[p.136: 4 : ENEMY ABANDON YORKTOWN, ATTACK MOVED TO WEST POINT
All these preparations were about completed, and we were engaged in making scaling ladders, thinking we might be called upon to assault the works at Gloucester Point, when suddenly, on the morning of May 4, the news spread through the fleet that the enemy had evacuated Yorktown. Orders were received during the day by General Franklin to take his command around to Yorktown and prepare to proceed with it up the York River.
The next morning found most of the fleet at Yorktown, all the preparations we had made for landing accompanying it. This was the day of the battle of Williamsburg. During the forenoon General McClellan came over to Yorktown and held a consultation with General Franklin. It was decided that he should proceed with his command at once to West Point, at the head of the York River, and try and effect a landing on the right bank of that river, just at the mouth of the Pamunkey River. All the information we could obtain on the subject led us to believe that Brick-House Point offered the greatest advantages for this purpose.
A delay in the arrival of some of the transports prevented our leaving Yorktown during Monday, and it is probable that the general decided that it was not wise to move from that place until the result of the battle them going on at Williamsburg should be known. However this may be, orders were received from General McClellan late in the evening to proceed at once up the river; but it was then dark, and it was found impossible to communicate the proper orders for such a movement at night; besides, one or two of the large transports had run aground during the day, and as we were deficient in river pilots it was feared there would be danger of many more of them getting aground during a movement at night. In fact, the officers of the gunboats [p.137] refused to convoy the fleet during the night, so General Franklin was forced to postpone the movement till morning.
Soon after daylight on the morning of the 6th we got under way. It was a clear day, with a high wind. Nothing that was not foreseen happened on the voyage up the river. It may be mentioned, however, that the fleet was much scattered, and that some of the pontoons which were towed by the steamers broke loose, causing considerable delay. About 12 o’clock, however, the vessels began to arrive at their destination. Oneor two small boats were sent in close to shore to select the exact spot where we should land and take the necessary soundings. The water was found to be shoal for some considerable distance from the shore, and altogether the landing place was not unlike that for which preparations had been made below Gloucester. This being ascertained, the gunboats took up position so that they could bring a cross-fire to bear on the enemy, should the landing be opposed.
It may be remarked that the spot selected for the landing was a large, level plateau, only a few feet above the level of the river, and cleared for about a mile from the landing place. The only opposition that could have been made to the landing would have been from artillery, which might possibly be concealed in the wooded heights beyond. We knew that no troops in any force would show themselves on the open plateau so directly under the fire of the gunboats.
Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.136-137
web page Rickard, J (25 July 2006), http://www.historyofwar.org/source/acw/officialrecords/vol011chap023part1/00003_04.html
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