War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0011 Chapter XXIII. GENERAL REPORTS.

Search Civil War Official Records

that Yorktown was strongly fortified, armed, and garrisoned, and connected with the defenses of the Warwick by forts and intrenchments, the ground in front of which was swept by the guns of Yorktown. It was also ascertained that the garrison had been and were daily being re-enforced by troops from Northfolk and the army under General J. E. Johnston. Heavy rains made the roads to Fort Monroe impassable, and delayed the arrival of troops, ammunition, and supplies, while storms prevented for several for several days the sailing of transports from Hampton Roads and the establishment of depots on the creeks of York River near the army.

The ground bordering the Warwick River is covered by very dense and extensive forests, the clearings being small and few. This, with the comparative flatness of the country and the alertness of the enemy, everywhere in force, rendered thorough reconnaissances slow, dangerous, and difficult; yet was impossible otherwise to determine whether an assault was anywhere practicable or whether the more tedious but sure operations of a siege must be resorted to.

I made on the 6th and 7th close personal reconnaissances of the right and left of the enemy's positions, which, with information acquired already, convinced me that it was best to prepare for an assault by the preliminary employe of heavy guns and some siege operations. Instant assault have been simple folly. On the 7th I telegraphed to the President as follows:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, April 7, 1862.

Your telegram of yesterday is received.* In reply I have the honor to state that my entire force for duty amounts to only about 85,000 men. General Wood's command, as you will observe from the accompanying order, has been taken out of my control, although he has most cheerfully co-operate with me. The only use that can be made of his command is to protect my communications in rear of this point. At this time only 53,000 men have joined me, but they are coming up as rapidly as my means of transportation will permit.

Please refer to my dispatch to the Secretary of War to-night for the details of our present situation.

GEO. B. McCLELLAN,

Major-General.

To the PRESIDENT, Washington, D. C.

On the same day I sent the following:

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, In Front of Yorktown, April 7, 1862-7 p.m.

You telegram of yesterday* arrived here while I was absent examining the enemy's right, which I did pretty closely.

The whole line of the Warwick, which really heads within a mile of Yorktown, is strongly defended by detached redoubts other fornications, armed with heavy and light guns. The approaches, except at Yorktown, are covered by the Warwick, over which there is but one, or at most two passages, both of which are covered by strong batteries. It will be necessary to resort to the use of heavy guns and some siege operations before we assault. All the prisoners state that General J. E. Johnston arrived at Yorktown yesterday with strong re-enforcements. It seems clear that I shall have the whole force of the enemy on my hands - probably of less than 100,000 men, and probably more. In consequence of the loss of Blenker's division and the First Corps my force is possibly less than that of the enemy, while they have all the advantages of position.

I am under great obligations to you for the offer that the hole force and material of the Government will be as fully as speedily under my command as heretofore or as if the new departments had not been created.

Since my arrangements were made for this campaign at least 50,000 men have been taken from my command. Since my dispatch of the 5th instant five divisions have been in close observation of the enemy, and frequently exchanging shots. When my present command all join I shall have about 85,000 men for duty, from which a large

---------------

*See dispatches on p.14.

---------------