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						179
	The Battle of Williamsburg.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
Williamsburg.  They, of course, pushed our few
and exhausted men back, and captured six of our
field-pieces, three of which they succeeded in finally
carrying off.  The nature of the ground was such 
covered with thick woods and brush that we
could not use our artillery with full effect;
but its fire compelled the shouting captors to
abandon three of their prizes.  The loss of these
guns was purely the result of the killing of their
officers and cannoniers and drivers and horses in
numbers sufficient to disorganize the sections, and
more especially of the exhaustion of the supply of
ammunition by the supporting infantry regiments
behind them.  Here now commenced the develop-
ment of the crisis of the fight.  Volleys of ball car-
tridges cannot long be resisted by the bravest of the
brave holding in their grasp only empty gun-barrels.
Pressed harder and closer by the new troops that
Johnston had got up from Williamsburg, the 7th and
8th New-Jersey gave ground, and soon fell into
disorder.  It was not strange for, their cartridge-
boxes empty, the men felt themselves to be unarmed.
Captain Chauncey McKeever threw himself in their
way and endeavored to rally them, without effect.
His resolution was promptly taken.  He took a squad-
ron of Col. Averill s 3d Pennsylvania Cavalry; de
ployed them in the woods on each side of the road and
ordered them to fire upon the stragglers and force them
back into the fight until the re-enforcements should
come up.  The order was obeyed.  The men who
had not shown any symptoms of panic, nor were in
any danger of a stampede returned to their work.
But without cartridges it seemed useless, and soon a
straggling into the woods against commenced.  Heint-
zelman, having no aid within miles of him, took his
escort of 3d Pennsylvanians, commanded by Capt.
[unclear letter]. C. White, and persuaded them to return to their
ranks and resume their ground.  It was heroic of
any portion of the 8,000 exhausted and now substan-
tially unarmed men to face 25,000 comparatively
fresh troops, pouring in upon them with a fierce and 
steady increase.  But a Massachusetts regiment
(God bless that State, and God bless her people!)
greatly assisted this devotion by fixing bayonets on
their empty musket barrels and standing still for the
coming avalanche.  It was now that Death
passed fastest through our ranks.  Officers fell thickly
and men went to earth in heaps.  Ten minutes more
would have ruined us for demi-gods could not have
sustained such an inequality as 8,000 to 25,000.  Ten
minutes more would have saved the Rebellion and
caused the recognition of the revolted States; ten
minutes more would have crushed military reputa-
tion, and driven a political party out of power and
its administrators perhaps out of life.  But now
Brigadier Berry of the stout State of Maine wading
through the mud and rain at such speed that he
actually overtook and passed three other brigades,
came in sight.  Heintzelman shouted with gratitude.
He ran to the nearest band and ordered it to meet
the coming regiments with  Yankee Doodle, 
and to give them marching time into the field
with the Star-spangled Banner.  A wild  hurrah! 
went up from the army, and with a yell that was
electric three regiments of Berry s brigade went to
the front, formed a line nearly half a mile long, and
commenced a volley firing that no troops on earth
could stand before then at the double-quick dashed
with the bayonet at the Rebel array, and sent them
flying from the field into their earthworks, pursued
them into the largest of them, and drove them out

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
behind with the pure steel, and then invited them to
retake it.  The attempt was repeatedly made, and
repeatedly repulsed.  The count of the Rebel dead
in that battery at the close of the fight was 63.  They
were principally Michigan men who did this work.
  The equilibrium of the battle was restored.  It
was now 4 o clock, and Jammison and Birney came
up with their brigades, covered with mud and
steaming with the rain, but eager for a share in the
blessed work.  They went to the front, and soon the
tide of the fight turned backward.  But Berry s
timely arrival, for which he is entitled to both grati-
tude and honor, saved the day.
  The battle of Williamsburg, in Heintzelman s por-
tion, was an infantry battle purely.  The use of
artillery was almost impossible.  It was a square,
stand-up fight with leaden balls and steel bayonets,
for conducting which to a successful issue no man
in the United States could have been better chosen
than this grizzled and bronzed Pennsylvanian of 36
years  active service.  It is not the flattery of com-
pliment to say that he saved the battle and saved
the army.  It is a truth which the soldiers and offi
cers on the left gratefully feel and surely know.
From the beginning of the action to the end of it he
was without a superior in rank, and received not a
single command.  He did wha the did unaided and
unadvised, and an advised people will surely give 
him his reward.

[newspaper clipping]
From Our Special Correspondent.
		WILLIAMSBURG, Va., May 8, 1862.
  Brady should instantly send a corps of photo-
graphers here, to take the actual likeness of the vast
lunette of forest-tree chevaux-de-frise, in which
over 25,000 of the Rebels, in ambush, and under the
protection of a rear line of forts of vast strength,
with heavy cannon in position awaited the advance
of the Union troops.  For no description with the
pen, no painting with words, no use by artist of pen-
cil or brush, can possibly convey even an ap-
proximately accurate idea of the nature of the
ground, which the Rebels first picked out, and then
ingeniously prepared with axes, wielded by slaves,
and directed by West Point engineers.  No imagina-
tion of the densely thicketed and wooded pens in
which Braddock was defeated and St. Clair lost his
army and his reputation, can prepare the mind for
the realization of the difficulties of the Rebel de-
fenses before Williamsburg.  Standing upon the
parapets of Fort Magruder a bastioned work, as
large as Fortress Monroe, with a wide moat, filled
with water, and having a sweep of the plains at
every point of the compass and, looking toward
Yorktown, you see a horse-shoe-shaped sweep of
forest, a mile and more around you see it fringed
on the inside with a gigantic abattis of fallen
timber, against which the eyes fairly ache,
in their sweep of a mile and more of look 
you see for a part of the way, beginning at
the end nearest to Williamsburg, a deep, wide ravine,
obstructed but little by stumps, and having a hard
bottom, and you say instantly  there, reserves could
be held secure from the fire of a million rifles  you
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Nineteen: page two hundred and six
Description:Newspaper clipping written by Samuel Wilkeson for ''The New York Tribune,'' regarding the Battle of Williamsburg.
Date:1862-05-08
Subject:Averill, Colonel; Battle of Williamsburg (Va.); Berry, Dr.; Berry, Hiram Gregory; Birney, David Bell; Brady, Matthew; Casualties; Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Heintzelman, Samuel Peter; Jameson, Charles Davis; Johnston, Joseph E.; Journalism; McKeever, Chauncey; Military; Music; New Jersey Infantry Regiment, 7th; New Jersey Infantry Regiment, 8th; New York tribune.; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, 3rd; White, Captain; Wilkeson, Samuel
Coverage (City/State):Williamsburg, Virginia
Scan Date:2010-06-17

 

Volume
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.