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2nd Vermont Infantry

Correspondence

Francis Finnegan

LAMOILLE NEWSDEALER: MAY 23, 1862

CAMP IN THE WOODS NEAR WILLIAMSBURGH, MAY 16, 1862

DEAR FRIEND: --- Yorktown and all the strongholds are taken without firing a gun. This is a bloodless though not unimportant victory, and in my opinion, will reflect much honor on our commande as a man of strategy, and a clear headed engineer. The line of fortifications at Yorktown was by far the most formidable of any I ever saw, and our feelings on the subject of its evacuation may be summed up in the words of our Captain, as he walked through looking at the works--- "I'm glad that they left'"

I was on guard Saturday night and was constantly annoyed by a continuous firing to our right. Soon after daylight Gen. Brooks rode into camp and started our regiment across the creek. Aaaaaaathe 5th, I believe got the other side before any other regiment;then came the 3d and 1st brigade, and formed about the deserted works. Our brigade returned to camp, packed up, got some dinner, each man in our regiment took four hard crackers and started in pursuit of the retreating foe They took everything of much value with them, leaving a few large knives, tents, and worn out clothing, old wagons and ambulances to fall into our hands. Six companies of the 2d were sent to the left to see it would be practicable to build a bridge that the enemy destroyed, We pressed pretty close to the rear guard of the enemy, causing them to blow up one load of ammunition and destroyed another load of articles, too numerous to mention. Perhaps we could have captured something valuable if we had only made a dash.

Our business was to visit the destroyed bridge, and our commander, it is likely, did as he was ordered. We found that it would be impracticable to repair the bridge, and we returned to the main road. When we got there the rest of the brigade was several hours ahead of us, and we started in pursuit of it. We marched till after dsrk, when some General told our Colonel that he had better halt for the night. You may be sure that was welcome news for us. We filed into a piece of woods and spread our blankets, and were soon asleep. During the night it began to rain smartly, but most of us kept cool till daylight, trusting to our rubbers to keep us dry. In the morning a little tent to sit under; some were fortunate enough to have a little coffee with them, and I joined in with four others and we made a coffee-pot full; I had two crackers and made out something of a breakfast. We then took our position with the rest of the brigade on the front line. The sky grew dark, and the rain fell thick and fast. We filed into a ravine where we sat down and amused ourselves by listening to skirmishing on our right and left, which at times would become sharp and again it would almost cease. About 3 o'clock P.M. we were marched out of the woods and formed in line on the left, in the edge of a piece of thick underwood. The skirmishing became sharp and soon assumed the characterastics of a battle, sometimes to the right, and sometimes to the left of us a few cannon went screaming over head, and grape shot visited us more closely than was pleasant. We could hear the respective parties engaged send up their cheers as the tide of battle would waver this way or that way. Two brigades of our division were engaged, and we stood in silence expecting to be ordered forward at any minute to relieve our bold comrade.

The want of rations were soon forgotton and each man was seing that the fast falling rain should not disqualify his "trusty" for immediate use; but it happened that we were not needed.

Hancock with his own and the 3d (Davidson's), their General was absent on furlough, ) brigade turned their left flank and drove them out of two forts. The fighting on the left was only a feint, and kept their attention on that point, while Hancock turned their left flank. Hancock got a good position in an open field, and the rebels seeing the advantage he was gaining, made a desperate charge, intending to take his battery and drive his men into a mill dam that was in their rear, but they found to their sorrow that they had the wrong chap to deal with. Hancock had his men fall back to the edge of the wood and let the rebels come within 50 rods of him, where they halted in a little hollow to rest and dress their lines preparatory to a fresh onset. He thought it was now his turn, and advanced his men quietly till they could see the heads of the febels over the little swell that separated them, and then with a cheer, the men charged. The rebels turned and fled in confusion, then our men poured in a most deadly volley, and the rebels fell like sheep. While the rebels were advanced, Hancock's picket of some 60 men were cut off from the brigade, but they formed in line and kept concealed in the woods till the rebels got repilsed, and then they poured in a deadly cross-fire on the retreating foe. It is said that more were killed by this fire than by the direct fire of the lines that charged. When the firing ceased and the smoke passed off the field was covered with apparently dead bodies, but soon three got up and waved a white hankerchief, and three of our men went down to see what they wanted. At that moment more than one-hundred of the apparently dead ones jumped up and surrendered as prisoners of war. Most of these were unhurt, but they wanted to fall into our hands, and with very good philosophy, seized on the first opportunity to do so. I got these details from several members of the 7th Maine Regt., who were in the fight, and did not have a man hurt. The rebel losss in killed, wounded and prisoners is estimated at one-thousand, and squads of dead ones are being found every hour and prisoners are coming fast. On the left where the feint was made, our loss was heavy. It is reported that some of our men were surrounded and taken prisoners.

Our brigade relived Hancock this morning, and let his men go back to rest themselves. We did not feel much rested as we had to be in readiness to start with a moment warning. Some sat on their knapsacks, others stood and leaned against trees, and some cut or bent bushes down and lay on them; but there was one comfort that all partook of. Viz: getting thoroughly soaked. During the night most of the co's in our regiment had rations brought to them, but narry a ration for Co. D. When we got to where the Maine boys were, Co. D., at least, was pretty hungry. The Maine boys, although short themselves, divided with us, and so we kept up good cheer till our rations came. The cooks had to lug it 8 miles, and lost their way or they would have got along last night. We are in the woods; the weather has cleared up, and we are quite comfortable. I have not seen any of the 3d since Sunday, but they were not in any fight that I know of. I get the NewsDealer once a week, but sometimes it does not come till it has been printed a week, but you may be sure that it gets thoroughly read, even to the advetisments. The wheat is beginning to head out and looks well.

Francis Finnegan

Submitted by Deanna French.

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