The Yankees, having (with the help of Professor Thaddeus Lowe’s observation balloons) finally caught on to the Confederate evacuation, pushed ahead in pursuit Sunday, May 4, until some of their advance made contact with the rear of the Rebel retreat that evening.
The 13th, which had rested a few hours that morning before moving on past Williamsburg, was about a mile ahead of the action.
“They kept up such a firing,” wrote Winston Guards diarist Thomas David Wallace, “that we sent back a Tennessee brigade to assist our rear guards. But our men ran the Yankees back before our reinforcements could get there.”
The regiment stopped again overnight until “about 4 in the morning [on Monday, May 5] when the drum sounded for us to get up,” Wallace said. “It was raining.”
“Raining very fast all day,” Quartermaster clerk William H. Hill recorded. “We marched 11 miles and camped. Our troops [under Gen. Longstreet] engaged the enemy at the same place as yesterday [and successfully checked their advance]….The enemy’s loss is heavy….Our loss is not known.”
Tuesday, May 6, the 13th Mississippi Regiment, tired and hungry, slogged through miserably muddy roads.
“Our troops are short of rations. Many have not eaten anything in 3 days. The roads are the worst I have ever seen. We have marched only 8 miles.”
As evening drew on, there was some confusion in the brigade, which led to a friendly-fire incident.
“About dark,” Wallace wrote, “the 21st Regt. Pickets got to firing at our men, our loss 5 wounded.”
Their march continued all the next day, Wednesday, May 7, until nightfall when the 13th camped within a mile of Richmond.
“The retreat had been a protracted and fatiguing one,” Spartan Band diarist Albert Wymer Henley recorded. “The weather being rainy and atmosphere cold, we hardly ever had either dry or warm….Our line was now established along the Chickahominy River while McClellan occupied the opposite banks.”
The river, normally a desultory stream, was running high, and with continuing rain the rest of the month would soon add to the general misery by flooding.