22ndMass / USSC Boston Branch
"Here's a yellow sash for six feet of Virginia soil..."
Captain John F. Dunning, 22nd MVI, Co. D
Woburn Weekly Budget - April 6, 1862
Headquarters 22d Mass. Vol.
Near Yorktown, Va.
April 6, 1862
Wonder of wonders! The 22d began a march on a fair day and had fine weather until night. It has always been the fate of our regiment to move in foul weather, but last Friday formed an exception, and the sun was hailed as a good omen as we marhced out of camp. Reveille was blown on that morning at half past four o'clock, and the regiment was ready at six, and the column moved at seven. Our course lay towards Yorktown, which is twenty-four miles from Hampton. We moved along slowly, halting frequently to keep the column together, and at ten o'clock we had reached the famous Big Bethel fortifications. At this point a stream crosses the road, and it being necessary to construct a bridge, a halt was made. Our brigade was drawn up in a field in front of the breastworks, and we took our dinners. We had a fine opportunity to examine the works. They were earthworks, extending a considerable distance on either side of the road, and commanding the approach. Inside the entrenchments were rude barracks constructed of logs, but they were not very extensive, and could not have sheltered a very large force. The breastwork was pierced for two guns, and the position was one that could easily be made formidable to an expanding force. The works do not seem to have been recently occupied, and inside was overgrown with weeds and flowers. I plucked some violets there and pressed them as a memento of the place. We remained there two hours, and at twelve o'clock were again en route. About three miles further on brought us to the Half Way House. This appears to have been a hotal of considerable dimensions, and a point of some importance as it is put down on the map of Virginia published by Bufford. Just beyond this tavern was a house occupied by negroes, and they informed us that two companies of cavalry left the Half Way House just hours before. While we were there heavy cannonading was heard ahead of us, and another miles march brought us in sight of two rebel entrenchments. In a field close by was a dismounted gun belonging to the 6th Mass. Battery. The trunion was broken in the discharge of the piece, dismounting it. It seems that the sharpshooters, who are in advance of the column, discovered the breastwork and being seen by the rebels, were fired upon. Our battery coming up, shelled the rebels out, and our troops took possession, so that when we arrived the rebel flag had given place to the Union flag. These works were well made and in well chosen positions, but there were only two guns in the fort, which were taken, together with some commisary stores. A little to the right of this fort was another large one, very well built, and seemingly capable of sheltering a large force. This had been abandoned for some time. Passing between these we crossed a stream which formed one of the defences of the first named fort, and entered a deserted rebel camping place. Here we halted for the night, having marched about sixteen miles.
March of April 5, 1862
The night promised rain, and we piched ponchas accordingly, but we had a night's rest without the dreaded rain, and morning found us ready for another march. During the night two deserters from the rebel army came in, also two contrabands. The latter were slaves who lived in the house mentioned above as being near the Half Way House. The had been employed as cooks in the army, and getting outside the lines on a water pass, took leg bail. The soldiers were Yankees, who had been pressed into service. One was a Massachusetts man, and formerly worked in Chickering's Piano factory. They reported the rebels as being 20,000 strong at and around Yorktown. They were sent to Fort Munroe.
March of April 6, 1862
Saturday morning was rather gloomy, but we got under way about seven o'clock. About two miles from the camping place we halted at the house of a citizen, who had besides a farm, a blacksmith, a wheelwright shop and sort of a restaurant. The latter attracted the attention of our boys, and the owner telling us to help ourselves we made quikc work of distributing three or four bags of peanuts and a barrel of molasses. He said teh rebels where through there teh day before and took a barrel of molasses. In the blacksmith shop was about a cartload of meat, which had been burned and rendered useless. Soon after leaving this place, a heavy thunder shower came up, and for an hour or so we were under a drenching rain. About noon, we arrived near enough to the entrennchments around Yorktown to draw fire from the batteries. After a short halt, during which we exchanged a few shell, our brigade moved off the road to the left and unslung knapsacks. A guard, composed of those who were unable o go double quick, was left with the baggage and we moved off to the left again. Our regiment drew up in a cornfield, between two patches of wood, and Gen. Martindale and staff went to the edge the field to reconnoiter. They had hardly reached the spot, when whizz came a shot right over us. Co. A was at once ordered into the woods on the right as skirmishers. They had to clamber over felled tress for considerable distance before reaching cover, but were not fired at. For some unkown reason the sappers and miners were not with us, and our company was ordered to ground arms and clear a road through the felled trees for the artillery. Accordingly we went to work, but had hardly begun when a shell came humming along, straight at our squad. Throwing ourselves on our faces it passed over us and entered the ground a short distance in front of the General. Capt. Thompson then got on a stump where he could see the battery, which was about a half mile off, and when he saw the smoke of gun, would shout "Down men!" we would all drop, the shell fly over us, and then would get up and go at the work again. In this maner we continued the work until we had cleared a road, the rebels all the time firing at us. Gong to where we left the guns, we found that the regiment had gone still further to the left, behind the woods. We were ordered to deploy into the woods at the right, and as we were crossing the timber for that purpose the sent another shot. We dropped as before, and it was well that we did, for they had seen our tactics and lowered the range so much, that had we been standing it would have very likely struck someone. We got into the woods without further trouble, and were immediately posted in favorable positions to guard against a flank movement of the enemy. Portions of Martin's (3rd Mass) Battery, Griffin's regular battery, and the 6th Mass. took up positions in the opening that we had made and commenced shelling the fort.
Yorktown, Va April 7, 1862 - 22d Mass Camped just below Wormsley Creek
The first two shots called forth defient yells from the rebels, but the third met no response. Our guns were heavier than theirs and must have done great execution. the cannonading was very brisk for an hour or so, and two men were killed and three wounded in our batteries, and several horses also killed. Meantime our regiment (except Cos. A and F). went round the woods on the left, and with the remainder of the batteries took up a position directly in fromt the fort, and much nearer than the first position. A brisk fire was opened between the fort and batteries, which after half an hour suddenly ceased. Col. Gove, wishing to ascertain whether teh fort was really silent, and if it could be stormed on that side ordered company B (Capt. Wardwell), to deploy across the intervening field to reconnoiter their position and he accompanied them out in person. This was the signal for a heavy fire of grape and cannister which poured in without stint from the fort. The skirmishers advanced bodly but cautiously, and discovered that the fort was surrounded by a deep moat, and a line of sharpshooters were stationed to pick off our gunners. None of our men were killed, but seven were wounded, including Lieut. Morris, sllighlty wounded with a piece of shell. John Collingill, of Co. H, was so badly hurt that he died during the night, and a member of Co. C was also injured, making nine in all. The firing ceased after the skirmishers retired, and the band in the fort played "Dixie's Land" and "La Marsellaise". Beside the fort which we engaged in another, on the other side of the woods, which covered our company, and a small stream only seperated us. We could hear the rebels talk, and were obliged to keep very still, to avoid atracting their attention. A company from the 2nd Maine and one from teh 25th New York were skirmishing in the woods in our rear, and Berdan's sharpshooters fired occasional shots from the extreme right of the woods. A few shels were fired just at sundown from the first position taken by our batteries, to drive out a rebel cavalry which were supposed to have entered the woods on our left. Our regiment was the only one which sustained any loss, and we were complimented by the General for the manner in which we peformed the part assigned to us. Our companies continued in the woods all night, and were not withdrawn until near noon on Sunday. Soon after daylight a crowd of soldiers from varous regiments gathered where we first cleared a road, and it was not long before the rebels dropped a shell among them. They scattered for a while, but appearing again, got another message. Four shells were fired in this way at intervals of half an hour, and the last one struck a fence and drove a rail against a 4th Maine man's back and knocking him senseless. He was taken up for dead, but rallied somewhat. I have heared since that he is dead. It was vey careless, and contrary to orders to be there, and he paid a heavy penalty for his temerity.
It is understood that McClellan will not commence a battle on Sunday, consequently we did not replay to their shots, but shifted our camps out of rebel range, and remained quiet. Our regiment took up a position between two hills, near the Yorktown road, to the left of our stopping place on Saturday. Near by is a large farm house, with a well stocked barnyard; or rather it was well stocked yesterday, there being nothing but pig skins, feathers, and sheep skins, to tell what was; the pigs, lambs and poultry have all been confiscated, and the soldiers - feel better.
I omit mentioning in my last that Gerando J. Watson, of Woburn, and Jeremiah Delay of Reading, were discharged from our company last Thursday on the surgeon's certificate of disability. They left fo home that day.
John Lord Parker