Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Evacuation of Yorktown


The Inquirer has a special dispatch from Fort Monroe, giving the following particulars in regard to the evacuation of Yorktown:

Sunday, May 4 – 10 A. M.

All day yesterday the rebels kept up a hot fire on Gen. Porter’s division.  No one was hurt.  Our Parrott gun at Farnholt Court House occasionally answered them last evening, and up to midnight heavy firing was kept up.  About that time there fire slackened considerably, and at 2 o’clock stopped altogether.  We fired one or two more batteries at them, but got no answer.

About 3 o’clock this morning a building at Yorktown was fired, and Prof. Lowe and Gen. Heintzleman went up in a balloon and found it was the storehouse at Yorktown wharf.  At daylight they reported the forts empty.  At 7 o’clock we occupied Yorktown without a gun being fired.

Of the guns of the enemy, nearly all remaining were spiked and dismounted.  By the side of the river battery were large piles of ammunition, powder, balls, shells, &c.  Eighty guns were in Yorktown, which is surrounded by a semi-circle.  The earthworks were all constructed to cover one another in every position, but they must have eventually yielded could he have got around them.

The gun we dismounted the other day killed and wounded four rebels.

The fort had been occupied by the 1st battalion New Orleans artillery, the 8th and 30th Alabama regiments, the 10th and 18th Louisiana, and 13th and 15th Georgia regiments.  These troops were ordered to report at Howard’s Grove, and left the fort at midnight.  A rear guard was left who waited for the appearance of day, and then retired in greatest haste.

Two deserters who left their regiment in Williamsburg at Daylight, say the whole rebel army was in a panic.  Prof. Lowe’s balloon reconnoissance discovered their rear guard at 9 a. m., to be four miles out.  Gen. McClellan immediately ordered out the artillery and cavalry and is pushing after them at full speed.

All our gunboats came up at 9 o’clock and landed some marines at Gloucester, who raised the United States flag amid the cheering that could be heard across the river.  The boats all then left and are now running up York river, shelling the banks on both sides.

A number of mines had been prepared for our troops by placing Prussian shells under ground in the roadways and entrances to the fort.

No whites were to be found, and only a few negro women and babies.  The town was squalid and filthy.  A few days of warm weather would have brought on a pestilence.  An abundance of bread, flour and a large quantity of meat, salt and fish was left.  All the tents were left, but no horses or wagons.

Reports concur that the rebels consist of a mob of about 100,000 men, ill fed, dirty and disheartened.

The road from Yorktown to Hampton, on which we encamped, was guarded by Fort Magruder, mounting a large number of guns, part of which were taken away and part spiked.  Some of their works were well built and well laid out, while others were wretched contrivances.  The work upon them was finished on Friday night, and the slaves sent to the rear under guard.  The rebels have nothing behind in which they can make a stand.  Last night their camp fires all along were the same as usual.  The dense woods along the peninsula enable them to leave without being seen by the balloon.

The large guns of the rebels were mostly Columbiads, taken from the Norfolk navy yard.  Some of them have been recently mounted.

The fortifications, although of the roughest character, where very formidable, being surrounded by deep gorges almost impossible to pass.

Times’ Dispatch

The retreat of the rebels appears to have been precipitate.  The commenced dismounting and carrying their guns back to Williamsburg four days ago.  Wagons have been engaged in transporting their ammunition, provisions, and camp equipage for over a week.  Their sick and wounded, numbering over 2,500, were sent to Richmond ten days ago.

The rebel soldiers and negroes were at work on their entrenchments until 2 o’clk. this morning, when their rear guard ordered the work to cease and take up the march to Williamsburg.

Ten thousand of the rebels were sent from Winne’s Mill to reinforce an army sent from Richmond to oppose McDowell’s advance last Thursday week.

A great battle is expected at Williamsburg, as the rebel troops particularly those under Magruder, have mutinied on several occasions within two weeks.  6,000 of his men threatened to lay down their arms unless they received food and clothing.

Three rebel lieutenants, 2 sergeants, and 20 men were captured on the other side of Yorktown, and brought in.  Since the 3d, over 70 deserters have come in, who report their army as thoroughly disheartened and demoralized.

The honor of first entering the enemy’s works belongs to the 73d regiment, of N. Y.  The Texas Rangers left as our forces were advancing.  A large force of the enemy are reported captured four miles behind Yorktown.

May 4 – 7 P. M.


Our cavalry and horse artillery came up with the enemy’s rear guard in their entrenchment about two miles this side of Williamsburg.  A brisk fight ensued, just as my aid left Smith’s division of infantry arrived on the ground, and it is presumed carried his works, though I have not yet heard.  The enemy’s rear is strong, but I have force enough up there to ensure all purposes.  All along the lines their works prove to have been most formidable, and I am now fully satisfied of the correctness of the course I have pursued.  The success is brilliant, and you may rest assured that its effects will be of the greatest importance.  There shall be no delay in following up the rebels.  The rebels have been guilty of the most murderous and barbarous conduct in placing torpedoes within the abandoned works near wells and springs, and near flog staffs, magazines, telegraph offices, in carpet bags, barrels of flour, &c.  Fortunately we have not lost many men in this manner – some four or five killed and perhaps a dozen wounded.  I shall make the prisoners remove them at their own peril.

GEO. B. McCLELLAN, Maj. Gen.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Tuesday Morning, May 6, 1862, p. 1

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