Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/349

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General Joseph E Johnston. 343

It was at the junction of the Yorktown and Hampton Roads, at about half-past five on the morning of the 5th, that Hooker's sharp shooters, leading the pursuit, drove in the Confederate picket. It was in front of Fort Magruder, one of a cordon of redoubts, thirteen in number, which Magruder's forethought had constructed. It was just two miles from the venerable shades and spires of Williamsburg. Within two miles of Hooker, at the time, were thirty thousand troops; within twelve miles the bulk of the Army of the Potomac. He, therefore, made his dispositions to attack, so that if he did not capture the army before him, he would at least hold it until others could. Williamsburg was a well fought field, where Hancock leaped to fame, and where none can be reproached with want of valor. But the army in front of Hooker was neither captured nor held. The well calculated blow of Johnston was fierce and stunning, and his very deliberate retreat was no more interrupted. What most interests us to-night is the magnanimous grace with which Johnston refers to the officer in command of the troops engaged. " About three o'clock," he says, " I rode upon the field, but found myself compelled to be a mere spectator, for General Longstreet's clear head and brave heart left me no apology for interference."

Meantime McClellan was bending every energy to the active ship- ment of troops, by water, to the west bank of the Pamunkey, oppo- site West Point. In vain did he seek there the unguarded spot. Just how to strike when blows were exigent, and how to hold up his buckler against surprise ; in one instant to be shield and spear, was Johnston's secret. He had retired before overwhelming numbers with the step and gesture of a master.

It was Johnston's theory of war, that the time for blows to be effi- cient was not when his enemy was near his base, and he distant from his own ; but under exactly reverse conditions. As early as April I5th, Johnston proposed that McClellan's army should be attacked in front of Richmond by one as numerous, formed by uniting all the available forces of the Confederacy in North Carolina, South Caro- lina and Georgia, with those at Norfolk, on the Peninsula, and then near Richmond. Such an army surprising McClellan by an attack, when he was looking to the seige of Richmond, might be expected to defeat him ; and defeat, a hundred miles from his then base of supplies, would mean destruction. On the 22d and 27th he reiterates this view. A month later, the new vigor of twenty-five thousand soldiers, drawn from North Carolina and the South, added to the