Today in History:

23 Series I Volume XI-I Serial 12 - Peninsular Campaign Part I


highest praise for the soldierly qualities displayed and his perfect appreciation of the vital importance of his position.

Night put an end to the operations here, and all the troops who had been engaged in this contest slept on the muddy field, without shelter and many without food.

Notwithstanding the report I received from General Heintzelman during the night that General Hooker's division had suffered so much that it could not be relied upon next day and that Kearny's could not do more than hold its own without re-enforcements, being satisfied that the result of Hancock's engagement was to give us possession of the decisive point of the battle-field, during the night i countermanded the order for the advance of the divisions of Sedgwick and Richardson, and directed them to return to Yorktown, to proceed to West Point by water.

Our loss during the day, the greater part of which was sustained by Hooker's division, was as follows: Killed, 456; wounded, 1,400; missing, 372. Total, 2,228.*

On the next morning we found the enemy's position abandoned, and occupied Fort Magruder and the town of Williamsburg, which was filled with the enemy's wounded, to whose assistance eighteen of their wagons were sent by General J. E. Johnston, the officer in command. Several guns and caissons, which the enemy could not carry off on account of the mud, were secured. Colonel Averell was sent forward at once with a strong cavalry force to endeavor to overtake the enemy's rear guard. He found several guns abandoned and picked up a large number of stragglers, but the condition of the roads and the state of his supplies forced him to return after advancing a few miles.

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. Other 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, &c., already well on their way to Richmond, to make their escape. Our troops were greatly exhausted by the laborious march through the mud from their positions in front of Yorktown and by the protracted battle through which they had just passed. Many of them were out of rations and ammunition, and one division, in its anxiety to make a prompt movement, had marched with empty haversacks. The supply trains had been forced out of the roads on the 4th and 5th to allow the troops and artillery to pass to the front, and the roads were now in such a state, after thirty-six hours' continuous rain, that it was almost impossible to pass even empty wagons over them. General Hooker's division had suffered so severely that it was in no condition to follow the enemy, even if the roads had been good. Under these circumstances an immediate pursuit was impossible.

Steps were at once taken to care for and remove the wounded,and to bring up provisions, ammunition, and forage.

The condition of the roads, as has been said, rendered it next to impossible to accomplish this by land from Yorktown. A temporary depot was therefore promptly established on Queen's Creek, and supplies drawn, and the wounded shipped from the place.

The divisions of Franklin, Sedgewick, Porter, and Richardson, were sent from Yorktown by water to the right bank of the Pamunkey, in the vicinity of West Point. The remaining divisions, the trains, and the reserve artillery moved subsequently by land.


*But see revised statement, p.450.