Battle of Williamsburg


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 24, 1862

This site contains an archive of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. Sit back, relax, and dive into this incredible resource. These old newspapers contain intriguing details of the war you simply will not find anywhere else.

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Norfolk, Virginia

British Sympathy, Trent Affair

British Support of the South

McClellan Criticism

McClellan Criticism

Capture of New Orleans

Capture of New Orleans

Battle of Williamsburg

Battle of Williamsburg

General Hancock

General Hancock

Jeff Davis Cartoon

Jeff Davis Cartoon


New Orleans Naval Battle

New Orleans Naval Battle

New Orleans Expedition

The New Orleans Expedition

Fort John Morgan

Fort John Morgan

Battle of Williamsburg

Battle of Williamsburg Pictures

Yorktown, Virginia

Yorktown, Virginia









MAY 24, 1862.]




pass the awful crime of those who, for selfish and wicked ends, turned our fertile fields into battle-grounds and cemeteries, and desolated our homes, as a light thing? Shall we give the fraternal hand, and offer the kiss of reconciliation, as though all were an innocent mistake or peccadillo? By the suffering and sorrow that remains unassuaged, no! Not revenge, not hate, not unforgiveness—no, not these for a Christian people; but a stern and abiding remembrance of the spirit that prompted the evils we have endured, and a never-ceasing condemnation of all who favored it in word or deed.


WE illustrate on page 332 THE SPLENDID BAYONET CHARGE OF GENERAL HANCOCK'S BRIGADE at the battle of Williamsburg, and GENERAL HOOKER'S DIVISION IN THE SAME BATTLE; on page 333 we publish a portrait of GENERAL HANCOCK. On this page we publish a MAP OF THE SEAT OF WAR IN VIRGINIA, showing the country which intervenes between Richmond and Yorktown. We think we may say that our Map contains every town, road, river, creek, and considerable village in the section of country where General McClellan is operating, and where the last act of the drama of Rebellion will be performed. General Hancock's charge is thus described in the Herald correspondence:

The rebel general had seen our weakness, and sent a force of four thousand infantry and a regiment of cavalry to attack us in the rear. As soon as they appeared in sight General Hancock ordered the artillery to retreat, and prepared to give them a proper reception.

Waiting till the enemy had approached within two hundred yards, he placed himself at the head of his column, and, taking off his cap, turned to his men and said to them, as only General Hancock can say it, "Gentlemen, charge!" and with a yell they rushed upon the enemy, scattering them in every direction.

This was probably the most brilliant charge made during the day. A great number of the enemy were left dead and wounded upon the field, while our loss was very small.

Our regiments all did nobly, but none of them more so than the Fifth Wisconsin and Forty-third New York. Colonel Cobb and Major Larabee, of the Fifth Wisconsin, and Colonels Vinton and Pearson, of the Forty-third New York, are deserving of especial praise. The charge made by General Hancock saved us the day yesterday, in all probability. By the time our reinforcements had arrived General Hancock had driven the enemy from the field.


WE publish on pages 328 and 329 a number of pictures illustrating the retreat of the rebels from Yorktown and the pursuit by General McClellan; all from sketches by our artist, Mr. A. R. Waud. He writes us as follows of these sketches:


This road leads through a desolate ravine, where the trees which formerly graced the sides have been cut down and burned, leaving black trunks and stumps upon the arid soil. An occasional dead horse, a caisson, a limber-box, and a dreadful stench mark the principal line of communication between the main works and the Warwick River defenses. In the distance is Lowe's balloon, taken to Yorktown early Sunday morning, to discover, if possible, the line of retreat of the secession army.


This is the largest house in Yorktown, and takes its name from its former occupant, Judge Nelson. It is of course in a filthy condition, as indeed is the whole town and its neighborhood except a portion of the fortifications, which are clean and very perfect. Cornwallis made this house his head-quarters, and for some time the patriot army refrained from firing in it, as it was the property of Governor Nelson, who had already sacrificed the rest of his property to the cause. When he heard of this he at once went to the trenches, and insisted that his dwelling should not be spared, training a gun on it, and firing the first shot himself. A dot between the two upper windows marks the place on the opposite side of the house which the ball hit.


The river front of the fortifications is intersected by several deep ravines, used as covered ways between the works, and as shelter for the barracks and tents of the soldiers. They smell badly enough, causing those who inadvertently wander there to hurry off again as quick as possible. The magazine at the head of this hollow gives it a tomb-like appearance. What ammunition, if any, there may he in it will be found when it is certain there are no torpedoes in the way.


These vile arrangements of the enemy are shells placed under the surface, with a wafer and fuse just reaching the surface. Stepping on the wafer produces concussion enough to explode it, and thus cause the destruction of the unfortunate who treads on it. These are said to have been constructed purposely by G. W. Rains, at the Fayetteville Arsenal, and were placed about the works by his brother, General Gabriel J. Rains. One of them was placed in a large pitcher in the hospital, with a string tied to the table, that would cause its explosion on lifting the pitcher. This was discovered by some one lifting a piece of oil-cloth laid on the top of the pitcher to hide the contents.


The scene from this point is very striking. On the top of the bluffs well-built turfed batteries command the water side. Following the beach we come to the principal water-battery, while on the distant shore is Farinholt's house, close to which is the Federal Battery No. 1. of 100 and 200 pounder Parrotts. This battery, worked by the Connecticut boys, raised a dreadful alarm in the minds of the rebels, and did much to cause their Skedaddle.

Map of Hampton Roads




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