Official Records of the Rebellion

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports

The Document

[183] The works in front of Yorktown being nearly ready for the bombardment and assault, on the 27th of April I proceeded by your order to select positions for the field depots for our wounded on the right. I was accompanied by Captain Abbot, of the Engineers, and was governed by his advice as to protection from the fire of the enemy. While engaged in this duty several shots were thrown by the enemy at our working parties, and from observation of their effect and direction I was satisfied that the positions selected would afford all the protection required for our operations. On the 29th I proceeded to Sumner’s position, and with the assistance of General Sedgwick a similar selection of depots was made for the front of that corps.

Immediately afterward the embarkation of the sick was commenced. Sumner’s, Heintzelman’s, and a part of Keyes’ corps were relieved. A letter in the appendix, marked S3 will show what hospital resources we had at that time.

May 2 I telegraphed to the medical director of Keyes’ corps to break up his hospital at Young’s Mill, and the 4th to concentrate his sick, with a suitable allowance of medical officers, nurses, and subsistence, and to keep his transportation well in hand for any further movement. The same date I inquired for how many men he would want accommodation. The next morning the officer left in charge of the sick at Warwick Court-House reported 232 men; before night they had increased to 800. I then sent an assistant of my own to see to the matter, and before his task was completed more than 1,200 were collected in the [184] woods and elsewhere from that corps alone. I mention these things to show how little reports of sick, even when they could be had, were to be depended upon in making my estimates for transportation and for hospitals. Not that untrue reports were made by the surgeons, but whenever a march was undertaken straggling was permitted to go on unrestrained, and I fear was sometimes even encouraged by officers whose duty it was to have prevented it. I had frequent occasions to ask attention to this evil during the campaign.

The boats of the Sanitary Commission were employed in transferring some of the sick to the North, and by the 9th of May they had relieved us of 950. We then had 2.000 on hand in Yorktown. I placed Assistant Surgeon Greenleaf, of my staff at this hospital, who organized and conducted it admirably well. When the pressure was over he was relieved and rejoined me at headquarters.

May 4 the enemy evacuated Yorktown. General Stoneman was sent in pursuit, and on that day he lost 3 killed and 28 wounded. The latter were brought to the rear and placed on the Commodore. The next day the battle of Williamsburg took place. In the night I was directed to send transportation to Queen’s Creek for 300wounded. The Commodore was immediately dispatched in charge of one of my assistants. At noon of the 6th she returned to Yorktown, having been unable to effect a landing, on account of the shoal water. I procured a lighter from Colonel Ingalls, and taking charge of the Commodore myself, proceeded with her to Queen’s Creek. Surgeon-General Smith accompanied me. The water was so shallow the steamer could get no nearer than 2 miles to the landing. Lieutenant Remey, of the Navy, boarded us, and courteously offered to land us in his boat. Leaving orders for the lighter to follow up the creek as soon as she came up, Dr. Smith and myself went ashore, set the ambulances in motion, collected from the depots 100 of our wounded, and got them comfortably on the Commodore by 3 a. m. One hundred wounded prisoners were co1lected in one of the field works near the landing.

The next morning, having organized the ambulance train, I left Dr. Smith to ship the remainder of the wounded, including the prisoners, and boarding a tug, I hastened back to Yorktown to make further arrangements. Here I was met by an order to hurry to Williamsburg to see to the wounded there. Having dispatched the Pennsylvania steamer Whildin to Queens Creek, accompanied by my senior assistant, Dr. A. K. Smith, of the Army, I hastened to Williamsburg. Here I was joined by a party of able and distinguished surgeons from New York, consisting of Drs. James R. Wood, David L. Rogers, Krackowitzer, Stone, Ayres, and others. Drs. Cabot, Hitchcock, and Bronson, of Massachusetts, were also promptly on the ground. The hospitals were distributed among these gentlemen. I need scarcely say that the wounded received at their hands the most prompt and skillful attention. All the wounded in Williamsburg, comprising about 700 of our own men and 333of the enemy, had the benefit of their care. The remainder of the wounded were attended to in the field depots near the James and York Rivers.

The whole number of killed in that conflict reported to me was 460, and of wounded l,474. (But see revised statement, p. 450. ) Four hundred and thirty-three wounded prisoners were left upon our hands. Many of our men were so slightly wounded it was not necessary to send them to the hospitals. Of the prisoners 60 were too badly wounded to be removed. They were left in Williamsburg, [185] under the care of Dr. P. L. Rogers, of New York. The remainder were ordered to Fort Monroe on the transports. Eight hundred of our men and 100 prisoners were sent to Fort Monroe on the Commodore, and 427 of our men and 273 prisoners on the Wm. Whildin and other transports. The Whildin sailed direct for Philadelphia. Om the 11th of May the embarkation of our own wounded was completed. The prisoners from the town of Williamsburg were embarked the next morning.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.183-185

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006),

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