Withdrawal to Williamsburg

On May 1, 1862, the 13th was ordered to prepare two days rations and be ready to march at midnight.

Gen. Joseph Johnston, who wanted to fight Union Gen. George McClellan’s army closer to Richmond, was going to withdraw slowly from the Warwick River defense line and make for Williamsburg, about fourteen miles north.

By 2 a.m. on the 2nd, however, the regiment was still in its earthwork fortifications along the Warwick when Quartermaster Clerk William H. Hill left their camp with the wagon train for the old colonial Virginia capital. It was cloudy “and raining occasionally.”

Spartan Band Private Albert Wymer Henley recorded in his diary:

“We were ordered to cook up our rations, pack and be ready to leave at any moment. To facilitate our movements, all the heavy guns had been manned and left during the night. While logs of nearly equal size mounted on wheels were put in their places to deceive the enemy.”

Saturday, May 3, dawned clear and pleasant. The 13th remained on the Warwick while Hill camped with the baggage wagons “near Williamsburg waiting for the Regiment.”

Winston Guards Private Thomas David Wallace said the regiment finally pulled out on the Lee’s Mill Road in the early evening:

“We stayed at our camp all day and at 8 o’clock we fell in line and put out for Williamsburg which was about 14 miles. We marched about 13 miles. It took us till day to march it.”

Henley’s company, which had the duty on the picket line, was the last to leave the 13th’s swampy camp along the tidal river. They didn’t catch up with the rest until about 11 p.m. and marched north on the road all night:

“About 9 o’clock in the morning we halted in sight of Williamsburg.”

The Confederate pullout was initially successful. It took McClellan’s troops the rest of that Sunday to figure out that their enemy was withdrawing.

Even then, they were slow in their pursuit. McClellan remained fearful that he was vastly outnumbered (he wasn’t at all) and vulnerable to counterattack at any moment.

About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Albert Wymer Henley Diary, Battles: Peninsula Campaign, The Spartan Band, The Winston Guards, Thomas David Wallace Diary, William H. Hill Diary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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