Official Records of the Rebellion

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

The Document

No. 3. [p.285]

Report of Brig. Gen. Fitz John Porter, U. S. Army, commanding division, of operations April 4—6.


Camp Winfield Scott, near Yorktown, Va., April 23, 1862.

SIR I have the honor to report, for the information of the commanding general, the operations of this division during the march to this camp on the 4th and 5th instant. My report has been delayed for those of subordinate commanders.

In compliance with instructions from the commanding general this division, with Averell’s Third Pennsylvania Cavalry temporarily attached, moved at 6 o’clock a. m., on the 4th instant to Big Bethel, Howard’s [Harwood’s] Bridge, and Cockletown, repairing at Bethel the bridge destroyed by the rebels and removing from the road near the first two places fallen timber. The obstacles caused a delay of nearly four hours. At Howard’s Bridge the enemy had two pieces of artillery in position, sustained by a small force of cavalry and 400 Mississippi infantry. After firing a few shots and receiving some from our artillery, these retired as our infantry advanced. Morell’s brigade and Griffin’s battery and a squadron of cavalry were sent forward to Cockletown to occupy the junction of the Yorktown and Ship Point roads, thus cutting off the garrison, if any, of Ship Point. This brigade also controlled the avenue of communication between Warwick Court-House and York town. The remainder of the division camped at Howard’s Bridge. Colonel Averell, with a portion of his cavalry, was dispatched to Ship Point to ascertain the character of the defenses and their garrison. He returned early in the evening and reported the place abandoned, the barracks, &c., for 3,000 men being in excellent condition.


On the 5th instant, in compliance with instructions, the division was united at Cockletown, and moved toward Yorktown over a marshy road, rendered that day almost impassable by heavy rain. At the junction of the Yorktown and Warwick Court-House roads our skirmishers became engaged with those of the enemy. Cavalry and artillery were moving in advance, and apparently close at hand and looming up in the mist and rain were extensive defenses of the enemy, from which we were immediately saluted with the fire of artillery. The skirmishers at once advanced to drive back the enemy’s light troops, find out what was in front, and to cover the deployment of Morell’s brigade, which soon formed on both sides of the road to resist attack or to advance should a favorable occasion offer. Weeden’s battery was posted by Captain Griffin to shell the enemy, who as the mist rose were seen crowding the ramparts. Griffin’s battery was joined to Weeden’s. Shots from both were directed with judgment and skill, and the enemy’s infantry were driven rapidly from their huts, tents, and ramparts to seek shelter in the timber in rear of their works. Our fire was warmly returned by the artillery of’ the enemy. This, though of far superior caliber, produced no effect upon our well served field pieces, which soon drove the artillerists to cover. The Sharpshooters, under Colonel Berdan, were busily engaged as skirmishers, and did good service in picking off the enemy’s skirmishers and artillerists whenever they should show themselves.

Martindale, on coming up, was instructed to relieve Morell on the left and to ascertain what was on our left, and if artillery was required to notify me. The swampy character of the whole country rendered it almost impossible to move artillery, and until the ground was examined and cleared of the enemy by skirmishers I did not like to risk it unnecessarily off the road. The appearance of a large force on the left and the fire of artillery on Martindale’s lines, together with his call, caused me to send him portions of Griffin’s and Martin’s batteries, leacing a portion of each with Weeden. These Captain Griffin posted so advantageously that their fire soon drove the enemy’s infantry from their works and checked the fire of their artillery.

Butterfield and the cavalry were held in reserve to support either brigade.

A slight examination of the country from a house on the field and the growth of timber and brush convinced me that a marsh intervened between the works of the enemy on our left and Martindale’s brigade, upon which a heavy fire of artillery and musketry had been directed, and that he dare not cross it to attack our accumulating force. The division camped on the ground which it had been directed in orders the previous day to occupy.

1 respectfully refer to the reports of the brigade, regimental, and battery commanders, herewith submitted, for information of their special movements during the day. I am pleased to bear testimony to the admirable manner in which all commands were handled and posted till the inaccessible position of the enemy was discovered. All were exposed to fire from the enemy’s artillery, and all bore themselves with a degree of indifference to be expected only of veterans. I beg especially to call attention to General Martindale’s reference to the reconnaissance of the Twenty-second Massachusetts, under Colonel Gove; also to Martin’s Massachusetts battery. Like credit is due to Weeden’s battery and the sections of Griffin’s under Lieutenants Kingsbury and Hazlett. All were properly posted by Captain Griffin, admirably served, and with the infantry gave assurance that any duty hereafter required of them will be performed with satisfaction, and all which may be expected [287] of them will be realized. I wish here to express my thanks to Colonel Averell for services rendered by him in posting portions of the command and in conveying orders. His command was, from the character of the ground, necessarily inactive, and at an early hour in the day, after seeing to the proper disposition of his regiment, he joined me at the head of the column, where his services were the most available.

I wish here also to express my gratification at the admirable arrangements of the acting medical director, Surgeon Lyman, for the care of the wounded. Anticipating casualties, he prepared for the wounded, who were immediately properly provided for in comfortable quarters and with proper medical attendance. I cannot speak too highly of his forethought and attention to the wounded and sick.

All other members of my staff, the assistant adjutant-general, and aides, were engaged in convaying orders under exposure at times to great danger.

I regret to say that a fewmen were killed and wounded, but considering the fire of artillery and infantry to which the division was subjected the casualties were very few. (Nominal list omitted reports 4 killed and 31 wounded).

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier- General, Commanding Division.


A. A. G., Hdqrs. Third Army Corps, Camp Winfield Scott.



Near Yorktown, Va., April 24, 1862.

The advance from Hampton to the front of the rebel batteries at Yorktown was conducted with rapidity and skill. We were embarrassed by the want of guides and misled by unreliable maps. The conduct of the troops in front of Yorktown was all that could be desired. They were within easy range of the rebel guns for several days.

Respectfully forwarded.


Brigadier- General, Commanding.

Camp Winfield Scott, near Yorktown, May 2, 1862.

Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant-General of the Army. The alacrity and steadiness of the troops and the good conduct of the officers during the operations referred to have been such as to merit the approbation of the War Department.

By command of Major-General McClellan:


Assistant Adjutant- General.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.285-287

web page Rickard, J (25 July 2006),

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