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Text for Page 197 [05-10-1862]

              [newspaper clipping: part one]
THE BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURGH.
		���������
	Gen. Hooker�s Official Report.
     HEADQUARTER�S HOOKER�S DIVISION, THIRD}
  ARMY CORPS, WILLIAMSBURGH, Va., May 10, 1862.}
Capt. C. McKeever, Asst. Adjt.-Gen. Third Army Corps:
  I have the honor to report that under the in-
structions received through Headquarters Third
Army Corps, dated May 4, �to support STONEMAN, and
aid him in cutting off the retreat of the enemy,� my
Division marched from its camp before Yorktown,
about noon that day.
  We marched toward Williamsburgh.  After ad-
vancing five or six miles on this road, I learned that
Brig.-Gen. STONEMAN had fallen upon the rear of the
enemy�s retreating column, and was there awaiting
the arrival of an infantry force to attack them.
  This was five or six miles in advance of me, and
immediately I left my command and galloped to the
front in order to see what disposition it would be
necessary to make of my force on its arrival.  While
here, I was informed that Brigadier-General SMITH�S
division had filed into the road in advance of my
command, and that, in consequence, my division
would be compelled to halt until after SMITH�S had
passed.  I immediately returned to the head of my
column, where I found my division halted; and as
SMITH�S was extended, it was between three and four
hours in passing.  As soon as this was ascertained,
and feeling that STONEMAN would require no addition-
al support, I applied to Brigadier-General HEINTZEL-
MAN, the superior officer charged with the advance on
the Yorktown road, for authority ot throw my com-
mand on to the Hampton road, which intersected
that on which Brigadier-General STONEMAN had
halted, at the identical point his enemy occupied.  The
angle formed by the two roads is a little less than a
right angle.  Obtaining this permission, the head of
my division left the brick church about dark, and it
pressed forward, in order, if practicable, to come up
with the enemy before morning.  This, however, I
soon found would be impossible for the roads were
frightful, the night intensely dark and rainy, and
many of my men exhausted from loss of sleep, and
from labor the night before in the trenches.  The
troops were halted in the middle of the road, between
10 and 11 o�clock P. M., resolved to stop until day-
light, when we started again, and came in sight of
the enemy�s works before Williamsburgh about 5 �
o�clock in the morning.  Before emerging from the
forest the column was halted, while I rode to the
front to find what could be learned of the position of
the enemy.
  The first work that presented itself was Fort Ma-
gruder, and this was standing at the junction of the
Yorktown and Hampton roads, and on each side of it
was a cordon of redoubts extending as far as could be
seen.  Subsequenrly I found their number to be thir-
teen, and extending entirely across the peninsular
the right and left of them resting on the waters of the
York and James rivers.  Approaching them from the
south, they are concealed by heavy forest until the
observer is within less than a mile of their locality.
Where the forest had been standing nearer than this
distance the trees had been felled, in order that the
occupants of the redoubts might have timely notice
of the approach of an enemy, and early strike him
with artillery.  The trees had been felled in this
manner on both sides of the road on which we had
advanced for a breadth of almost half a mile, and the
same was the case on the Yorktown road.  Between
the edge of the felled timber and the fort was a belt
of clear, arable land, 600 or 700 yards in width.  This
was dotted all over with rifle pits.
  In connection with the redoubts themselves, I may
be permitted to state, that I found them standing near
the eastern and southern verge of a slightly elevated
plain, the slopes of which were furrowed with widen-
ing ravines, with an an almost boundless, gently un-
dulating plain, reaching across the peninsula, and
extending to the north and west as far as the eye can
reach.  The landscape is highly picturesque and not
a little heightened by the large trees and venerable
spires of Willaimsburgh, two miles distant.
  Fort Magruder appears to be the largest of the re-
doubts�its crest measuring nearly half a mile, with
substantial parapets, ditches, magazines, etc.  This
was located to command the Yorktown and Hampton
Roads, and the redoubts in its vicinity to command
the ravines, which the guns of Fort Magruder could
not sweep.
  Being in pursuit of a retreating army, I deemed it my
duty to lose no time in making the disposition of my
forces to attack, regardless of their number and posi-
tion, except to accomplish the result with the least pos-
sible sacrifice of life.  By so doing, my Division, if it
did not capture the army before me, would at least hold
them, in order that some others might.
  Besides, I knew of the presence of more than 30,000
troops, not two miles distant from me, and that with-
in twelve miles (four hours� march) was the bulk of
the army of the Potomac.  My own position was ten-
able for double that length of time against three times
my number.
  At 7 � o�clock, Brig.-Gen. GROVER was directed to
commence the attack, by sending the First Massa-
chusetts Regiment as skirmishers into the felled tim-
ber, on the left of the road on which they were stand-
ing�the Second New-Hampshire Regiment to the
right�both with directions to skirmish up to the edge
of the felled timber, and there, under cover, to turn
their attention to the occupants of the rifle-pits, and
the enemy�s sharpshooters and gunners in Fort Ma-
gruder.
  The Eleventh Massachusetts Regiment, and the
Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania, were then directed to
form on the right of the Second New-Hampshire, 
and to advance as skirmishers until they had reached
the Yorktown road, and when that was gained, to
have word sent to me.
  Under my Chief of Artillery, WEBBER�S Battery
was thrown forward in advance of the fallen timber,
and brought into action in a cleared field on the
right of the road, and distant from Fort Magruder
about 700 yards.  No sooner had it emerged from the
forest, on the way to its position, than four guns from
Fort Magruder opened on it, and after it was still
further up the road, they received the fire from
two additional guns from a redoubt on the
left.  However, it was pushed on, and before
it was brought into motion, two officers and two
privates had been shot down, and before a single piece
of the battery had been discharged, its cannon-
lers had been driven from it despite the skill and ac-
tivity of my sharpshooters in picking off the rebel
gunners.  Volunteers were now called for by my gal-
lant Chief of Artillery, Maj. WAINWRIGHT, to man the
battery now in position, when the officers and can-
nonlers of OSBORNE�S Battery sprang forward, and in
the time I am writing, had those pieces well at work.
BRAMHALL�S Battery was now brought into action un-
der that exellent officer, on the right of WEBBER�S,
and before 9 o�clock, every gun in Fort Magruder
was silenced, and all the troops in sight on the plain
dispersed.  Between the sharpshooters and the two
batteries, the enemy�s guns in this fort were not heard
from again until late in the afternoon.
  One of the regiments in Brig.-Gen. PATTERSON�S
Brigade�the Fifth New-Jersey�was charged with
the especial care of these batteries, and was posted a
little to the rear of them.  The remaining regiments
of Patterson�s Brigade, under their intrepid com-
mander, were sent into the left of the road from
where they were standing, in anticipation of an at-
tack from that quarter.
  Heavy forest trees cover this ground and conceal
from the view the enemy�s earthworks, about a mile
distant.  The forest itself has a depth of about three-
fourths of that distance.  It was through this that
PATTERSON led the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth New-
Jersey Regiments.  Bodies of the enemy�s infantry
were seen drifting in that diretion, and the increased
musketry fire proved that many others were flocking
thither, whom we could not see.
  Prior to this moment, Brig.-Gen. EMORY had
reached my position with a light battery and a body
of cavalry, which were promptly placed at my dis-
posal by that experienced and gifted soldier; but, as
I had no duty on which I could employ those arms of
service, and as I was confined for room in the exer-
cise of my own command, I requested that he would
dispatch a party to reconnoitre and observe the move-
ments of the rebels to the rear of my left.  This was
executed to my satisfaction.
  It was now reported to me that the skirmishers to
the right had reached the Yorktown road, where word
was sent to Col. BLAISDELL to proceed with the Elev-
enth Massachusetts and Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania
Regiments cautiously down that road, to destroy any 
rebel force he might find, and break down any barrier 
the enemy might have thrown up to check the ad-
vance of our forces in that direction, and when this 
was executed to report the fact to the senior officer 
with the troops there, and on his return to send me 
word of the result of his mission.  This was done,
and word was sent ot me through Adjt. CURRIEE, of
the Eleventh Regiment.
  Up to this moment there had been a brisk musketry
fire kept up on every part of the field, but its swelling
volumes in the direction of PATTERSON, satisfied me
from the beginning of the engagement that the enemy
had accumulated a heavy force in his front.  GROVER
had already anticipated it, and had moved the main
portion of the First Massachusetts Regiment to re-
ceive it, while first, the Seventy-second New-York
Regiment, of TAYLOR�S Brigade, and soon after the
Seventieth New-York Regiment, of the same brig-
ade, were ordered to strengthen PATTERSON.
  Col. AVERILL, of the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry,
had, with great kindness and gallantry, tendered me
his services, while Lieut. MCALLESTER, of the Engin-
eers, volunteered to make a reconnoissance of such
of the enemy�s works as were hidden from view,
preparatory to carrying them by assault, should a
suitable opportunity present itself for that object.
For this service I am under many obligations to that
accomplished officer.
  From the earliest moment of the attack, it was an 
object of deep solicitude to establish a connection 
with the troops in my immediate neighborhood on 
the Yorktown road, and as that had been accom-
plished, and as I saw no signs of their advance, at 
11:20 A.M. I addressed the subjoined note to the 
Assistant Adjutant-General, Third Corps, under the 
impression that his Chief was still there. It is as 
follows: �I have had a hard contest all the morn-
ing, but do not despair of success. My men are hard 
at work, but a good deal exhausted. It is reported 
to me that my communication with you by the York-
town road is clear of the enemy. Batteries, cavalry 
and infantry can take post by the side of mine to 
whip the enemy.� This found Gen. HEINTZELMAN ab-
sent, but it was returned opened, and on the envelope 
indorsed, �Opened and read,� by the senior officer on 
that field. A cavalry man took over the note, and 
returned with it, by the Yorktown road, after an ab-
sence of twenty minutes. 
  To return, it was now after 1 o�clock, and the battle 
had swollen into one of gigantic proportions. The 
left had been reinforced with the Seventy-third and 
Seventy-fourth New-York Regiments�the only re-
maining ones of my reserve�under Col. TAYLOR, and 
all were engaged; yet its fortunes would ebb and
flow despite the most determined courage and valor 
of my devoted officers and men. Three times the 
enemy approached within eighty yards of the road
which was the centre of my operations, and as often 
were they thrown back with violence and slaughter. 
Every time his advance was made with fresh troops, 
and each succeeding one seemed to be in greater 
force and determination. 
  The Eleventh Massachusetts and the Twenty-sixth 
Pennsylvania Regiments were ordered to the left�
the support of the batteries and the Second New-
Hampshire Regiment were withdrawn from their ad-
vanced position in front, to take post where they 
could look after the front and left at the same time. 
The orders to the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania Regi-
ment did not reach it, and it remained on the right. 
  At this juncture word was received from Col. 
TAYLOR that the regiments of his command longest 
engaged were falling short of ammunition, and when 
he was informed that the supply train was not yet 
up, a portion of his command presented an obstinate 
front to the advance of the enemy, with no other 
cartridges than were gathered from the boxes of the 
fallen.
  Again the enemy were reinforced by the arrival of 
LONGSTREET�S Division. His troops had passed through 
Williamsburgh, on their retreat from Yorktown, and 
were recalled to strengthen the rebel forces before 
Williamsburgh. No sooner had they joined, than it 
was known that they were again moving to drive in 
our left; after a violent and protracted struggle they 
were again repulsed with great loss. 
  Simultaneous with the movement, an attempt was 
made to drive in our front, and seize the batteries, by 
the troops from Fort Magruder, aided by reinforce-
ments from the redoubts on the left. The withdrawal 
of the supports invited this attack, and it was at this 
time that four of our guns were captured. They 
could have been saved, but only at the risk of losing 
the day. Whatever of dishonor, if any, is attached to 
their loss, belongs to the Brigadier-General com-
manding the Division, and not to his Chief of Artil-
lery, or to the officers and men serving with the bat-
teries�for truer men never stepped upon the field 
of battle. 
  While this was going on in front, Capt. SMITH, by a 
skillful disposition of his battery, held complete com-
mand of the road, which subsequently, by a few well-
directed shots, was turned to good account.               
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