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from the boxes of our fallen heroes, while our most advanced regiments were drawn back to a position whence they could guard our left, yet form a portion of our front. Gen. Longstreet's division of the Rebel main army—which army, under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston as commander-in-chief, had hastened ere this to the defense of Richmond from the side of the Peninsula—had passed through Williamsburg on the retreat, when it was recalled to aid in the defense.” Having now arrived on the field, a fresh attempt was made to drive in our left, which, after a protracted struggle, was repulsed with mutual slaughter; but a simultaneous attack on our front, from the direction of Fort Magruder, was successful to the extent of capturing 4 of our guns and making 200 or 300 prisoners. Thus, for nine hours, from 7:30 A. M. to 4:30 P.M., Hooker's single division was pitted against substantially the whole Rebel army, with every advantage of a chosen and skillfully fortified position on their side. No division ever fought better; and, though its General estimates the Rebel killed as double his own, he is doubtless mistaken. Gen. Heintzelman and staff, but no troops, had arrived early in the afternoon. At 4:30 P. M., Gen. Rearny arrived, with his division, and pressed to the front; allowing Hooker's thinned regiments to withdraw from the fight and be held as a reserve. Kearny, under Gen. IIeintzelman's orders, at once deployed
Berry's brigade to the left of the Williamsburg road, and Birney’s to the right, leading forward two companies of the 2d Michigan to beat back the enemy's skirmishers, now annoying our batteries; while Maj. . Wainwright, Hooker's chief of artillery, collected his gunners and réopened a fire from his remaining pieces; whereupon the 5th New Jersey, though fearfully cut up, rallied promptly to their support. Our musketry fire was renewed along the whole line, and our regiments began to gain ground. Finding that the heavy timber in his front defied all direct approach, Gen. Kearny ordered Col. Hobart Ward, with the 38th New York, to charge down the road and take the rifle-pits on the center of the abatis by their flank; which was gallantly done, the regiment losing 9 of its 19 officers during the brief hour of its engagement. The success of its charge not being perfect, the left wing of Col. Tiley’s 40th New York (Mozart) charged up to the open space, and, taking the rifle-pits in reverse, drove out their occupants and held the ground. By this time, Gen. Jameson had brought up the rear brigade of the division; whereby, under a severe fire, a second line was established, and two columns of regiments made disposable for further operations, when thick darkness closed in, and our soldiers rested, in rain and mire, on the field they had barely won. Gen. Heintzelman, who had at Yorktown been charged by Gen.
* Gen. McClellan, in his report, says:
“It is my opinion that the enemy opposed us here with only a portion of his army. When our cavalry first appeared, there was nothing but the enemy's rear-guard in Williamsburg:
although troops were brought back during the night and the next day, to hold the works as long as possible, in order to gain time for the trains, etc., already well on their way to Richmond, to make their escape.”
“History will not be believed when it is told that the noble officers and men of my division were permitted to carry on this unequal struggle from morning until night unaided, in the presence of more than 30,000 of their comrades with arms in their hands. Nevertheless, it is true.”
Gen. Sumner explains that, before these applications reached him, he had dispatched Gen. Hancock, with his brigade, to the extreme right; so that he had but about 3,000 infantry left, while cavalry was useless in that wooded and unknown region; hence, he was unable to give the assistance required.
Gen. Hancock duly accomplished the flanking movement assigned him, and, by a brilliant bayonet charge, carried the Rebel works on our right, with a loss of less than 50 men.” Soon, Gen. McClellan—after whom the Prince De Joinville and Gov. Sprague, of Rhode Island, had ridden post haste to Yorktown, where he was superintending the dispatch
ing of Franklin's division to West Point—was induced, after some delay, to ride to the front, reaching Hancock's position about 5 P. M. Before dark, several other divisions had arrived on the ground; that of Gen. Couch, or a part of it, in season to claim the honor of having been engaged in the battle. Gen. McClellan, at 10 P. M., dispatched to Washington the following account of this bloody affair, which proves that he was still quite in the dark respecting it:
“After arranging for movement up York river, I was urgently sent for here. I find Joe Johnston in front of me in strong force, probably greater, a good deal, than my own, and very strongly intrenched. Hancock has taken two redoubts, and repulsed Early's brigade by a real charge with the bayonet, taking one Colonel and 150 prisoners, killing at least two Colonels and as many Lt.Colonels, and many privates. His conduct was brilliant in the extreme. I do not know our exact loss, but fear IIooker has lost considerably on our left. I learn from prisoners that they intend disputing every step to Richmond. I shall run the risk of at least holding them in check here, while I resume the original plan. My entire force is, undoubtedly, considerably inferior to that of the Rebels, who still fight well; but I will do all I can with the force at my disposal.”
Had he supposed that the Rebels were at that moment evacuating Williamsburg in such haste as to leave all their severely wounded, 700 or 800 in number, to become prison
- Gen. McClellan, in his Report, says that he first heard, at 1 P. M., that every thing was not progressing favorably, when:
“Completing the necessary arrangements...I returned to my camp without delay, rode rapidly to the front, a distance of some fourteen miles, through roads much obstructed by troops and wagons, and reached the field between 4 and 5 P. t. in time to take a rapid survey of the ground. I soon learned that there was no direct communication between our center and the left under Gen. Heintzelman. The center was chiefly in the nearer edge of the woods situated between us and the enemy. As heavy firing was heard in the direction of Gen. Hancock's command, I immediately ordered Gen.
Smith to proceed with his two remaining bri- .
gades to support that part of the line. Gen. Naglee, with his brigade, received similar orders. I then directed our center to advance to the further edge of the woods mentioned above, which was done, and attempted to open communication with Gen. IIeintzelman, but was prevented by the marshy state of the ground in the direction in which the attempt was made. Before Gens. Smith and Naglee could reach the field of Gen. Hancock's operations, although they moved with great rapidity, he had been confronted by a superior force. Feigning to, retreat slowly, he awaited their onset, and then turned upon them: after some terrific volleys of musketry, he charged them with the bayonet, routing and dispersing their whole force, killing,
wounding, and capturing from 500 to 600 men; he himself losing only 31 men."
ers, he must have written a very dif. ferent dispatch; and it is not probable that they would have carried off, over the drenched and miry roads, more cannon than they could boast on the morning before the battle.” Gen. IIooker reports a loss in this engagement of 338 killed, 902 wounded, and 335 missing, who of course were prisoners. Gen. McClellan makes our total loss during the day 456 killed, 1,400 wounded, and 372 missing; total, 2,228.” Many of those prisoners, knowing that we had an overwhelming force just at hand, confidently looked for recapture during the night, and were sorely chagrined to find themselves deliberately marching toward a Rebel prison next day. While the battle at Williamsburg was raging, Gen. Franklin's division,
which had been kept on board the transports which brought it from Alexandria two or three weeks before, had been preparing to move from Yorktown up York river to West Point; where its 1st brigade, under Gen. Newton, landed unopposed next day.” It debarked on a spacious, open plain on the west side of the York and its south-western affluent, the Pamunkey; no enemy appearing till next day. Meantime, Gen. Dana had arrived with a part of Gen. Sedgwick’s division, but not debarked. Our gunboats took quiet possession of the little village at the Point, and hoisted our flag over it; no white man appearing to greet their arrival. During the night, one of our vedettes was shot through the heart, from the wood that fringed the
plain whereon our troops were encamped, though no hostile force had appeared. Next morning, however, a regiment or two of the enemy was descried and shelled from our gunboats; whereupon Gen. Dana, by order of Gen. Slocum, hastened the landing of his men and horses; while the 16th, 31st, and 32d New York, with the 95th and 96th Pennsylvania, were pushed forward into the woods in our front, with orders to drive out the few Rebel scouts who were supposed to be skulking there. They soon found themselves engaged with a far larger force than they had expected, whereof Gen. Whiting's Texan division and Wade Hampton's South Carolina Legion formed a part; and who, with every advantage of position and knowledge of the ground, drove our men out in haste and disorder. Twice the attempt was renewed, with similar results; but at length, our batteries having been landed and posted, they, with the aid of the gunboats, easily silenced the single Rebel battery of small howitzers, which, from an elevated clearing in the woods, had assisted to repel the advance of our infantry; and now that infantry pushed once more into the woods, and found no enemy to contest their possession. We lost in this affair 194 men, mainly of the 31st and 32d New York, including two Captains and two Lieutenants: while the Rebel loss was tri
* On waking, next morning, to find the Rebels vanished and his forces in quiet possession of Williamsburg, Gen. McClellan forwarded the following more cheerful dispatches:
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY of TIII, PotoMAC, )
“Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
“I have the pleasure to announce the occupation of this place as the result of the hard-fought action of yesterday. The effect of Hancock's brilliant engagement yesterday afternoon was to turn the left of their line of works. He was strongly röenforced, and the enemy abandoned the entire position during the night, leaving all his sick and wounded in our hands. His loss yesterday was very severe. We have some 300 uninjured prisoners, and more than a thousand wounded. Their loss in killed is heavy. The victory is complete.
“I have sent cavalry in pursuit; but the roads are in such condition that I cannot move artillery nor supplies. I shall therefore push the other movement most energetically. The conduct of our men has been excellent, with scarcely an exception. The enemy's works are very extensive and exceedingly strong, both in respect to their position and the works themselves. Our loss was heavy in Hooker's division, but very little on other parts of the field. Hancock's success was gained with a loss of not over 20 killed and wounded. Weather good to-day, but great difficulty in getting up food on account of the roads. Very few wagons have yet come up. Am I authorized to follow the example of other Generals, and direct names of battles to be
placed on the colors of regiments? We have other battles to fight before reaching Richmond. “G. B. McCLELLAN, “Maj.-Gen. Commanding.”
“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE PotoMAC, “WILLIAMSBURG, May 6. “Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War: “Every hour proves our victory more complete. The enemy's loss is great, especially in officers. I have just heard of five more of their guns captured. Prisoners are constantly arriving. G. B. McCLELLAN, “Maj.-Gen. Commanding.”
* No official account of the Rebel losses in this engagement is at hand; but the Richmond Dispatch of May 8th has a bulletin, professedly based on an official dispatch from Gen. Johnston, which, claiming 11 cannon and 623 prisoners captured, admits a Rebel loss of but 220; yet names Gen. Anderson, of North Carolina, Col. Mott, of Mississippi, Col. Ward, 4th Florida, and Col. Wm. H. Palmer, 1st Virginia, as among the killed; and Gen. Early, Gen. Rains, Col. Kemper, 7th Virginia, Col. Corse, 17th Virginia, and Col. Garland, of Lynchburg, as wounded; adding: “The 1st Virginia was badly cut up. Out of 200 men in the fight, some 80 or 90 are reported killed or wounded. Col. Kemper's regiment suffered terribly, though we have no account of the extent of the casualties.” These items indicate a total loss of certainly not
less than 1,000. *May 6.
so that Gen. McClellan's headquarters only reached White House on the 16th, Tunstall's Station on the 19th, and Coal Harbor on the 22d. Our advanced light troops had reached the Chickahominy at Bottom's Bridge two days before.
The movement of our grand army up the Peninsula, in connection with Burnside's successes and captures in North Carolina," had rendered the possession of Norfolk by the Rebels no longer tenable. To hold it by any force less than an army would be simply exposing that force to capture or destruction at the pleasure of our strategists. Gen. Wool, commanding at Fortress Monroe, having organized an expedition designed to reduce that important city, led it thither on the 10th; finding the bridge over Tanner's creek on fire, but no enemy to dispute possession of Norfolk, which was quietly surrendered by its Mayor. The Navy Yard and Portsmouth were in like manner repossessed; the Rebels, ere they left, destroying everything that would burn, partially blowing up the Dry Dock, and completely destroying their famous ironclad known to us as the Merrimac." They left about 200 cannon, including 39 of large caliber at Craney Island, and those in the Sewell's Point batteries, which, though spiked, were valuable; 29 pieces were found mounted on strong earthworks two miles from Norfolk, but deserted. In fact, it had been decided, at a council held at Norfolk some days before, that no attempt should be made to defend that city. The Merrimac, though she never fully recovered from the effects of her strug.
gle with the Monitor, had come down the river and shown fight when our vessels first undertook to shell out the Rebel batteries at Sewell's Point, three days before her self-destruction.” Two unfinished iron-clads were among the vessels fired by the Itebels ere they left.
The serious difference between the Administration and Gen. McClellan respecting the strength of his army, and the detachment therefrom of McDowell's and other forces for service elsewhere, now demands our deliberate consideration. Gen. McClellan, upon first assuming command” of the Army of the Potomac, had addressed to the President a memorandum, wherein, in addition to the armies required to make “a strong movement on the Mississippi,” to drive the Rebels “out of Missouri,” to hold Kentucky, and sustain “a movement through that State into Eastern Tennessee,” to guard securely the passes into Western Virginia, “to protect and réopen the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad,” to “gar
rison Baltimore and Fortress Monroe,” and leave 20,000 “for the defense of Washington,” he required for his “main army of operations” 225,000 infantry, 25,500 cavalry, 7,500 engineer troops, and 15,000 artillery, men, with 600 field guns; in all, 273,000 men. Even this mighty army was deemed by him insufficient, unless aided by a strong naval force.” Nearly three months later, in a letter to the Secretary of War, he so modified this demand as to evince a willingness to begin offensive operations with a total effective force on the Potomac and in Maryland—but not including the garrison of Fortress Monroe—of 208,000 men and 488 guns; but to secure this, he calculated, would require an aggregate of 240,000 men on his muster-rolls, including the sick and absent, while he had but 168,318, with 228 field guns, present, and 6 more batteries on the way from New York. Thus his army, which by December 1st had been swelled nearly to 200,000, and for the three months succeeding
*Com. Tatnall, in his official report of the loss of the Merrimac, lays the blame entirely on his pilots, who on the 7th assured him that they could take her to within 40 miles of Richmond if her draft were lessened to 18 feet; but, after five or six hours had been devoted to this work, and she had thus been disabled for action, they, for the first time, declared that, as the winds had for two days been westerly, the water in the James was too low, so that she could not now be run above the Jamestown flats, up to which point each shore was occupied by our armies. He had now no alternative but to siro her, land his crew, and make the best of his way to Suffolk. A Court of Inquiry, presided over by Capt. French Forrest, after an investigation protracted from May 22d to June 11th, decided that her destruction was unnecessary, and that she might, after being lightened to a draft of 20 feet 6 inches, have been taken up James river to Hog
Island. Part of the blame, however, was laid on the hasty retreat from Norfolk of the military under Gen. Huger.
* August 4, 1861.
* He says:
“Its general line of operations should be so directed that water transportation can be availed of from point to point, by means of the ocean and the rivers emptying into it. An essential feature of the plan of operations will be the employment of a strong naval force, to protect the movements of a fleet of transports intended to convey a considerable body of troops from point to point of the enemy's sea-coast, thus either creating diversions, and rendering it necessary to detach largely from their main body in order to protect such of their cities as may be threatened, or else landing and forming establishments on their coast, at any favorable places that opportunity might offer. This naval force should also cooperate with the main army, in its efforts to seize the important sea-board towns of the Rebels.”—McClellan's Official Memorandum.