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 - May 8, 1862
May 8th, 1862
Sunday evening showed a striking contrast to the evenings of the last month. During our stay here the bugles have been silent and the bands have not played a note, but yesterday afternoon the musicians scoured up their instruments, and prepared to resume their old avocations. Some of the regiments abou here had dress parades, and all the drum and signal calls have been resumed. Some of our boys made a seizure of signal lights and canldes in Yorktown, and after dark there was a display of fireworks and a burlesque procession. A rumor was in circulation that Richmond had been taken, and the news was hailed with every demonstration of joy. No restrictions were placed upon us, and Camp Winfield Scott was as jolly a spot as one would wish to be in. Monday morning was rainy, and we did not go forward as it was expected we would when I closed my last letter. Heavy firing was heard in the direction of Williamsburg all the morning as well as on Sunday afternoon and evening. The rain continued all day, and during the afternoon we had orders to pack up and be in readiness as a moments notice. About seven o'clock in the evening, signals were sent up from Yorktown, and our brigade was ordered forward. The mud was very deep and slippery, and it was a weary way to the forts, but we arrived there at last, passing through our parallels, and across the old battle ground. When we reached Yorktown, we found we were not wanted, and we would have to remain where we were. It seems that another division was expecting to go forward in the transports, but they not coming up at the appointed time, the general signalled for the reserve to move forward; but before we eached the place the other division had arrived, and were embarking as we came up. It seems the general lost his way, and did not find it in season to keep the appointment.
It was raining, and the ground was wet, we had no blankets with us, so we could not lie down, and there we stood and waited until late in the forenoon, when we marched back to camp. Prof. Lowe's balloon was picketed beside us, and we had a good opportunity of examing it. It is quite large and can on occaison carry six persons. On one side is painted the name "Intrepid", and on the other, a picture of the American eagle, bearing his talons, the stars and stripes and a porttrait of McClellan. While the brigade was waiting for orders, I walked to the spot where O'Hara delivered te sword of Cornwallis to Washington. It is a little enclosure of a rod square, in which are planted to poplar trees. The fence is painted black, and the post white with black tops, which gives quite a curious effect when seen at a distance. There is no inscription near, but the fence is covered with names of rebel and federal soldiers in pencil and carving.
We marched back to camp, and were ordered to go to our quarters, pack all our stuff, and be ready to fall in immediately. Accordingly we struck tents, and our little poncho city was only a wilderness of tent sticks and rubbish. We had been there a month, and it was not unlike leaving home to bid farewell to our camp on Wormsley Creek, and we shall not soon forget the spot we called "home" during the seige of Yorktown, when we took the place "at the point of the shovel". The pontoon bridges had all been "transferred to another field of usefullness", and only one bridge remained (which being constructed in a permanent manner will be allowed to remain), upon which we crossed teh Creek. A mule wagon, which ws loaded with officers' baggage belonging to one of the regiments which had preceded us, was overturned at the end of the bridge, and lay, wheels up, in the muddy water. The goods which were flushed out of that team could not give much comfort, I fear. Our brigade encamped a little to the right of Yorktown road, right under the walls of the principle fort. The boys went inside the fort, and supplied themselves with tents left by the rebels, which were pitched outside, and passed a very comfortable night under rebel canvas. The guns on the fort are all loaded with shell, and it will be dangerous to meddle with them much. Tuesday afternoon a row of barracks inside the fort caught fire, but the soldiers put it out with a little fire engine which was found there. It was reported that our advance force captured a small party of rebels, and among them the officer who superintended the laying down of the infernal machines with which the grounds around the town were so thickly strown, and he would be forced to point out their location, and dig them up. The location of a great many of them our men found out to their sorrow, and the rebels who did the mischief should be made to suffer. I neglected to mention in my last, W. H. Gilbert, a member of our company, had a very narrow escape. As we marched out of the fort on our way back to camp, he stepped on one of them, exploding the cap without bursting the shell. The whole regiment had passed over the spot once before.
About ten o'clock Wednesday forenoon, we fell into line with all our traps, expecting to go on board the transports. The regiment was drawn up in solid column, and we were permitted to stack arms and unsling knapsacks, but must not leave our places. Here we lay waiting in the hot sun all day, and at dark made arrangements for spending another night there. We had just got well into dreamland, when "Fall in Company F", grated harshly upon our ears, and we were recalled to the stern reality of our situation. So strapping on our furniture, we marched at 10 o'clock down to the wharf, and -- waited. The night was cold, and we had an uncomfortable time of it. The beach where we are is very sandy and some of us laid down, but as we began to dose, a mule would bray or rather yell, or a mule team would come tearing along with baggages, and we must jump out of the way to save our lives or limbs. Some barrels of resin which were lying round loose were set on fire, and made a dense black smoke which made us look, when daylight dawned, like government coal heavers. It is quite warm this morning, and we are in hopes to get on board one of the numerous transports which are taking troops. There is no lack of news from the advance, but not knowing what is true, I shall wait till I see something worth telling. There is a considerable number of prisoners in town, who are great curiousities to our boys. Quite a number of bumboats have come up the river, and the boys are reveling in pies at 25 cents, cheese 25, butter 50, and bread 25 cents a loaf, greatly to the joy of the traders. If he has money, a soldier can't withstand a temptation addressed to his stomach.
John Lord Parker