Monday, November 12, 2012

Civil War Battle of Willamsburg Virginia



THE BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG.
The Attack on Fort Magruder—Hancock occupies two Redoubts—The Slaughter in Early’s Brigade—The Fifth North Carolina Regiment and Twenty-Fourth Virginia mercilessly exposed—A Hard-Fought Engagement—A Confederate Victory—McClellan not on the Field the Greater Part of the Day—Hancock called “The Superb” by McClellan—Johnston pays High Tribute to Longstreet.
Before quitting his trenches at Yorktown, Johnston anticipated a move of part of McClellan’s army by transports to the head of York River, to cut his line of march towards Richmond, and conceived it important to have a strong force at that point in time to meet and check the move. To that end he ordered Magruder to march at twoa.m. on the 5th of May with D. R. Jones’s and McLaws’s divisions, to be followed by the divisions of G. W. Smith and D. H. Hill; Longstreet’s division to cover the movement of his trains and defend Stuart’s cavalry in case of severe pressure. Late in the afternoon of the 4th I was ordered to send a brigade to the redoubts to relieve McLaws’s division. The brigades being small, I sent two, R. H. Anderson’s and Pryor’s, with Macon’s battery, under Lieutenant Clopton, two guns under Captain Garrett, and two under Captain McCarthy, to report to General Anderson, the senior brigadier. At the time it was thought that the army would be on the march by daylight in the morning, and that the rear-guard would closely follow; but after nightfall a down-pour of rain came, flooding thoroughfares and by-ways, woodlands and fields, so that parts of our trains were stalled on the ground, where they stood during the night. It was dark when Anderson joined McLaws, who had drawn his men together in readiness to join the advance march. Anticipating an early march himself, Anderson occupied Fort Magruder and advanced his pickets so as to cover with their fire the junction of the Yorktown and Hampton roads. Heavy clouds and darkness settling down upon him, he made no effort at a critical survey of the surroundings; while the steady rain through the night gave signs of serious delay in the movements of the army, but he little thought that by the delay he could be called into battle. In the morning when time grew heavier he was advised to call in the brigades near him, in case he should need them, and instructions were sent them to answer his call.
At daylight he occupied the redoubts on the right of Fort Magruder, and two of those on the left. Two others farther on the left were not seen through the rain, and no one had been left to tell him of them or of the grounds. The field in his front and far off on his right was open. That in the immediate front had been opened by felling trees. On his left were woodland and the swampy creek. General Hooker’s division of the Third Corps came to the open on the Hampton road at seven a.m. of the 5th, and engaged by regiments,—the First Massachusetts on his left, preceded by a battalion of skirmishers; the Second New Hampshire on the right, in the same order; Hancock’s brigade of W. F. Smith’s division of the Fourth Corps threatening on the Yorktown road; supported by part of Davidson’s brigade and artillery. After the advance of his infantry in the slashes, General Hooker, with the Eleventh Massachusetts and Thirty-sixth Pennsylvania Regiments of Grover’s brigade, cleared the way for communication with the troops on the Yorktown road, and ordered Webber’s six-gun battery into action towards the front of the fallen timber. As it burst from the wood our infantry and every gun in reach opened upon it a fire so destructive that it was unmanned before it came into practice. Volunteers to man the battery were called, andwith the assistance of men of Osborn’s battery the guns were opened. Bramhall’s battery was advanced and put into action on the right of Webber’s, when the two poured an unceasing fire against our troops about the fort and redoubts. It was not very destructive, however, and they thought to reserve their ammunition.
The Fifth New Jersey Regiment, of Patterson’s brigade, was added to the guard of the batteries, and the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth were deployed on the left in the woodland. Anderson called up Wilcox’s brigade, and ordered it to his right, reinforced it by the men of Pryor’s brigade not needed at the forts, and presently called for the brigades of A. P. Hill and Pickett, to further support his right.
From the swelling noise of battle I concluded that it would be well to ride to the front, and ordered the remaining brigade (Colston’s) and the batteries of Dearing and Stribling to follow. Stuart sent his horse artillery under Pelham into the action on the open field.
Viewing the ground on the left, I thought it not so well protected as Anderson conceived, and sent to D. H. Hill, who was but little advanced on his march, for one of his brigades. Early’s was sent, to whose brigade were temporarily attached the Florida regiment and a Mississippi battalion. Anderson had left the fort, and was busy handling the brigades engaged in the woods on the right. Colston’s was put in with the other brigades under Anderson, who afterwards called for another regiment. The Florida regiment and the Mississippi battalion were sent. Early, with his brigade, was posted on the field in rear of our left.
When it became evident that the fight was for the day, D. H. Hill was asked to return with the balance of his division. Meanwhile, Hooker was bracing the fight on his left. Emory reported to him with his cavalry and light battery, but as his fight was in the wood, Emory was[] asked to reconnoitre on his extreme left. The fight growing in the wood, Grover drew off part of his brigade to reinforce against it. The Seventy-second and Seventeenth New York Regiments of Taylor’s brigade were also sent; then the Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth New York Regiments of the same brigade; but the Confederates gained ground gradually. They were, however, getting short of ammunition. While holding their line, some of the regiments were permitted to retire a little to fill their cartridge-boxes from those of the fallen of the enemy and of their comrades. This move was misconstrued into an order to withdraw, and the line fell back a little. But the mistake was rectified, and the ground that had been abandoned was recovered.
Hooker ordered the Eleventh Massachusetts and Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania Regiments to the support of the batteries, and the Second New Hampshire Regiment to his left. Anderson, drawing his troops together near the batteries, made a concentrated move upon them, and cleared them of the gunners, securing four of Webber’s guns and forty horses. Just then he was reinforced by Colston’s brigade, the Florida regiment, and the Mississippi battalion. General Stuart taking it that the enemy was badly broken and in retreat, rode up with his cavalry, insisting upon a charge and pursuit. As he did not recognize authority except of the commander-in-chief, he was only cautioned that the break was only of the enemy’s front, that he would find reinforcements coming up, and this he began to realize by the clearer ring of their muskets. He speedily encountered them, but in time to get away before meeting serious trouble. About three o’clock Kearny’s division arrived, and only a few minutes later D. H. Hill’s, of the Confederates. On the approach of Kearny’s leading brigades, one regiment was detached from Berry’s to reinforce Emory’s Cavalry detachment on their left. The other regiments were deployed, the Fifth] Michigan on the left of the road, the Thirty-seventh New York on its left, along the road, one company of the New York regiment from left to rear. Six companies of the Michigan regiment were broken off to the rear of its right as reserve, leaving its forward battalion partly across the road, while that in rear had two companies on the right and two on the left of the road. Two regiments of Birney’s brigade were deployed, the Thirty-eighth on the right of, and the Fortieth across, the road, to relieve some of Hooker’s regiments. Then Peck’s brigade of Couch’s division came, and was put in on the right, the One Hundred and Second Pennsylvania and the Fifty-fifth New York on the left, the Sixty-second New York in the wood, the Ninety-third Pennsylvania on the left, and after a little the Ninety-eighth Pennsylvania.
Before the reinforcements arrived for Hooker’s relief, Anderson had established his advance line of skirmishers, so as to cover with their fire Webber’s guns that were abandoned. The Federal reinforcing columns drove back his advance line, when, in turn, he reinforced, recovered the ground, and met General Peck, who led the last reinforcing brigade. This advance was so firm that General Peck found it necessary to put in his last regiment, the Ninety-eighth Pennsylvania, but neither our force nor our condition of march could warrant further aggressive work of our right. General Couch, left in command on the Federal left, posted his troops for the night,—General Devens with the Seventh Massachusetts Regiment and Second Rhode Island, General Palmer with two, and General Keim with three other regiments, supporting General Peck. General Peck’s ammunition being exhausted, his brigade was relieved by six of the new regiments, and reported that “Every preparation was made to resist a night attack.”[10] On the Confederate side, General Anderson reported his position safe to hold until the time to withdraw for the march. About noon, General Hancock, in command of his own and Davidson’s brigades in front of our left, started with three of his own regiments and two of Davidson’s and the six-gun battery under Lieutenant Carson in search of the unoccupied redoubts in that quarter. He approached by the dam at Sanders’s Pond, passed the dam, and occupied one of the redoubts, leaving three companies to guard a road crossing on the right of his line of march. He put three companies of infantry in the redoubt and advanced his regiments and battery to the field in front. He then found another redoubt not occupied, and posted three other companies in it. He was reinforced by a four-gun battery under Captain Wheeler, which he posted in rear of his line of battle and awaited developments. When the last engagement on our right had calmed down to exchange of desultory shots, D. H. Hill’s division was waiting to know if Anderson would need further support. Meanwhile, some of his officers had made a reconnoissance in front of his ground, and reported a route by which favorable attack could be made upon the Federals at the redoubt under Hancock.
General Johnston had arrived at my head-quarters, near Fort Magruder, when General Hill sent to report the reconnoissance, and to ask that he be allowed to make a move against Hancock, by Early’s brigade. General Johnston received the message, and referred the officer to me. I ordered that the move should not be made, explaining that we were only fighting for time to draw off our trains, that aggressive battle was necessary on our right in order to keep the enemy back in the woodland from the open, where, by his superior artillery and numbers, he might deploy beyond our limits, and turn us out of position; that on our left there was no cause for apprehension of such action, and we could not risk being drawn into serious delay by starting new work so late in the day. Very soon General Hill rode over to report of the opportunity: that he thought he could get through before night, and would not be likely to involve delay of our night march. General Johnston referred him to me. I said,—
“The brigade you propose to use is not in safe hands. If you will go with it, and see that the troops are properly handled, you can make the attack, but don’t involve us so as to delay the march after night.”
In a letter from General Hill, after the war, he wrote of the fight by this brigade,—
“I cannot think of it, till this day, without horror. The slaughter of the Fifth North Carolina Regiment was one of the most awful things I ever saw, and it was caused by a blunder. At your request, I think, I followed Early’s brigade, following the right wing.”
General Hill was in advance of the brigade with the Fifth and Twenty-third North Carolina Regiments, General Early in rear with the Twenty-fourth and Thirty-eighth Virginia Regiments. General Hill ordered the advance regiments to halt after crossing a streamlet and get under cover of the wood till the brigade could form; but General Early, not waiting for orders or the brigade, rode to the front of the Twenty-fourth Virginia, and with it made the attack. The gallant McRae, of the Fifth North Carolina, seeing the Twenty-fourth Virginia hotly engaged, dashed forward, nolens volens, to its relief. The other regiments, seeing the confusion of movements and of orders, failed to go forward. Part of my troops, on Early’s right, seeing that a fight was open on that part of the field, started without orders to go to his relief, but found the fight lost before they were engaged. After the brigade was collected on its first position, General Johnston rode to his head-quarters. At dark the Confederates[ were withdrawn and took up the line of march, the division of D. H. Hill taking the rear of the column, Rains’s brigade the rear of the division. On his march, General Rains found, in a broken-down ammunition-wagon, several loaded shells, four of them with sensitive fuse primers, which he placed near some fallen trees, cut down as obstructions. He afterwards heard that some of them were tramped upon by the Federal cavalry and exploded.
The pursuit was not active, hardly annoying. The roads were cut into deep mud by the trains, and the side-ways by troops far out on either side, making puddles ankle-deep in all directions, so that the march was slow and trying, but giving almost absolute safe-conduct against pursuit, and our men were allowed to spread their ranks in search of ground strong enough to bear them.
My estimate, made on the field, of the troops engaged was, Confederate, 9000; Union, 12,000. The casualties of the engagement were, Confederate, 1565 aggregate;[11]Federal, 2288 aggregate.[12]
General McClellan was at Yorktown during the greater part of the day to see Franklin’s, Sedgwick’s, and Richardson’s divisions aboard the transports for his proposed flanking and rear move up York River, but upon receiving reports that the engagement at Williamsburg was growing serious and not satisfactory, he rode to the battle, and called the divisions of Sedgwick and Richardson to follow him.
The object of the battle was to gain time to haul our trains to places of safety. The effect, besides, was to call two of the divisions from their flanking move to support the battle, and this so crippled that expedition that it gave us no serious trouble. The trophies of the battle were with the Confederates, and they claim the honor to inscribe Williamsburg upon their battle-flags.
]The success of General Hancock in holding his position in and about the forts with five regiments and two batteries against the assault of the Fifth North Carolina and Twenty-fourth Virginia Regiments was given heroic proportions by his chief, who christened him “The Superb,” to relieve, it is supposed, by the picturesque figure on his right, the discomfiture of his left. But, reading between the lines, the highest compliment was for the two Confederate regiments.
In his official account, General Johnston said,—
“The action gradually increased in magnitude until about three o’clock, when General Longstreet, commanding the rear, requested that a part of Major-General Hill’s troops might be sent to his aid. Upon this I rode upon the field, but found myself compelled to be a spectator, for General Longstreet’s clear head and brave heart left no apology for interference.”
Franklin’s division was taken by transports to the mouth of Pamunkey River, and was supported by the navy. On the 7th a brigade of Sedgwick’s division joined Franklin. On the same day, Johnston’s army was collected near Barhamville. General Whiting, with Hood’s brigade and part of Hampton’s, engaged the advance of Franklin’s command and forced it back. This cleared our route of march towards Richmond, Smith’s and Magruder’s divisions by the road to New Kent Court-House, Hill’s and Longstreet’s nearer the Chickahominy.
General McClellan’s plans were laid according to strict rules of strategy, but he was not quick or forcible in handling his troops.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jon Wilkes Booth's Assassinates President Lincoln



John Wilkes Booth Assassinates President Lincoln

Washington, April 17.
Some very deliberate and extraordinary movements were made by a handsome and extremely well-dressed young man in the city of Washington last Friday. At about half-past eleven o'clock A. M., this person, whose name is J. Wilkes Booth, by profession an actor, and recently engaged in oil speculations, sauntered into Ford's Theater, on Tenth, between E and F streets, and exchanged greetings with the man at the box-office. In the conversation which ensued, the ticket agent informed Booth that a box was taken for Mr. Lincoln and General Grant, who were expected to visit the theater, and contribute to the benefit of Miss Laura Keene, and satisfy the curiosity of a large audience. Mr. Booth went away with a jest, and a lightly-spoken "Good afternoon." Strolling down to Pumphreys' stable, on C street, in the rear of the National Hotel, he engaged a saddle horse, a high-strung, fast, beautiful bay mare, telling Mr. Pumphreys that he should call for her in the middle of the afternoon.
From here he went to the Kirkwood Hotel, on the corner of Pennsylvania avenue and Twelfth street, where, calling for a card and a sheet of notepaper, he sat down and wrote upon the first as follows:
For Mr. Andrew Johnson:—
I don't wish to disturb you; are you at home?
J. W. Booth.

To this message, which was sent up by the obliging clerk, Mr. Johnson responded that he was very busily engaged. Mr. Booth smiled, and turning to his sheet of note-paper, wrote on it. The fact, if fact it is, that he had been disappointed in not obtaining an examination of the Vice-President's apartment and a knowledge of the Vice-President's probable whereabouts the ensuing evening, in no way affected his composure. The note, the contents of which are unknown, was signed and sealed within a few moments. Booth arose, bowed to an acquaintance, and passed into the street. His elegant person was seen on the avenue a few minutes, and was withdrawn into the Metropolitan Hotel.
At 4 P. M., he again appeared at Pumphreys' livery stable, mounted the mare he had engaged, rode leisurely up F street, turned into an alley between Ninth And Tenth streets, and thence into an alley reloading to the rear of Ford's Theater, which fronts on Tenth street, between E and F streets. Here he alighted and deposited the mare in a small stable off the alley, which he had hired sometime before for the accommodation of a saddle-horse which he had recently sold. Mr. Booth soon afterward retired from the stable, and is supposed to have refreshed himself at a neighboring bar-room.
At 8 o'clock the same evening, President Lincoln and Speaker Colfax sat together in a private room at the White House, pleasantly conversing. General Grant, with whom the President had engaged to attend Ford's Theater that evening, had left with his wife for Burlington, New-Jersey, in the 6 o'clock train. After this departure Mr. Lincoln rather reluctantly determined to keep his part of the engagement, rather than to disappoint his friends and the audience. Mrs. Lincoln, entering the room and turning to Mr. Colfax, said, in a half laughing, half serious way, "Well, Mr. Lincoln, are you going to the theater with me or not?" "I suppose I shall have to go, Colfax," said the President, and the Speaker took his leave in company with Major Rathbone, of the Provost-Marshal General's office, who escorted Miss Harris, daughter of Senator Harris, of New York. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln reached Ford's Theater at twenty minutes before 9 o'clock.
                                                                          Fords Theater
The house was filled in every part with a large and brilliantly attired audience. As the presidential party ascended the stairs, and passed behind the dress circle to the entrance of the private box reserved for them, the whole assemblage, having in mind the recent Union victories, arose, cheered, waving hats and handkerchiefs, and manifesting every other accustomed sign of enthusiasm. The President, last to enter the box, turned before doing so, and bowed a courteous acknowledgment of his reception—At the moment of the President's arrival, Mr. Hawks, one of the actors, performing the well-known part of Dundreary, had exclaimed: "This reminds me of a story, as Mr. Lincoln says." The audience forced him, after the interruption, to tell the story over again. It evidently pleased Mr. Lincoln, who turned laughingly to his wife and made a remark which was not overheard.


The box in which the President sat consisted of two boxes turned into one, the middle partition being removed, as on all occasions when a state party visited the theater. The box was on a level with the dress circle; about twelve feet above the stage. There were two entrances—the door nearest to the wall having been closed and locked; the door nearest the balustrades of the dress circle, and at right angles with it, being open and left open, after the visitors had entered. The interior was carpeted, lined with crimson paper, and furnished with a sofa covered with crimson velvet, three arm chairs similarly covered, and six cane-bottomed chairs. Festoons of flags hung before the front of the box against a background of lace.
President Lincoln took one of the arm-chairs and seated himself in the front of the box, in the angle nearest the audience, where, partially screened from observation, he had the best view of what was transpiring on the stage. Mrs. Lincoln sat next to him, and Miss Harris in the opposite angle nearest the stage. Major Rathbone sat just behind Mrs. Lincoln and Miss Harris. These four were the only persons in the box.
The play proceeded, although "Our American Cousin," without Mr. Sothern, has, since that gentleman's departure from this country, been justly esteemed a very dull affair. The audience at Ford's, including Mrs. Lincoln, seemed to enjoy it very much. The worthy wife of the President leaned forward, her hand upon her husband's knee, watching every scene in the drama with amused attention. Even across the President's face at intervals swept a smile, robbing it of its habitual sadness.
About the beginning of the second act, the mare, standing in the stable in the rear of the theater, was disturbed in the midst of her meal by the entrance of the young man who had quitted her in the afternoon. It is presumed that she was saddled and bridled with exquisite care.
Having completed these preparations, Mr. Booth entered the theater by the stage door; summoned one of the scene shifters, Mr. John Spangler, emerged through the same door with that individual, leaving the door open, and left the mare in his hands to be held until he (Booth) should return. Booth who was even more fashionably and richly dressed than usual, walked thence around to the front of the theater, and went in. Ascending to the dress circle, he stood for a little time gazing around upon the audience and occasionally upon the stage in his usual graceful manner. He was subsequently observed by Mr. Ford, the proprietor of the theater, to be slowly elbowing his way through the crowd that packed the rear of the dress circle toward the right side, at the extremity of which was the box where Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln and their companions were seated. Mr. Ford casually noticed this as a slightly extraordinary symptom of interest on the part of an actor so familiar with the routine of the theater and the play.
The curtain had arisen on the third act, Mrs. Mountchessington and Asa Trenchard were exchanging vivacious stupidities, when a young man, so precisely resembling the one described as J. Wilkes Booth that be is asserted to be the same, appeared before the open door of the President's box, and prepared to enter.
The servant who attended Mr. Lincoln said politely, "this is the President's box, sir, no one is permitted to enter." "I am a senator," responded the person, "Mr. Lincoln has sent for me." The attendant gave way, and the young man passed into the box.
As he appeared at the door, taking a quick, comprehensive glance at the interior, Major Rathbone arose. "Are you aware, sir," he said, courteously, "upon whom you are intruding? This is the President's box, and no one is admitted." The intruder answered not a word. Fastening his eyes upon Mr. Lincoln, who had half turned his head to ascertain what caused the disturbance, he stepped quickly back without the door.
Without this door there was an eyehole, bored it is presumed on the afternoon of the crime, while the theater was deserted by all save a few mechanics. Glancing through this orifice, John Wilkes Booth espied in a moment the precise position of the President; he wore upon his wrinkling face the pleasant embryo of an honest smile, forgetting in the mimic scene the splendid successes of our arms for which he was responsible, and the history he had filled so well.
The cheerful interior was lost to J. Wilkes Booth. He did not catch the spirit of the delighted audience, of the flaming lamps flinging illumination upon the domestic foreground and the gaily set stage. He only cast one furtive glance upon the man he was to slay, and thrusting one hand in his bosom, another in his skirt pocket, drew forth simultaneously his deadly weapons. His right palm grasped a Derringer pistol, his left a dirk.
Then, at a stride, he passed the threshold again, levelled his arm at the President and bent the trigger.
A keen quick report and a puff of white smoke,—a close smell of powder and the rush of a dark, imperfectly outlined figure,—and the President's head dropped upon his shoulders: the ball was in his brain.

The movements of the assassin were from henceforth quick as the lightning, he dropped his pistol on the floor, and drawing a bowie-knife, struck Major Rathbone, who opposed him, ripping through his coat from the shoulder down, and inflicting a severe flesh wound in his arm. He leaped then upon the velvet covered balustrade at the front of the box, between Mrs. Lincoln and Miss Harris, and, parting with both hands the flags that drooped on either side, dropped to the stage beneath. Arising and turning full upon the audience, with the knife lifted in his right hand above his head, he shouted "Sic, semper tyrannis—Virginia is avenged!" Another instant he had fled across the stage and behind the scenes. Colonel J. B. Stewart, the only person in the audience who seemed to comprehend the deed he had committed, climbed from his seat near the orchestra to the stage, and followed close behind. The assassin was too fleet and too desperate, that fury incarnate, meeting Mr. Withers, the leader of the orchestra, just behind the scenes, had stricken him aside with a blow that fortunately was not a wound; overturning Miss Jenny Gourlay, an actress, who came next in his path, he gained, without further hindrance, the back door previously left open at the rear of the theater; rushed through it; leaped upon the horse held by Mr. Spangler, and without vouchsafing that person a word of information, rode out through the alley leading into F street, and thence rapidly away. His horse's hoofs might almost have been heard amid the silence that for a few seconds dwelt in the interior of the theater.

Then Mrs. Lincoln screamed, Miss Harris cried for water, and the full ghastly truth broke upon all—"The President is murdered!" The scene that ensued was as tumultuous and terrible as one of Dante's pictures of hell. Some women fainted, others uttered piercing shrieks, and cries for vengeance and unmeaning shouts for help burst from the mouths of men. Miss Laura Keene, the actress, proved herself in this awful time as equal to sustain a part in real tragedy as to interpret that of the stage. Pausing one moment before the footlights to entreat the audience to be calm, she ascended the stairs in the rear of Mr. Lincoln's box, entered it, took the dying President's head in her lap, bathed it with the water she had brought, and endeavoured to force some of the liquid through the insensible lips. The locality of the wound was at first supposed to be in the breast. It was not until after the neck and shoulders had been bared and no mark discovered, that the dress of Miss Keene, stained with blood, revealed where the ball had penetrated.
This moment gave the most impressive episode in the history of the
Continent.
The Chief Magistrate of thirty, millions of people—beloved, honored, revered,—lay in the pent up closet of a play-house, dabbling with his sacred blood the robes of an actress.