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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 199 [05-08-1862]

              173
	       Battle of Williamsburg.

[photograph]
General Sumner.

[photograph]
Col. Dodge of the 87th New York.

[newspaper clipping: first column]
	ABANDONED HOUSE IN WILLIAMSBURG, Va.,}
					Night of May 8, 1862.}
  I know that abler pens than mine have told in
your columns the consecutive story of the bloody
fight before Williamsburg; let me, then, confine myself
to what I saw of the battle-field and subsequently.
If I cannot offer many particulars of the disposition
of the regiments engaged, I may, at least, paint the
scene of a glorious by dreadful event which can
never be effaced from my memory.
  I might have been present toward the end of it
but for a very common mischance here (Gen. Sumner
experienced the same, when graver results depended 
on his movements)�missing my road.
  I had ridden from Yorktown through the tremen-
dous rain which heightened the misery of the day,
passing the Prince de Joinville, who, apprehensive
of the result of the fight, was spurring toward Gen.
McClellan�s old headquarters, three miles beyond
Yorktown, for re-enforcements, and, afterward,
being passed by the General himself, as he hurried
to the extreme right, to lend the weight of his pres-
ence to his already transmitted orders in the final
peril.  Every muddy and drenched soldier of whom
I inquired needing directions, and none being able
to give them, I, at a certain brick church then full
of wounded and dying soldiers, turned erroneously
to the right, and after two miles found myself with
Sumner and Keyes�s men and Gen. McClellan.

[newspaper clipping: second column]
  It was a wild state of things, there and then.
Dismounting in the vicinity of a certain battery, 
whose artillerymen I knew, and who had done good
service that day, I found them recumbent on the
mud beneath their hastily-pitched tents, and in no
triumphant mood.  We had been d__nably whipped,
one said, adding that I had come up in good time,
perchance, to witness a worse flight than Bull Run.
Shot and shell were flying over our heads; the rain
descended incessantly; the mud was literally knee-
deep; the soldiers had slept in it during the previous
night, nor broken their fast during the entire day.
Some lay in the mud, utterly worn out, others
leaned against trees or fences, indifferent apparent-
ly, whether they lived or died; others, more hopeful,
had built scanty fires, which the fierce rain and ice-
cold wind did their best to extinguish.  Before, and
to the left, from the cover of the woods and fast-
gathering darkness, the boom of cannon and the fire
of musketry were incessant.
  So the sunless day closed and black night de-
scended on the dreary scene and the horrors of the
adjacent battle ground, then unvisited by reporters.
Except among a very few persons (and those not gen-
tlemen of the press) none were aware of the extent or
importance of the fight.  We thought it a big skirmish,
beginning disastrously, ending successfully.  And so
far was the latter from being universally credited,
the �boy� whom I induced to take charge of my
horse, though a servant to a General of a corps d�ar-
m�e, advised me not to take off, but merely to slack-
en the girths of my saddle, �as we might have to
stampede in the night.�
  How I passed the night it were unimportant to
relate.  In the morning I was off bright and early               
  •  
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