Saturday, December 17, 2011

From The Lower Potomac

McClellan’s Army Before Yorktown.

The Fight in Progress on Sunday last.


The following is a summary of intelligence received by the War Department up to ten o’clock Monday night, of the operations at Yorktown and Fortress Monroe.

Yesterday the enemy’s works were carefully examined by Gen. McClellan, and found to be very strong and the approaches difficult. – The enemy was in force, and the water batteries at Yorktown and Gloucester were said to be much increased.

There was sharp firing on the right, but no harm done.  Our forces were receiving supplies from Ship Point, repairing roads and getting up long trains.  It seemed plain that mortars and siege guns must be used for assaulting.

Another dispatch, received at 10:30 this a. m., states that Yorktown will fall, but not without a siege of two or three days.  Some of the outer works have been taken.

A dispatch from Gen. Wool states that Magruder had 30,000 men at Yorktown.

On the afternoon of Sunday, ship Point had been taken and our gunboats had shelled out the batteries.

There was considerable delay cause in crossing the duck creek, at Warwick Court House, and resistance was made by the rebels during which time several casualties occurred on our side.

All the fortified places of importance before Yorktown had been taken at every point.

A fuller account is contained in the following dispatch:

“BEFORE YORKTOWN, Saturday Evening.

“Hon. EDWIN M. STANTON, Sec’y of War:

“That portion of the army of the Potomac recently concentrated at Old Point, advanced yesterday morning in the direction of Yorktown.  The right was assigned to Gen. Morrill’s brigade, of Gen. Porter’s Division, two companies of the 3d Penn. Cavalry, and a portion of Berdan’s sharpshooters acting as skirmishers.

“Nothing of interest took place until their arrival at Big Bethel, twelve miles distant, where they met the outer pickets of the rebels.  The troops were delayed here two hours constructing a bridge which had been destroyed.

“The Rebels retreated before the advance of our skirmishers to Howard’s Creek, where they had some abandoned earthworks.  Shots were fired here by the rebels from two field pieces, which were soon silenced by the 4th Rhode Island Battery, when the rebels beat a hasty retreat, taking their pieces with them.  The main body of the army rested here for the night, while Morrill’s brigade advanced three miles to Cuckleville, six miles from Yorktown.  By seven o’clock this (Saturday) morning the column was again in motion, and by 10 o’clock was in front of the enemy’s works at Yorktown.

“The first shot fired was by the rebels, the shell passing over the heads of Gen. Potter and staff without exploding.  The batteries of Griffin, and the 3d and 4th Rhode Island and 5th Massachusetts were placed in position, replying to every spot from which shot were sent by the rebels.

“The cannonading continued with slight intermission until dark.  About four hundred shots were fired by both parties during the day.  The loss on our side was three killed, and some five wounded.

The position of the rebels is a strong one.  From present indications their fortifications extend some two miles in length and mount heavy guns.  The ground in front of their guns is low and swampy.”


The Secretary of War has received a letter this afternoon from Gen. Wool, stating at 2. P. M. yesterday nothing was doing at Yorktown, except preparations for an attack.  The enemy’s force is reported at about thirty thousand.  At 2 P. M. yesterday, the Merrimac, Yorktown, Jamestown and four tugs were lying at Craney Island.

The cheering news concerning Island No. 10 fell on the public unexpectedly.

Wm. H. Polk of Tennessee, who has just arrived here, earnestly favors the passage of a confiscation bill by the Congress.  He expresses the opinion that such a measure would do more to make the rebel States loyal than any other than could be adopted.


Nothing has been done to-day in front of Yorktown except on the reconnaissance in that direction and some cannonading.  A telegraph wire is built to our headquarters near Yorktown.

The steamer Spaulding came in this morning from Ship Point.  The rebel works abandoned there are quite formidable.  The rebels took off their guns.  Ship Point is about eight miles from Yorktown, affording a fine base of operations.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Thursday Morning, April 10, 1862, p. 1

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