[newspaper clipping: first column]
THE TAKING OF YORKTOWN.
From a Special Correspondent.
YORKTOWN, Va., May 4 m.
I begin this letter under curious circumstances. I
am sitting on top of Yorktown Court-House, re-
cently very recently occupied as a Rebel hospital,
looking down on the place, on its defenses, on our
soldiers, ona long line of cavalry and artillerymen
marching beyond it, on the road to Richmond. Let
me tell you how I came hither, and what I have
witnessed this Sunday morning; find time to finish
my letter how I may. Do not expect a very co-
herent letter, for I am dusty, thirsty, and tremulous
All last night the Rebels kept up an incessant fire
of shot and shell incessant and harmless. We heard
their diabolical whiz and sonorous boom, mur-
dering the tranquility of the lovely Summer s
night, with some little surprise by no suspicion as to
its object. We anticipated a quiet Sunday and,
next morning, or on Tuesday at the latest, the bom-
bardment that was never to take place. For I may
now tell you, broadly and boldly, what last night
was the worst kind of contraband information. Our
batteries, parallels, and what not in a military way,
were almost if not quite ready, after the painful
labor, by day and night, of four weeks, and by
Tuesday night, at the furthest, we were to have
thundered through the Rebel intrenchments and
planted the star-spangled banner where I write. It
waves there now, and I hear with indescribable
feelings a band playing the tune in honor of it.
Ten minutes after I had written the concluding
paragraph of my last letter, penned at early morn-
ing (what a monstrous gap there seems to be be-
tween then and now!) there came a rumor to my
quarters that Yorktown was evacuated rumor on
rumor so many that there could be no doubt about
it. So I got to horse and rode off to make inquiry.
I had heard of such an intention so far back as
Friday morning said to have been brought into our
camp by fugitive negroes, whost stories were utterly
discredited by our Commander-in-Chief and by Gen.
Porter. I had used what facilities I possess to ascer-
tain whether others high in military authority be-
lieved it. So far as I could learn, they did not.
Grumblers had talked, venturing unhopeful predic-
tions, but they were in the minority; the great bulk
of the army expected a speedy battle hoped for,
earnestly desired it.
Three miles ride brought me to Yorktown. I
passed the corner of the road beyond the open front-
ing Gen. Heintzelman s headquarters, where one of
our now useless batteries (we have fourteen of them)
is concealed by the woods, encountering no greater
obstruction than a sentinel, whom the production of
the pass obligingly given me by the General, satis-
fied. I had never gone so far before in that direc-
tion; there were orders against it to-day enforced
with a tenfold strictness, otherwise all the army
would have been flocking to Yorktown, and passed
[newspaper clipping: second column]
it, I say, and rode onward, now galloping ahead of
a regiment of marching infantry, now side by side
with a troop of cavalry, anon temporarily hindered
by artillery and wagons. If the whole of our army
was withheld from flocking onward to the subject of
its thoughts for the last six weeks, at least Gen.
McClellan gratified the curiosity of a large section of
it. I believe the entire corps d arm e of Gen.
Heintzelman, including the divisions of Generals
Porter, Hooker, and Kearney, moved on to the late
Rebel strongholds during the day and beyond it.
Past the skirting woods to the left, then along the
yellow, dusty road, with grass and a weed resembling
coarse heather, growing at the sides of it; by the
road indicated by the telegraph wire, onward to
Yorktown! A bright Summer s day around and
above us. Fields indifferently plowed a year ago;
woods, near and distant; low yellow lines of far-off
Rebel intrenchments; hurdles and rails thrown to-
gether across the road, as with puerile intent to impede
our progress onward. Marching, sweating, riding,
flags streaming, the galloping to and fro of orderlies,
the issuing of orders, picturesque halts and as pic-
turesque getting under way again; by deserted
Rebel huts and tents (the former in a pestiferous,
the latter in a dirty and willfully tattered and torn
condition); so we arrive at the outer line of the hos-
tile city, where waits Professor Lowe s new balloon,
Intrepid, bulging like an enormous bubble out of the
ground. It was by means of an ascent in it at 6 this
morning that General Heintzelman verified the re-
ports brought in by the pickets, ascertaining that the
Rebels had certainly got off, without the smallest
possibility of there being any mistake about it.
I was riding across the field to the right, when cer-
tain of the 22d Massachusetts, there stationed, warned
me of the infernal truth of a report that had reached
our camp half an hour before that the surface of the
ground was mined with torpedoes, which, stricken by
the foot of man or horse, would assuredly explode
and do their devilish work. Five men had already
been killed or mutilated in this manner, and, as the
soldier spoke, I saw another victim carried past in
a stretcher. He was a Mr. Lathrop, telegraph ope-
rator to Gen. Heintzelman, and not an hour ago I
had shaken his hand at the General s headquarters.
His foot had been blown off at the ankle-joint. Here
is a melancholy list I have since obtained of sufferers
from the same hellish contrivance.
At 3 a. m., of the N. Y. 40th, (the Mozart Regiment.)
G. McFarren, Mc Dermot.
J. Scofield, Laurence Burns, E. Cunningham, Sergt. Smith,
W. Steck, Fred Steck. All belonged to Company A.
Of the 22d Massachusetts, 3 men were also killed,
and 5 wounded, by one soldiers stepping on a torpedo.
I could not obtain their names. Nothing but the
wickedest hate, the direst cruelty, could have insti-
gated the Rebels to do this; there was nothing to be
gained by it. I repeat my characterization of the
deed it was infernal and devilish.
I rode cautiously, then, being warned by men
posted near the torpedoes which had been discovered,
or bits of stick planted in order to indicate their
presence, and soon dismounted to cross a plank over
a deep but empty ditch into the Rebel fortifications.
The Rebels left fifty-two of their cannon be-
hind them, mostly columbiads, some Dahlgrens, all
spiked with rat-tailed files, broken short off. Their
magazines and ammunition are here also. I have
peered into cellar-like excavations in the earth-
works, treading cautiously, with a curious conscious-
ness that I might be blown into eternity in punish-
|Title:||Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nineteen: page one hundred and seventy-nine|
|Description:||Newspaper clipping written by Gunn for ''The New York Tribune,'' regarding the aftermath of the evacuation of Yorktown by Confederate forces.|
|Subject:||Burns, Laurence; Civil War; Cunningham, E.; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Heintzelman, Samuel Peter; Hooker, Joseph; Journalism; Kearny, Philip; Lathrop; Lowe, T.S.C.; Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 22nd; McClellan, George B.; McDermot; McFarren, G.; Military; New York Infantry Regiment, 40th; New York tribune.; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Porter, Fitz-John; Scofield, J.; Siege of Yorktown (Va.); Smith, Sergeant; Steck, Fred; Steck, W.|
|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.|