War of the Rebellion: Serial 012 Page 0537 Chapter XXIII. BATTLE OF WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

Search Civil War Official Records

seen and all positions of the enemy on the plain between us. The two redoubts were respectively distant from my skirmishers 300 and 400 yards, the one on the left being nearest. The plain, extending about one mile to the rear and also to the front, was fringed by a dense mass of timber on my right as far as Fort Magruder, and was traversed by a narrow road, which gave a practicable passage for troops to the rear of that fort and to Williamsburg.

On arriving at the second redoubt and taking the position before referred to, the skirmishers advancing, I found that the enemy in the redoubt to the left and front were uncertain who we were. One of my staff officers here informed me that a signal was made by the enemy, in reply to which I placed the national colors on the parapet of the redoubt in my possession, on seeing which the enemy deployed his skirmishers on my front and commenced firing, our line of skirmishers being then but a few hundred yards distant from them. The enemy were soon driven off, and our skirmishers took up the position previously indicated and separated from the enemy by a line of fence extending across the plain. I then halted the skirmishers and directed them to lie down.

Captain Wheeler's battery of four guns having joined me at this time, the artillery was advanced about 600 yards in front of the redoubt and placed in battery, leaving the caissons in the rear of the redoubt. At the same time I advanced the Fifth Wisconsin Regiment until it occupied a position some distance to the right of the battery, where it was partially screened from the enemy's view by some low frame buildings and the palings surrounding them. The Sixth Maine and the Forty-ninth Pennsylvania Volunteers advanced in line and took position on the left of the artillery. The infantry were then all ordered to lie down, while the battery was directed to open fire upon the redoubts in front of us preparatory to an assault when the expected re-enforcements should arrive. The Seventh Maine Volunteers was also advanced about 100 paces from the crest and diagonally to my line of battle to protect my right flank. I then threw skirmishers from the Forty-ninth Pennsylvania through the woods to my left and front, and at the same time directed skirmishers to be deployed from the Seventh Maine to my right and rear to protect me from assault from that direction, concerning which I was very anxious, as the space from my right through the woods to the creek which skirted the other side of the woods toward Williamsburg was grater than I could occupy with my troops, and I had serious apprehensions of an attack from that quarter by troops from that place or from Fort Magruder.

I then sent a detachment of skirmishers from the Thirty-third new York Volunteers to sweep the woods to the front of my right flankers. They proceeded about one mile without opposition and returned, taking the position of an advanced line of flankers, connecting with my skirmishers. At this time the enemy lined the parapets of the two redoubts on our front with infantry and delivered their fire, and immediately opened upon us with some artillery. Our batteries replied and threw shell into both redoubts with precision, and finally with the fire of our skirmishers drove them out of their works, our advanced skirmishers killing many of them as they debouched from the gorges which were on the right side of each work as we stood with reference to them. There was now no apparent obstacle to prevent us from taking possession of these redoubts had the re-enforcements arrived. I did not think it prudent to do so until that time. At this juncture I received a message by Lieutenant Kusserow, of the artillery, as coming from General