Official Records of the Rebellion

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

The Document


No. 9.

Report of Brig. Gen. George W. Morell, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade, of operations April 4—9.


Camp Winfield Scott, before Yorktown, Va., April 21, 1862.

GENERAL: Pursuant to orders for the advance of the Army of the Potomac, my brigade, composed of the Fourteenth Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel McQuade; Fourth Michigan, Colonel Woodbury; Ninth Massachusetts, Colonel Cass, and Sixty-second Pennsylvania, Colonel Black, moved from Camp No. 2, near Hampton, at 5 o’clock a. m. on the 4th current, preceded by Colonel Averell’s cavalry and Colonel Berdan’s Sharpshooters, and escorting Griffin’s and Weeden’s batteries of artillery. I marched to Big Bethel over the same route as in the reconnaissance of the 27th ultimo. Beyond Big Bethel the cavalry fell to the rear, the Sharpshooters, as skirmishers, continuing in front of my brigade, which had the honor of leading the column. A small body of the enemy’s cavalry retired as we advanced, and though frequently in sight, kept out of reach.

As we approached Howard’s Bridge over the Poquosin River I [299] threw forward part of the Fourteenth New York Volunteers, Colonel McQuade, also as skirmishers, and advanced with them and the Sharpshooters, to ascertain if the works which I had reconnoitered on the 27th ultimo were still occupied. When within a few hundred yards of them the enemy opened fire upon us. Meanwhile the balance of the fourteenth had deployed to the right. The Fourth Michigan, Colonel Woodbury, by your order, extended on their right to the river and the artillery had come to the front. The whole steadily pressed forward, and after a slight resistance the enemy retreated, carrying off two light pieces of artillery, which could not be prevented, owing to the difficulty of crossing the river and the marsh in their front. The Fourteenth New York first entered their works. With the Ninth Massachusetts and Sixty-second Pennsylvania Regiments I commenced the removal of obstructions from the main road, but was recalled before completing it. The column halted for the night, with the exception of my command, which pushed on 2 miles farther and bivouacked at Cockletown.

At 7 o’clock on the morning of the 5th we were again in motion, the cavalry still in the rear. The rain commenced falling at the same time, which made the road exceedingly heavy and delayed our progress. You joined me at the saw-mill, your staff and mine forming a conspicuous group, and at 10 a. m., as we arrived at the junction of the Warwick with the Yorktown road, we received the first shot from the enemy. It came from their works on our right near the town, and was well aimed, though a little too high. The Sharpshooters under Colonel Berdan were alone in front of us.

By your orders Weeden’s and Griffin’s batteries, which were in the center of my brigade, were moved to the front and in the open field to the right, about midway between the White House or Observatory and the town, and immediately opened fire, supported by the Fourth Michigan, Colonel Woodbury, and Fourteenth New York Volunteers, Colonel McQuade, the first with its left near them and its right towards the town, the last with its right near them and its left toward the White House, both partially covered by woods.

The Ninth Massachusetts, Colonel Cass, was posted in the woods on the left of the Yorktown and in front of the Warwick road, with its skirmishers thrown forward through the woods, and on its left in the open fields the Sixty-second Pennsylvania, Colonel Black, with its left in a corn field, and so retired as to observe the works of the enemy and the Warwick road.

Until 1 o’clock p. m. mine was the only brigade on the ground, and the regiments remained in the above position up to that time, when the two on the left being relieved by the arrival of General Martindale’s brigade, I united mine by moving them to the right of the Yorktown road in the woods, in the rear of the White House and on the left of the Fourteenth New York. During this movement a 42-pounder shell passed over the Ninth Massachusetts Regiment, and in its first ricochet fell without exploding into the Sixty-second Pennsylvania, wounding Privates Musser, Rumbaugh, Reddy, and Bell, one of whom (Musser) died the next morning.

Sunday night (6th) 1 threw up embankments to cover the field batteries in front of the New York and Michigan regiments, employing for that purpose a detachment of the Ninth Massachusetts Regiment as a working and the Sixty-second Pennsylvania as a covering party, each under the command of its colonel.

To insure an efficient support to the field batteries my whole brigade [300] as posted on Saturday (5th) bivouacked in the woods, extending from the White House toward Yorktown till Wednesday afternoon (9th), when they were ordered to the present encampment. During these four days they were without fire, except what was necessary to warm their rations, and although within close range of the enemy’s guns escaped with 1 man, Private Tompkins, of the Fourth Michigan, severely wounded by the fragment of a shell. They were all raw troops, for the first time under fire, and yet I doubt if their patience and coolness could have been surpassed by veterans.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier- General.

Brig. Gen. Fitz JOHN PORTER,

Commanding Division.

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How to cite this article

Official Records of the Rebellion: Volume Eleven, Chapter 23, Part 1: Peninsular Campaign: Reports, pp.298-300

web page Rickard, J (23 January 2007),

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