Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/218

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

202 Southern Historical Society Papers.

And a host of lesser lights who became captains, majors, colonels, and even brigadier-generals.

The impression prevailed at the out-break of the Civil War (and prevails now to considerable extent) that volunteers were no match for "regulars" in battle, but this fight dispelled that illusion, as on this occasion the firing of the regular United States Battery was wild in the extreme, while that of the Confederate artillery was accurate and deadly, as attested by official reports of Federal officers engaged in this affair, and these guns were manned by young men, many of whom had never fired a cannon even in target practices.

Lieutenant John T. Greble, who commanded the "regular" artil- lery, lost his life just as the engagement closed.


Following is the official report of Colonel D. H. Hill. As com- pared with official reports of great battles later in the war, which were brief and destitute of all but the most important details, it is quite a curiosity. Nevertheless, it is interesting, and tells the reader all he wants to know of this first battle of the Civil War, about which very little is said in history:


Yorktown, June 12, 1861.

In obedience to orders from the colonel commanding, I marched on the 6th instant with my regiment and four pieces of Major Randolph's battery from Yorktown, on the Hampton road, to Bethel Church, nine miles from Hampton. We reached there after dark on a wet night, and slept without tents. Early on the morning of the yth I made a reconnoissance of the ground, preparatory to for- tifying.

I found a branch of Back river on our front, and encircling our right flank. On our left was a dense and almost impassable wood, except about one hundred and fifty yards of old field. The breadth of the road, a thick wood, and narrow, cultivated field covered our rear. The nature of the ground determined me to make an enclosed work, and I had the invaluable aid of Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, of my regiment, in its plan and construction. Our position had the inherent defect of being commanded by an immense field imme- diately in front of it, upon which the masses of the enemy might be readily deployed. Presuming that an attempt would be made to carry the bridge across the stream, a battery was made for its especial protection, and Major Randolph placed his guns so as to sweep all the approaches to it.