Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion

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No. 20.

Reports of Brig. Army, Chief Engineer Army of the Potomac, of operations during the siege.

Journal of the siege.

Saturday, April 5.—The headquarters of the army reached - Church about 1 o’clock. General Heintzelman joined us; the chief engineer accompanied him to the front and examined the enemy’s lines.

Sunday, April 6.—The chief engineer went up to the front with Lieutenant McAlester, and reconnoitered ravines in front of Yorktown and gave general instructions to Lieutenant Merrill to reconnoiter Warwick River to connect with Lieutenant Comstock; to Lieutenant Comstock to reconnoiter from Wynn’s Mill down to connect with Lieutenant Merrill; to Lieutenant McAlester to reconnoiter works in front; also to Lieutenant Abbot to survey ravines.

Monday, April 7.—The chief engineer accompanied the commanding general to examine the enemy’s position along Warwick River from Southall’s Landing down; instructed Lieutenant Comstock to repair to General Keyes’ headquarters and continue the various reconnaissances up to Wynn’s Mill. Lieutenant Abbot reconnoitered front of Yorktown fort.

Tuesday, April 8.—Engineers employed in the reconnaissances mentioned.

Wednesday, April 9.—Lieutenant Comstock temporarily with General Keyes reconnoitering from Wynn’s Mill down to connect with Merrill’s reconnaissance; Lieutenant Merrill with Keyes reconnoitering Warwick River from Lee’s Mill down; Lieutenant McAlester reconnoitering from left of Yorktown road to Wynn’s Mill; Captain Duane and command at Ship Point.

Thursday, April 10.—Engineers employed as before; Captain Duane came in with his command, leaving 10 at Ship Point to look out for engineer property. Lieutenant Abbot obtained very satisfactory reconnaissance of Yorktown lines. The chief engineer selected an engineer and artillery depot in company with the chief of artillery, and examined the road between Cheeseman’s and Back Creeks. Examined the Yorktown and Gloucester shore and works from Farinholt’s house.

Friday, April 11.—Captain Duane and command to move down to the engineer depot and make arrangements for getting up bridge equipage and engineer materials and tools. Lieutenant McAlester was [322] directed last night to push reconnaissance; two points especially mentioned: First, as to the practicability of attack, attacking the position ofWynn’s Mill by enfilading batteries near forks of roads, and by direct batteries in front and cutting the dams; second, as to batteries on the knoll and parallel thereto on the left.

Saturday, April 12.—Lieutenant Comstock finished his reconnaissance and report of the reconnaissance of Warwick River. Lieutenant McAlester was engaged in examining for batteries and observing enemy’s works. Lieutenant Merrill, with General Keyes’ corps, in conjunction with Lieutenant Bowen, Topographical Engineers, reconnoitering the Warwick River. Captain Duane, with the regular engineer companies, examining the branches of Wormley’s Creek for roads and bridges, his troops making gabions, &c.

Sunday, April 13.—Lieutenant Comstock surveying ravines in front of Yorktown; McAlester reconnoitering as before; Merrill remapping his reconnaissance; Captain Duane and command as before; Lieutenant Babcock, working under directions of Lieutenant McAlester, made an examination of Wynn’s Mill position. General Woodbury reported with his command, and was directed to move near engineer depot.

Monday, April. 14.—Lieutenant Comstock surveying ravines; Lieutenant McAlester examining for roads. Lieutenant Merrill came in with Lieutenant Bowen with the maps of their reconnaissance. He was instructed to lay before General Smith the views of the commanding general in reference to certain points and make such future examinations as he might think necessary. By Special Orders, No. 108, headquarters Army of the Potomac, Colonel Alexander, assisted by Lieutenant McAlester, was charged with direction of road making in ravines at the mouth of Wormley’s Creek, General Hamilton’s division furnishing the working parties. General Woodbury was charged with roads and bridges between the two arms of the creek and south of the southern one.

Tuesday, April 15.—General Woodbury and his command supposed to be opening roads and establishing bridges and making gabions; Captain Duane, with regular engineer companies, on same duties; Colonel Alexander charged, by Special Orders, No. —, with laying and superintending roads south of Wormley’s Creek; Colonel Alexander was engaged in assigning and making arrangements for beginning his portion of the roads; Lieutenant Comstock engaged in surveying ravines in front of Yorktown; Lieutenant McAlester assisting Colonel Alexander in discharge of duties assigned him in Special Orders, No. —. Lieutenant Merrill came in from General Smith with information and message, which was laid verbally before the commanding general. Lieut. N. J. Ball, assigned duty under my orders by Special Orders, No. —, was directed to examine the works of Yorktown to see how far they can be identified with old works. Lieutenant Abbot engaged in making up his reconnaissance of preceding days.

Wednesday, April 16.—General Woodbury is supposed to have been engaged yesterday in opening the roads between the two arms of Wormley’s Creek and in building bridges. Part of his command are understood to be making gabions and fascines and part at work at the bridges and roads. Colonel Alexander, assisted by Lieutenant McAlester, commenced roads on the north bank of Wormley’s; no report received of the exact progress; great delay was incurred from want of tools. Lieutenant Comstock was engaged exploring the ravines for batteries. Lieutenant Merrill accompanied General Smith’s command in its [323] operations against the one-gun battery, and is understood to have been severely wounded in the arm. Lieutenant Abbot was engaged part of the day in making up his maps, and was ordered in the afternoon to proceed to Gorman’s position, where the cannonading against Wynn’s Mill batteries took place, to throw up epaulements for held artillery. Finding no tools in the division he returned to the depot, where he succeeded in getting enough for 400 or 500 men. On arriving no troops were found at the locality, and the locality of General Gorman’s headquarters was not known. Lieutenant Abbot then proceeded to General Hamilton’s division, and succeeded in obtaining working parties for two batteries, which were laid out; enough work was done to afford a thin cover. Lieutenant Abbot being ill, Lieutenant Babcock relieved him at 10 a. m. There is great difficulty about tools, which I know not how toremedy. Tools are issued by the quartermaster to troops, but there are no statements of how many are in any division or brigade. The demand for them for roads has prevented the selection of any depot. The quartermaster of each division or brigade should report how many there are in the command, and the chief quartermaster should establish a central depot near General Heintzelman’s headquarters and place an officer in charge of it, and see to the return of tools not intended to be permanently issued.

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Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.321-323

web page Rickard, J (4 February 2007)