Action of the 26th.
[newspaper clipping: first column]
CAMP NEAR YORKTOWN, Va., April 24 10 p. m.
The day a raw, chilly one has passed very
quietly, only the exceptional boom of a big gun
reminding us that we are a besieging army. The
sound comes generally from our own lines, orginat-
ing, probably, in our artillery practice, for the pur-
pose of getting range.
All our works progress with equal rapidity and
secrecy; it is believed they are nearer completion
than has been supposed. All visits to the lines, ex-
cept by officers and men on duty, are strictly for-
bidden, violations of this orders being punished with
At 4 p. m. the Rebels threw several shells into the
open, not far from Gen. Heintzelman s headquarters.
They exploded harmlessly. The General, who has
suffered in health from his zealous exposure of him-
self during the recent severe rains, is now entirely
There is considerable sickness in the various
camps, particularly in those unfavorably located.
The prevailing diseases are typhoid, measles, and
diarrhea. The heavy rains, the miserable shelter
tents, diet principally consisting of hard crackers and
salt meats from the causes. Should the heats of
Summer find our army encamped among the pesti-
lential marshesf it may be decimated by epidemics.
I have a correction to make relative to my account
of our first day s action here, in which Col. Berdan s
Sharpshooters did such excellent service. It seems
that, inadvertently, I represented their gallant com-
mander as seeking cover upon the discharge of the
first and second Rebel shots. Instead of this, he rode
deliberately in front of the woods, amid the hail of
Rebel bullets aimed at him, scrutinizing the position
in order to place his men where they could be of the
utmost service. Simple justice to a gentleman and
officer respected by all who know him, and regarded
with enthusiasm by his corps, demands the amend-
These Sharpshooters, by the way, received a com-
pliment last Sunday, when Generals Keys and Smith
applied to Gen. Heintzelman to borrow 150 of them,
just to pick off the gunners of the Rebel batteries on
the extreme left. By 11 o clock they had killed nine
men, counting the groans. The men are now
relieved from night-duty, returning to camp at sunset.
I hear that Col. Berdan has applied for the forward-
ing of his regiment, at present with Gen. McDowell,
and for the Minnesota Company with Halleck.
When a general engagement occurs, we cannot have
too many sharpshooters.
They say the Rebels fire pretty well using gen-
erally Mississippi rifles, but some have target ones
and repeaters. One person of the 2d has become
prominent. He is a fine-looking bearded man, not in
uniform, and he walks leisurely from point to point
[newspaper clipping: second column]
within the Rebel intrenchments, or along the woods
skirting them, accompanied by a negro, who duti-
fully carries his rifle, a weapon of at least forty
pounds weight. He is never in a hurry, and a capi-
tal shot. At least one of our men has fallen by his
hand. They suppose him to be a civilian, a Secesh
version of the newspaper story of Garibaldi s
Englishman, and have banded together to make
sure of him. Still, up to the present date, he is alive
From a Special Correspondent.
CAMP BEFORE YORKTOWN, Va., April 27 6 p. m.
I sent you by this morning s mail a hastily-written
account of the skirmish which occurred yesterday at
daybreak, between the 1st Massachusetts and the
Rebels. I now add some further particulars.
The action took place to the left of our center, at
about a mile s distance from the Yorktown road, un-
der the superintendence of Gen. Grover, of Hooker s
division, Heintzelman s corps d arm e. Accurate
personal reconnoissances, in addition to the informa-
tion brought in by our sharpshooters, had rendered
the General perfectly familiar with the ground, and
enabled him to plan the attack with a nicety and
precision only to be equaled by the daring and intre-
pidity with which it was carried into effect.
Accordingly, it commenced at about 5 a. m., when
three companies of the 1st Massachusetts, under com-
mand of Lieut.-Col. Wells, took up their position on
the extreme margin of the woods, directly fronting
the hostile redoubt, being separated from it by a level
open space, perhaps five hundred yards in width,
beyond which, in the dull gray light of the morning,
could be seen the dark woods to the right and left,
occupied by the Rebels, and the distant line of their
main intrenchments. Company I, under Capt. Rand,
remained as reserve, concealed by the woods on the
right, while Capt. Wild of Company A, deployed his
command as skirmishers across the open space to the
left of the redoubt, in order to anticipate any danger
that might arise in that direction.
These precautions taken, the action began, Co.
H, under Capt. Carruth, accompanied by Lieut.
Wells, advanced at double quick time upon the
redoubt, to take it at the point of the bayonet. From
the moment of their breaking cover to that in which
they crossed a deep ditch difficult to be surmounted,
to leap triumphantly over the earthern parapet, the
noble fellows were exposed to a merciless fire of
rifled bullets, killing and wounding, alas! too many
of them. According to orders they did not waste
their ammunition by returning the fire of the con-
cealed and cowardly enemies, who fled at their
nearer approach. Only one man remained the
redoubt had been held by 75 when our three score
took possession of it; the rest had disappeared under
cover of the woods in the rear, where no
|Title:||Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nineteen: page one hundred and fifty-nine|
|Description:||Newspaper clipping written by Gunn for ''The New York Tribune'' regarding skirmishes at Yorktown near the end of April, 1862.|
|Subject:||Berdan, Hiram; Carruth, Captain; Casualties; Civil War; Food; Grover, Cuvier; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Halleck, Henry Wager; Heintzelman, Samuel Peter; Hooker, Joseph; Journalism; Keyes, Erasmus D.; Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 1st; McDowell, Irvin; Military; Mississippi Infantry Regiment, 2nd; New York tribune.; Peard, John Whitehead; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Rand, Captain; Siege of Yorktown (Va.); Smith, William F.; United States Sharpshooters Regiment, 1st; Wells, Lieutenant-Colonel; Wild, Captain|
|Coverage (City/State):||Yorktown, [Virginia]|
|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.|