108 Southern Historical Society Papers.
their inclination, and was himself always ready to participate in the amusements of his subalterns.
It was soon evident that the instruction received at West Point, supplemented by that obtained at the Leavenworth and Old Point schools, had raised the United States artillery to a state of efficiency unsurpassed by that of any other nation, as was subsequently de- monstrated on many a hard-fight field.
The Leavenworth school continued under the control of Colonel Magruder until it was disintegrated by the violent political excite- ment that preceded the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln.
At the first note of civil war, which soon followed that event, Col- onel Magruder resigned his commission in the United States Army and repaired to his native State, and was seen among the first who offered their services for the defence of Virginia, and soon after he was entrusted with the defence of Yorktown and the peninsula em- braced by York river and the James, with the rank of Brigadier- General.
In his new field of operation Magruder displayed great energy and ability in strengthening his position and disciplining his troops. His force, though necessarily small at this early stage of the war, under his masterly hand rose with such rapidity in efficiency that on the 8th of June he was able to encounter and defeat the enemy at Big Bethel in greatly superior numbers. This was the first conflict of arms since the fall of Fort Sumter, and although small in point of numbers, its moral effect was considerable by inspiring the Con- federates with confidence, while it had a depressing influence upon the Federals.
After this affair the Federals made no other demonstration on the Peninsula until the ensuing spring; during which period Magruder applied himself with skill and industry to the completion of the de- fences of his position. He first occupied himself in securing the command of York river by the erection of strong batteries at York- town and Gloucester Point, where the river is less than a mile wide; then completed his land defences to the Warwick, near its head, and subsequently extended them down that river to its mouth. The strip of land between the Warwick and the James, being marshy, could easily be rendered difficult, if not impracticable, for military movements by inundation, for which purpose dams were constructed on the Warwick.
Magruder' s defences were so complete that when McClellan ad- vanced against them on the 4th of April with his powerful army,