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Illustration of the War in America

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1142, p. 458.

May 3,1862


The account of the arrival on the 5th ult. of the Federal army under General M'Clellan in front of the Confederate works at Yorktown appeared in our last Impression, and possibly before we go to press with the present Number news will have arrived of a deadly encounter having taken place between the hostile hosts. Large Confederate reinforcements have arrived at Yorktown, and it is reported that the siege and the defence will be on an extensive scale. Our Special Artist in America, before leaving Washington for the West, forwarded some Illustrations in connection with the Embarkation of the Army of the Potomac, one of which is given below. This expedition was for some time shrouded in considerable secrecy. Mr. Russell, the Times correspondent, in a short letter dated March 25, "written amid the troubles of arranging for a passage with the expedition" (which, however, it is now well known neither he nor our Special Artist was allowed to take), says:—"Every day troops are starting from Alexandria for Fortress Monroe. There are now about 38,000 or 40,000 men assembled near Old Point Comfort, in addition to the force under General Wool, and about 45,000 are following, so that M'Clellan will take the field at the head of at least 85,000 of the best infantry which the United States have in the field, with upwards of 100 guns and 4000 cavalry." A hundred thousand men are now transported a distance of 250 miles in a day. The army of the Potomac (says the New York Daily Tribune) began to move down the Potomac the 17th of March. Innumerable vessels had been quietly chartered by the Government for this service, river and lake steamers, almost of all sorts and sizes, from those familiar with the waters of the Penobscot to Chesapeake Bay, insomuch that their living freight must have been curiously reminded of the familiar geographical localities which had furnished recruits for such an armada. For three weeks subsequent Alexandria the Dreary was musical and clangorous with military bands; its miry and decayed streets echoed to the tramp of martial feet; bayonets gleamed and flashed in its dingy thoroughfares; and trains of artillery, waggons, and ambulances, all bound riverward, indicated the long-desired advance of that army to which had been assigned the crowning achievements of the war. The innumerable vessels engaged in transporting four of the five great divisions of the army of the Potomac to Old Point Comfort accomplished their task more or less successfully in the alternately good and bad weather characterising the fickle month of March. There were days of bright sunlight, and solemn, beautiful, star-bespangled nights, days of sharp wind and fierce driving rain, days and nights of absolute storm; perilling both the vessels and the freighting souls within them. The supposed plan of operations, according to the Tribune, was as follows:—" First, the successful, rapid, and, if possible, secret transmission of four or five of the great corps-d'armée of the Potomac—namely, M'Dowell's, Sumner's, Heintzelman's, and Keyes's—to Fortress Monroe, Hampton, and Newport News. Secondly the gradual occupation of the troops of the plateau in the rear of Hampton, hitherto ranged at will by the rebel cavalry, having their base of operations at Yorktown, under Magrader, the early arrivals advancing inland, the later following and filling up the space vacated by them. Next the stretching out of the lines towards Newmarket Bridge, frequent reconnaissances in force to and beyond Big and Little Bethel to Black River. Then the seizure of Yorktown. Finally, either the simultaneous advance upon Norfolk and Richmond, or the cutting off from all supplies of men or munitions of the first by the occupation of Suffolk, its conquest of and a subsequent attack upon the rebel capital."

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