War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0349 Chapter XXIII. SIEGE OF YORKTOWN, VA.

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lery, and First-Lieutenant Verplank, Sixty-fifth Regiment New York Volunteers, carried my orders day and night, frequently under fire, with promptness and good judgment. The conduct of Major Webb in running the 13-inch sea-coast mortars, with their material and ammunition, into the mouth of Wormley's Creek, under the fire of the enemy, was particularly conspicuous for perseverance and great coolness and gallantry.

The services of several artillery officers were valuable employed in superintending the construction of gun and mortar batteries, magazines, splinter-proofs, traverses, fascines, and gabions. As they were under the orders of General Barnard, chief engineer, I leave it for him to bring their names and services to the notice of the major-general commanding.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Chief of Artillery.

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS,

Assistant Adjutant-General.


Washington, August 25, 1863.

GENERAL: In reply to your note* of to-day's date I have to state for the information of Dr. Lieber as follows:

When it was believed at daybreak May 4, 1862, that the enemy had evacuated Yorktown and its defenses, our pickets and skirmishers and subsequently larger bodies of our troops immediately advanced to occupy the abandoned lines. Before reaching the glaces of the main work, and at the distance of more than 100 yards from it, several of our men were injured by the explosion of what was ascertained to be loaded shells buried in the ground. These shells were the ordinary 8 or 10 inch mortar or columbiad shells, filled with powder, buried a few inches below the surface of the ground, and so arranged with some fulminate, or with the ordinary artillery friction primer, that they exploded by being trod upon or otherwise disturbed. In some cases articles of common use, and which would be most likely to be picked up, such as engineers' wheelbarrows, or pickaxes, or shovels, were laid upon the spot with apparent carelessness. Concealed strings or wires leading from the friction primer of the shell to the superincumbent articles were so arranged that the slightest disturbance would occasion the explosion. These shells were not thus placed on the glaces at the bottom of the ditch, &c., which, in view of an anticipated assault, might possibly be considered a legitimate use of them, but they were basely plated by an enemy who was secretly abandoning his post on common roads, at springs of water, in the shade of trees, at the foot of telegraph poles, and lastly, quite within the defenses of the place-in the very streets of the town. A number of our men were killed by them before the disgraceful trick was discovered and information of the fact could be given to the troops. Careful examinations were at once made, and sentinels were posted wherever the existence of these infernal machines was ascertained or suspected. Major-General McClellan ordered that the Confederate prisoners taken by us at Yorktown should be made to search for these buried shells and to disinter


*Not found.