Secretary of War informs me that the forwarding of transportation, ammunition, and Woodbury's brigade, under your orders, is not and will not be interfered with. You have now over one hundred thousand troops with you, independent of General Wool's command. I think you had better break the enemy's line from Yorktown to Warwick river at once. This will probably use time as advantageously as you can.
"A. Lincoln, President.
"General G. B. Mcolellan."
Washington, April 6, 1862—2 P.m. "The President directs me to say that your despatch to him has been received. General Sumner's corps is ou the road to join you, and will go forward as fast a3 possible. Franklin's division is now on the advance toward Manassas. There is no means of transportation here to send it forward in time to be of service in your present operations. Telegraph frequently, and all in the power of the government shall be^done to sustain you as occasion may require. "edwin M. Stanton,
"Secretary of War, "General G. B. Mcclellan."
"Washington, April 9th, 1862. "my Dear Sir: Your despatches, complaining that you are not properly sustained, while they do not offend me, do pain me very much. "Blenker's division was withdrawn, from you before you left here, and you know the pressure under which I did it, and, as I thought, acquiesced in it, certainly not without reluctance.
"After you left I ascertained that less than twenty thousand unorganized men, without a a single field battery, were all you designed to be left for the defence of Washington and Manassas Junction; and part of this even was to go to General Hooker's old position. Genera! Banks's corps, once designed for Manassas Junction, was diverted and tied up on the line of Winchester and Strasburg, and could not leave it without again exposing the upper Potomac and the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. T#is presented (or would present, when McDowell and Sumner should be gone) a great temptation to the enemy to turn back from the Rappahannock and sack Washington. My explicit order that Washington should, by the judgment of <dl the commanders of army corps, be left entirely secure, had been neglected. It was precisely this that drove me to detain McDowell.
"1 do not forget that I was satisfied with your arrangement to leave Banks at Manassas Junction; but when that arrangement was broken up and nothing was substituted for it, of conrse I was constrained to substitute something for it myself. And allow me to ask, Do you really think I should permit the line from Richmond via Manassas Junction to this ci»y, to be entirely open, except what resistance could be presented by less than twenty thousand "organized troops? This is a question which the country will not allow me to evade.
"There is a curious mystery about the numbers of the troops now with you. When 1 telegraphed you on the 6th, saying you had over a hundred thousand with you, I had just obtained from the Secretary of War a statement, taken, as he said, from your own returns, making 108,000 then with you and en route to you. You now say "you will have but 85.000 when all en route to you shall have rvached you. How can the discrepancy of 23.000 be accounted for?
"As to General Wool's command, I understand it is doing for you precisely what a like number of your own would have to do, if that command was away.
"I suppose the whole force which has gone forward for you is with you by this time, and, if so, I think it is the precise time to strike a blow. By delay the enemy will relatively gain upon you—that is, he will gain faster, by fortifications and reinforcements, than you can by reinforcements alone.
"And once more, let me tell you, it is indispensable to you that you strike a blow. I am powerless to help this. You wilI do me the justice to remember, F always insisted that going
down the bay in search of a field, instead of fighting at or near Manassas, was only shifting aud nut surmounting a difficulty; that we would find the same enemy, and the same or equal intreiict.nuMiis at either place. The country will not tail lonoie—is now noting—that the present hesitation to move upon an intrenched enemy, is but i he story of Manassas repeated.
"1 beg lo assure you that I have never written you, or spoken to you, in greater kindness of feeling than now, nor with a fuller purpose to sus.aiu you, so far as in my most anxious judgment I consistently can. But you must act. "Yours, very truly,
"Major General Mcclellan."
With great deference to the opinions and wishes of his excellency, the President, I most respectfully beg leave to refer to the facta which I have presented, and those contained in the accompanying letter of General Keyes, with the reports of General Barnard and other«officers, as furnishing a ieply to the above letter. His excellency could not judge of the formidable character oi tin.* works before us as well as if he had been upon the ground, and, whatever might have been tii* desire for prompt action, (certainly no greater than mine), I feel confident, if he could have made a personal inspection of the enemy's defences, he would have forbidden me from risking the safety of the army, and the possible Hiceesses of the campaign on a sanguinary assault of an advantageous and formidable position, widen, even,,, if successful, could not have been followed up to any other or better result than would have been reached by the regular operas ions of a siege. Slill less could I forego the conclusion of my instructed judgment for the mere sake of avoiding the personal consequences imimuted in the President's despatch.
The following extracts from the report of the chief engineer (Brigadier General J. G. Barnard), embody the result of our reconnoissance, and give, with some degree of detail, the character and strength of the defences of Yorktown and the Warwick, and some of the obstacles which the army contended against and overcame.
EXTRACTS FTOM GENERAL BARNARD'S REPORT.
u The accompanying drawing (map No. 2) gives with accuracy the outline and armament of the 'fortifications of Yorktown proper, with the deiached works immediately connected with it.
"The three bastioned fronts looking towards our approaches appear to have been earliest built, and have about fifteen feet thickness of parapet, and 8 feet to 10 feet depth of ditch; the width varying much, but never leaving less at top of the scrap than 15 feet; I think, generally, much mo 1*0.
"The works extending around the town, from the western salient of fronts just mentioned, appear to have been finished during the last winter and spring. They have formidable profiles, 18 feet thickness of parapet, and generally, 10 feei depth of ditch.
"The water-batteries had generally, eighteen feet parapet, the gun is barbette.
•< They wero (as well as all works mentioned)
carefully constructed with well made sod-revetments.
"There were numerous traverses between the guns, and ample .magazines; how sufficient in bomb-proof qualities, 1 am unable to say.
u The two first guns of the work on the heights, bear upon the water as well as the land, and were of heavy calibre.
"The lists herewith, gives all the guns in position, or for which there were emplacements. The vacant emplacements were all occupied before the evacuation by siege-guns, rilled 4\£ inch, 24-pounders and 18-pounders.
"In Fort Magruder (the first exterio\ work) there were found 1 8-inch columbiad, 1 42pounder, and 1 8-inch siege-howitzer, the two former * en barbette.' The sketch will show the emplacements for guns on field and siegecarriages, making, I think, with the foregoing, 22. Two of these were placed behind traverses with embrasures covered by bridges.
"The two external redoubts, with the connecting parapets, formed a re-entrant with the fronts of attack, and all the guns bore on our approaches.
"It will be seen, therefore, that our approaches were swept by the fire of at least 49 guns, nearly all of which were heavy, and many of them the most formidable guns known, besides that, two-thirds of the guns of the waerbatteries, and all the guns of Gloucester, bore on our right batteries, though under disadvantageous circumstances.
"The ravine, behind which the left of the Yorktown fronts of attack was placed, was not very difficult, as the heads formed depressions in front of there left imperfectly seen by their fire, and from which access could be had to; the ditches, but we could not be sure of this fact before the evacuation. The enemy held, by means of a slight breast-work, and rifle trenches, a position in advance of the heads of their ravines, as far forward as the Burnt house.
"The ravines, which head between the Yorktown fortifications and the exterior works, are deep and intricate. They were tolerably well seen, however, by the works which run westwardly from the Yorktown works, and which were too numerous and complicated to be traced on paper.
*' Fort Magruder, the first lunette on our left, appears to have been built at an early period.
"The external connection between this work, was first a rifle trench, probably afterwards enlarged into a parapet, with external ditch, and an emplacement for four guns in or near the email redan in the centre.
"Behind this they had constructed numerous epaulments with connecting boyaus not fully arranged for infantry fires, and mainly intended, probably, to protect their camps and reserves against the destructive effects of our artillery.
"From the i red redoubt,' these trenches and epaulments, ran to the woods and rivulet which forms'a head of the Warwick, and continue almost without break to connect with the works at Winn's mill. This stream just mentioned, (whatever be its name, the term * Warwick,' according to some, applying only to the tidal channel fjom the James river, up as high as Lee's mill), was inundated by a number of dams, from near where its head is