before morning. This, however, I soon found would be impossible, for the roads were frightful, the night intensely dark and rainy, and many of my men exhausted from loss of sleep and from labor the night before in the trenches. The troops were halted in the middle of the road between 10 and 11 o'clock p.m., resolved to stop until daylight, when we started again, and came in sight of the enemy's works before Williamsburg about 5.30 o'clock in the morning.
Before emerging from the forest the column was halted, while I rode to the front to find what could be learned of the position of the enemy. The first work that presented itself was Fort Magruder,and this was standing at the junction of the Yorktown and Hampton roads, and on each side of it was a cordon of redoubts, extending as far as could be seen. Subsequently I found their number to the thirteen, and extending entirely across the Peninsula, the right and left of them resting on the waters of the York and James Rivers. Approaching them from the south they are concealed by heavy forest until the observer is within less than a mile of their locality. Where the forest trees had been standing nearer than this distance the trees had been felled, in order that the occupants of the redoubts might have timely notice of the approach of an enemy and early strike him with artillery. The trees had been felled in this manner on both sides of the road on which we had advanced for a breadth of almost half a mile,and the same was the case on the Yorktown road. Between the edge of the felled timber and the fort was a belt of clear arable land 600 or 700 yards in width. This was dotted all over with rifle pits. In connection with the redoubts themselves I may be permitted to state that I found them standing near the eastern and southern verge of a slightly-elevated plain, the slopes of which were furrowed with winding ravines, with an almost boundless, gently-undulating plain reaching across the Peninsula, and extending to the north and west as far as the eye could reach. The landscape is picturesque,and not a little heightened by the large trees and venerable spires of Williamsburg, 2 miles distant. Fort Magruder appears to be the largest of the redoubled, its crest measuring nearly half a mile, with substantial parapets, ditches, magazines,&c. This was located to command the Yorktown and Hampton roads, and the redoubts in its vicinity to command the ravines which the guns of Fort Magruder could not sweep.
Being in pursuit of a retreating army, I deemed it my duty to lose no time in making the disposition of my forces to attack, regardless of their number and position, except to accomplish the result with the least possible sacrifice of life. By so doing my division, if it did not capture the army before me, would at least hold them, in order that some others might. Besides, I knew of the presence of more than 30,000 troops not 2 miles distant from me, and that within 12 miles-four hours' march - was the bulk of the Army of the Potomac. My own position was tenable for double that length of time against three times my number.
At 7.30 o'clock Brigadier-General Grover was directed to commence the attack by sending the First Massachusetts Regiment as skirmishers into the felled timber to the left of the road on which they were standing, the Second New Hampshire to the right, both with to skirmish up to the edge of the felled timber, and there, under cover, to turn their attention to the occupants of the rifle and the enemy's sharpshooters and gunners in Fort Magruder. The Eleventh Massachusetts and the Twenty-sixth Pennsylvania Regiments were then
30 R R-VOL XI