Official Records of the Rebellion

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

The Document

[185] When the enemy was brought to bay at Williamsburg the corps of Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes advanced rapidly upon their position. A drenching rain began in the night of the 5th and continued the next day. I was informed that many of the regiments left their camps with nothing in their haversacks. They had no shelter from the rain, and nothing to eat. The roads were shocking. It seemed almost impossible to get supplies to them. Their privations were consequently extreme. As a natural result, when the columns were again put in motion a large number of men were thrown on my hands— some of them sick, most of them tired and exhausted. They came straggling in from the rear of the army, without reports, nurses, or subsistence. It was impossible to create hospitals for all these men at Williamsburg. I therefore caused a selection to be made for transportation to the rear, and ordered up one of the boats in charge of the Sanitary Commission from Yorktown to receive them. This boat, the Elm City, reached me during the afternoon of the 12th. I directed her, after she was filled up, to proceed to Washington. The remainder of the sick were left in Williamsburg, under the care of Dr. Bronson and the medical officer of General Grover’s brigade. I have seen it stated in a New York paper that no provision was made for the shelter or professional care of the wounded at Williamsburg except by the Sanitary Commission. If this statement concerned me alone it would not be worth noticing, but in justice to others I feel called upon to say that no agent or member of the Commission was employed in any capacity at Williamsburg until after all our wounded had been embarked. The medical officers of the army and volunteers, Dr. Cabot’s Party from Massachusetts, Dr. Wood’s from New York, and Dr. Smith’s from Pennsylvania, performed the whole work.

About the same time, to afford further relief to our hospitals, a few more of our sick men were sent North. On the 11th May 225were dispatched from Yorktown, and on the 12th 500 more. On the 13th the steamer Donaldson reported to me at Williamsburg from Franklin’s division. She was ordered to take subsistence and hospital stores on board at Yorktown and then to proceed to Alexandria. The number of men she had on board was not reported nor the authority by which she came down.

On the 9th May General Franklin fought at West Point. Dr. Hamilton, his medical director, reported 4 killed and 131 wounded.* He reported also the great efficiency of the Ambulance Corps, organized under your orders October 3, 1861. One of the men of that corps was killed while engaged in removing the wounded.

On the 7th of May we had 9 men of the Sixth Cavalry wounded in a skirmish near New Kent Court-House. They were cared for in the houses in the neighborhood.

Matters being arranged at Williamsburg, I moved on the evening of the 13th to rejoin headquarters. Bivouacking at night on the road, I [186] reached Cumberland at noon on the 14th. Here I found a number of sick, reported as unable to go on. It was raining hard, and the roads were almost impracticable. It was necessary to make some provision for the sick. I took a small tug at night and went down the river until I reached the steamer Commodore. The master of the vessel refused to go up the river without a pilot, as it would vitiate his insurance. I applied to the provost-marshal at Eltham for a pilot. He knew of none. Chancing to hear of the mate of a brig about sailing for home who was said to know the river, I sent him an order in your name to repair on board the Commodore immediately and take her up. I succeeded in getting her to Cumberland, and thus provided a hospital. Leaving her in position, on the 16th I moved with the headquarters to White House.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.185-186

web page Rickard, J (25 October 2006),

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