War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0236 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN. VA. Chapter XXIII.

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to connect by signal stations, if possible, the village of Williamsburg with West Point. It was the plan that communicating stations should be placed on three schooners, anchored some miles apart in the river, and the messages sent from a station on shore at West Point were to be repeated through the schooner stations to another station on land at the mouth of Wormley's Creek: hence through other stations they would be sent to Williamsburg. The distance was about 20 miles. The schooners were to be brought from Yorktown. With much labor and many tiresome delays the stations the were at length established May 9, but only on the day on which headquarters, moving again to the front, left them useless.

At Williamsburg, as at Yorktown, the chief signal officer felt deeply the want of field telegraphic trains, which would have rendered communication, at least over part of this distance, certain and easy.


While general headquarters were at Williamsburg the battle of West Point was fought. The command of General Franklin, arriving at that place under convoy of the fleet on the afternoon of May 6, had by the morning of May 7 been so far disembarked that a large force of infantry was on shore, but not yet in perfect condition for action. It was without cavalry and but poorly supplied with artillery. The disembarkation from numerous transports of various descriptions was yet in progress. The positing was almost surrounded by thick woods, which came down near to the river. The country, which was difficult, was not well know by our troops.

Whilst our forces were thus opened the pickets were driven in and heavy volleys of musketry announced the approach of the enemy under General Lee, advancing in great force to the attack, with the hope, doubtless, that our troops, taken unprepared and vet landing, could be routed and driven into the river. At the same time a battery of heavy field guns opened from a height at once upon the army and the transports. It was a moment of serious danger, and the most rapid action was necessary.

Part of the signal officers of the expedition had landed with the troops to which they were assigned. The firing on shore caused those on the war vessels and the transports to be everywhere on the alert. General Franklin, on the Mystic, at West Point, was sent for by signals. The order went quickly from the shore to the fleet, and as quickly from ship to ship, to move up and cover the army with their fire. With a promptness impossible without this communication the vessels were brought into position, and threw in the their great guns to aid that of our army.

The contest was not long; the enemy's batteries were silenced, and their troops, repulsed and broken, fell back through the woods, followed for a long distance by the shell of the Navy.

On the 9th of May headquarters moved from Williamsburg, and on the following day they were at Roper's Meeting-house. While here a line of repeating stations was formed, connecting the headquarters of the army with the troops at West Point. It did not work well, however, and was used only for the practice of the officers. At this place, the corps was joined by a detachment from the camp at Georgetown, bringing with it the first field telegraph train ever used in the field by an army of the United States. It was that of which mention has been made as partially completed and as used at the camp of instruction.