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Text for Page 107 [04-06-1862]

              93
	       The First Day�s Fight.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
him; her son, a boy of twelve, had gone to some
place of safety, only �baby� remained.  I inquired
if we Yankees had proved the depredators supposed,
and if we had pillaged or inflicted injury upon the
country folks.  Keeping a wary eye on the closed 
door of her �hennery,� through a side window, she
replied, �No, she couldn�t say they had,� and pres-
ently she started up in alarm, with a cry that the
soldiers were trying the door, and I have no doubt
they were.
  She possessed sundry specimens of Confederate
shinplasters, and clung fondly to the hope that they�d
be worth something some time.  I read upon one of
them the words, �After the acknowledgment of the
Confederate States by the United States,� and de-
cided that the �day after never� might have ex-
pressed the equivalent of the date.
  Onward again��forward to Richmond!� through
roads rendered horribly muddy by the rain-storm
which has just overblown itself, by fields that are
mere quagmires, or jungles of rotting corn-stalks,
along the open, through forest, thicket, stream-
let and meadow�onward!  Bayonets, plodding and
plashing men, mules tugging at wagons and ambu-
lances, body �mired� in the intolerable road, cattle
(for some of us take with us our own beeves), train af-
ter train of artillery�a martial procession that seems
to have no end and no beginning�such is the aspect 
of the march to Yorktown.  Gens. McClellan, Heintz-
elman, Porter, Hooker, and Hamilton, are ahead,
and the booming of cannon tells us the attack has 
commenced.
	       THE FIRST DAY�S FIGHT.
  How shall I describe the memorable hours that fol-
lowed, until, tired out, sick, and sad at heart, at the
sounds and sights of human agony presented by the
rooms beneath (I have said I slept in a house occu-
pied as a hospital), and with an awed consciousness
of the horrors involved in war, that found its only
flitting expression in a fervent, involuntary prayer to
Almighty God that this one might be brief, very
brief�I retired to the sleep that comes of fatigue and
exhaustion.  Then the boom of cannon made the
casements rattle, and the glare of some distant con-
flagration on the left lent an additional terror to the
dreary landscape.  Now the sun is shining on as
beautiful a Sunday as ever invited man abroad to
bless the Creator for existence, and my task is to
narrate the first day�s doings of the attack on York-
town.
  An on-looker, a mile or two behind the action
saw nothing but camps, marching men, distant
woods, rising grounds, and puffs of smoke; heard
nothing but the firing of target rifles and the report
of cannon.  What I have since gathered is neces-
sarily imperfect; all accounts at this time of writing
must be so.
  The day, then, was devoted to sharp-shooting and
artillery practice on both sides.  The accompanying

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
plan, for which I am indebted to Lieut. W. Elmen-
dorf of Col. Berdan�s 1st Regiment will enable you
to understand the localities.
  The Rebel entrenchments, it will be seen, extend 
in the shape of a semi-circle from York toward James
River.  They are high earthworks, mounted with
heavy barbette guns�32 pounders.  Situated on an
open plain, with Yorktown at less than a mile�s dis-
tance in the rear (its house-tops and windows,
crowded with spectators, were visible to our men
during the action), defended by rifle pits in front, the
rolling ground which slopes downwards, the posi-
tion is emphatically a strong one�it may yet cost as
much blood to win it.  The line of earthworks is
about a thousand yards from the woods displayed on
the map, joining them at either side; the land not
muddy but rising to the sandy plain above mentioned.
The shortest range obtainable by our sharp-shooters
at the enemy behind his intrenchments was about
750 yards, from the Peach Orchard marked on the
map, the scene of the hottest firing.
  The number of the enemy has been estimated with
the usual vagueness, at from 1,500 to 5,000.  Troops
were observed pouring in, in a stream, at one period
of the day; three regiments and two squadrons of
cavalry being remarked among them.
	   BERDAN�S SHARP-SHOOTERS.
  The action commenced at 1 a. m., under General 
Porter, who had the command of the right wing.
First of all, Col. Berdan�s Sharp-shooters, belonging
to the division, advanced as skirmishers, to clear the
woods and reconnoiter, the troops supporting them.
These deployed to the right and left plunging in the
bushes and availing themselves of any stone, tree,
or log that might afford shelter.  Companies A and
G were on the extreme right, before the 5th Massa-
chusetts Battery; Companies C and E, and part of
F, distributed along the fence on the left; Companies
B and H acted as a reserve.  Over three-quarters of
a mile was thus entirely covered by the Sharp-shoot-
ers. But for their admirable pluck, skill, and adroit-
ness, our troops would have been exposed to a mur-
derous fire from every tree and thicket in front of the
Rebel intrenchments.
  Col. H. Berdan and Dr. Snelling (Surgeon of the
Regiment, now deservedly promoted to the Brigade
Surgeonship) followed by three orderlies, had ridden
to the horizontal belt of woods exhibited in the map,
when the first Rebel shot came whizzing over their
heads; another compelled them to seek cover in the
bushes.  There they remained until the men were
fairly deployed, the shot and shell playin fast and
furiously about them; the sharp-shooters lying on
their stomachs and progressing reptile-fashion to
every favorable point for assailing the enemy.
Twenty minutes subsequent the 5th Massachusetts,
under Capt. Allen, came up, and turning to the right
went to work vigorously on the battery fronting               
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