War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0381 Chapter XXIII. SIEGE OF YORKTOWN, VA.

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No. 42. Reports of Brigadier General John W. Davidson,

U. S. Army, commanding Third Brigade, Smith's division, of operations April 19-22.


April 20, 1862.

SIR: I respectfully report to the general of division that I made a reconnaissance by his direction yesterday evening, the object of which was to ascertain if the enemy had any force or rifle pits on this side of the creek;if so, to drive what they had over and to find if they were engaged in the construction of any works. I had with me in advance Mason's regiment and supported it with Taylor's. I could discover no force or pits on what appeared to be ground on this side of the creek, except some few advanced pickets, who fell back as our skirmishers reached the edge of the woods, about 400 yards from the creek, across the opening. A few shots exchanged by us called what appeared to be about three regiments to arms, and caused them to advance (from the bugle-calls and the sounds of wheels in the dense forest beyond) a piece or two of artillery. I could not ascertain that any work was going on, the dense woods beyond not permitting a glimpse to us of their operations. We could hear distinctly the sound of felling trees and driving piles and the hammering of nails. As to have crossed the open space to the creek from my position would have brought my infantry under fire from their artillery, and in view of the big fort supposed to be by estimation 800 yards distant, I did not show any force beyond the few skirmishers unavoidably seen by the enemy.

Below will give some idea of the ground this side the creek, for which I am mainly indebted to Captain Cook, of Mason's regiment:*

I am informed that Signal-Officer Fisher, who was in a tree giving a view of the big fort, saw troops failing in rapidly at the few shots fired by us and the enemy's pickets showing watchfulness.

It may be proper to state here that Colonel Mason informs me that in the conversations which used to occur between our pickets at night and those of the enemy across the creek at our camp of the 5th, 6th, and 7th instant, some of the other side stated that their picketing was done by picked men; that the run of the regiments was not taken, which many account for their marked superiority in this duty.

I had one corporal, of the Seventh Maine, severely wounded, who incautiously exposed himself in the open road while the line of skirmishers was creeping through the woods.

I am, sir, your most obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Captain L. D. H. CURRIE,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Smith's Division.


April 22, 1862

CAPTAIN: I respectfully report to the general of division that about 12 m. a party of the enemy., in my judgment about 150 to 200 strong, attacked the pickets in front of my brigade, the pickets concentrating


*Diagram omitted.