Lehigh University
The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
Previous Issue Next Issue
Previous Page Next Page
0 matches
	        The March to Yorktown.

[newspaper clipping: first column]
From Our Special Correspondent.
     YORKTOWN, YORK CO., VA., Sunday Noon, April 6,  62.}
  My superscription is a rather lengthy identification
of locality, but I cannot condense it.  I write on the
day subsequent to that witnessing the beginning of
the attack upon Yorktown, in an outhouse appertain-
ing to the abandoned edifice of a Virginia doctor at
present appropriately occupied as a hospital for Gen.
Porter s division.  I sit amid drums, knapsacks, hav-
ersacks, tubs, musical instruments, and miscellaneous
military paraphernalia, upon an inversed tin canister
(in which I have but limited confidence), using my
note-book for a desk, and alternately a drum and my
knee for a table.  Two or three good fellows in at-
tendance are discussing a fragmentary turkey (killed,
plucked, and cooked by one of them), of which I
have gratefully accepted a portion.  I slept last night
luxuriously in one of the upper rooms of the aban-
doned edifice; where I shall sleep to-night the Lord
only knows.	
  In concluding my last letter, dated Deep Creek, or
Young s Mills, relating the occupation of a Rebel
camp by the division under the command of General 
Keyes, I expressed my intention of rejoining that of
Gen. Heintzelman immediately.  That involved my
retracing my steps for three miles or so and striking
across the country till I regained the road to York-
town via the Big and Little Bethels, by which the
main bulk of the army was marching onward to the
subjugation of Dixie.  This, I undertook, accord-
ingly, albeit with a lively recollection of Olmsted s
experiences of travel in the Old Dominion.  I left
my night s quarters, and the ruined church, the more
unwillingly, because the scouts had brought in news
of another Rebel battery ahead, mounting three guns
and commanding the road, and everybody was pre-
paring for action.  Knowing, however, that THE
TRIBUNE was very efficiently represented by my
comrade, and that my duty lay with Heintzelman, I
got to horse in good time and turned his head, tem-
porarily, in the direction of Newport News.
  It had lightened continuously during the night,
but the day broke splendidly, inciting hopes that
yesterday s signs of coming storm might not be ful-
filled.  I rode past the long train of Keyes s still
advancing troops, now in the open, now skirting
the fragrant pines, through a creek or two, beyond,
a ford and deep gully (not unlike that fronting the
Rebel camp I had left), and a mile further on it
turned off on the sinister hand, for  cross country
and Big Bethel.
  I had the entire road to myself, meeting nothing
living upon it excepting a few crows, which, dis-
turbed at the noise of my horses  feet, flew cawing
off from their feast on the proverbial early worm,

[newspaper clipping: second column]
into the pines.  It was a forest road, the branches
of the trees often menacing an incautious rider s 
face.  Pines, snake-fence, neglected fields, deserted
farm-houses and huts, generally standing amid
little orchards beautiful with peach and apple
blossoms   these were the itinerary of my
journey.  These, and a drenching shower
of rain which convinced me that the weather
signs of Fortress Monroe still held good inland,
made me congratulate myself on my precaution
in having provided myself with a waterproof over-
coat.  Donning it, I dismounted, to visit a farm-
house exhibiting signs of inhabitation.  Two Secesh
dogs barked at me, and a grim-looking, reddish-
haired old farmer, Secesh also, directed me to turn
to the right, where the road forked.  A negro girl
leaning on a fence, not far from a white man, plough-
ing the first time I have witnessed any agricultural
labor in progress in Virginia confirmed the advice;
I followed it, and, in due time, emerged where the
blue overcoats of Uncle Sam s volunteers were
streaming through the deserted embankments of
Great Bethel.
  I have written of an army on its march before.
Pressing on with some difficulty among the men,
horses, and impedimenta, I had reached Half-way
House (so called from it being equi-distant, 12 miles,
from Fortress Monroe and Yorktown), and was stop-
ping to return the friendly greeting of Col. Riley of
the 40th New York (the Mozart Regiment), when
again the heavens grew dark ominously so.  Before,
behind, the horizon became of a deep indigo hue,
turning rapidly to black.  On with overcoats! out
with oil-cloak capes! horse-blankets! anything capa-
ble of sheltering the human form from the fury of the
aqueous element! for it s coming, and in pailsful!
  I endured it, sitting on my horse, among the
Mozarters, until the rain streamed into my boots,
notwithstanding my India-rubber overcoat.  Then I
rode to an adjacent house, put my horse into a stable,
partly occupied by soldiers, and entered the tenement,
full also.  Perhaps a score of Uncle Sam s boys,
volunteers from New-Hampshire, Maine and New-
York regiments, damp enough, and surrounding at a 
respectful distance the mistress of the mansion, a
gaunt, elderly woman, who knitted querulously.
Beside her was a white child, and a slatternly
negro girl, of the Topay order, all white-eyed aston-
ishment at the irruption of the devastating Yankees
into the premises.  Only a few sticks were smolder-
ing on the hearth; the courtesy or shyness of the
soldiers had prevented the request for more.  I made
it, offering payment and obtained them.
  The woman professed limited Union sympathies 
of course.  Her husband was a preacher and a
farmer.   Our people  the Rebels had drafted
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nineteen: page one hundred and six
Description:Newspaper clipping written by Gunn for ''The New York Tribune,'' describing his journey from Yorktown to Newport News to rejoin General Heintzelman.
Subject:Civil War; Clothing and dress; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Heintzelman, Samuel Peter; Journalism; Keyes, Erasmus D.; Military; New York Infantry Regiment, 40th; New York tribune.; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Porter, Fitz-John; Riley, Colonel; Women
Coverage (City/State):Yorktown, Virginia; Newport News, Virginia
Scan Date:2010-06-14


Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nineteen
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of his experiences as a war correspondent for ""The New York Tribune"" in Virginia while traveling with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular Campaign; the Siege of Yorktown; the Battle of Williamsburg; his departure from Alexandria on the steamer Kent; the ruins of Hampton, Virginia, after it was burnt by John B. Magruder; touring the gunboat Monitor; the death of Fitz James O'Brien from a gunshot wound; Jim Parton's temporary separation from Fanny Fern; and seeing Robert E. Lee's house in Virginia.
Subject:Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marches (U.S. Army); Marriage; Medical care (U.S. Army); Military; Military camp life; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Prisoners of war (Confederate); Siege of Yorktown (Va.); Slavery; Slaves; Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York; Washington, District of Columbia; Alexandria, Virginia; Hampton, Virginia; Yorktown, Virginia; Williamsburg, Virginia
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.