taking a position whence the enemy could be seen, could direct upon then the guns of the vessels, although the troops upon whom the fire was turned might be invisible to the gunners. The flag-ship of the fleet now lay off Harrison's Landing. Communication was opened between that vessels and general headquarters. Officers were stationed to make it permanent. The roof of the Harrison mansion offered the most elevated position on which to establish a station of observation. A detail of men was set to place thereon a temporary staging and to clear away the tree-tops which interfered with the view.
It was now late in the afternoon of what had been a dark, rainy, and uncomfortable day. The rear of our trains had arrived within 2 miles of their destination. A force of the enemy following, and getting in range, opened upon them with two pieces of artillery. The teamsters were becoming anxious and alarmed, the roads were full, and there was danger of a confusion which might cost us the loss of a large number of wagons, with their stores. A message was sent by order of General McClellan to the flag officer of the fleet to notify him that the enemy were annoying the rear of the trains, and to ask that a vessel move up to repel them. The distance and position were given. The Maratanza was signaled from the flag-ship of the duty required, and steamed off immediately. The second shot from her 11-inch gun fell close tot he enemy's battery. It was hastily withdrawn. The staging on the mansion was so far completed on this night as to be fit for use. The detachments of the signal party, with the exception of those officers and men on the gunboats, had rejoined, and the party was this night encamped near general headquarters.
The morning of the 3rd of July was dark and cloudy. The camping ground at Harrison's Landing is surrounded by creeks and swamps, and the heavy rains, with the tramplings of thousands, had converted the plowed fields into morasses of mud. It was difficult to move between camps on foot or from one part of the army to another. Everything was wet, could, and uncomfortable. The greater mass of the army lay in the open grounds which surround Harrison's mansion. Some of them were weary with the ceaseless marching and fighting of the past week, and were confused and depressed by movements they did not understand. There was that disorder and unsettled condition of affairs which must always attend the movements of so great an army made under the circumstances in which ours had moved from the Chickahominy and marched and fought its way to the James.
About 8 o'clock the report of a gun and a shell whistling into camp indicated the presence of the enemy and excited attention everywhere. From the station on top of the mansion the smoke of the gun could be seen rising above the trees in the direction of and beyond Westover Church. Other shots followed, the shells falling nearer, and the enemy seemed to be advancing slowly. Some time elapsed; the fire continued; forces supposed to be the enemy could be seen showing themselves in the open ground near the church. Our men began to grow restless.
Exaggerated rumors came in from the front that the enemy in three strong columns were advancing upon our position. The commanding general had gone on board of one of the transports and had not yet returned. The flag officer commanding the fleet signaled to know what was the firing, and whether the Navy could render any assistance. A reply was sent at firs that it was the enemy, and that the commanding general was on board the Ariel, and then a message that if a gunboat was sent a mile down the river the smoke of the enemy's guns could be see from her decks.