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Family Bunker Plans

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The Washington defenses were built between 1861 and 1865 and consisted of 68 forts, over 90 batteries and 20 miles of rifle trenches.These were garrisoned at any one time by approximately

23,000 troops who manned about 450 artillery pieces consisting of 24- and 32-pounder cannon on seacoast carriages; 24-pounder siege guns; rifled Parrott guns; and guns on field carriages of lighter caliber.

Profile And Plan Siege Guns

The official plan of the Confederate fortifications atYorktown for the period April 5 to May 3, 1862, prepared under the direction of Brigadier General J. G. Barnard. This plan shows about half the line, including the point of attack. A note accompanying this map stated: "The Rebel works are laid down from reconnoissances [sic] made immediately after the evacuation, and are correctly, but very incompletely represented, owing to want of time for sketching minor details." (Library of Congress)

Old Map 1920 1080

Based on an "on-the-spot" drawing by Sergeant Charles Worret, 20th New York Infantry, this rather idealistic lithograph depicts the siege ofYorktown of April 1862. (Library of Congress)

The official plan of the Confederate fortifications atYorktown for the period April 5 to May 3, 1862, prepared under the direction of Brigadier General J. G. Barnard. This plan shows about half the line, including the point of attack. A note accompanying this map stated: "The Rebel works are laid down from reconnoissances [sic] made immediately after the evacuation, and are correctly, but very incompletely represented, owing to want of time for sketching minor details." (Library of Congress)

Based on an "on-the-spot" drawing by Sergeant Charles Worret, 20th New York Infantry, this rather idealistic lithograph depicts the siege ofYorktown of April 1862. (Library of Congress)

practicable and probable routes of approach for the enemy." All these forts established a screen of outposts known as the Arlington Line, which faced southwest and connected forts Corcoran and Albany. A large lunette named Fort Scott, after General Winfield Scott, then General-in-Chief of the Army, was placed on a ridge overlooking the Long Bridge over the Potomac River. Originally called Fort Alexandria, but renamed Fort Ellsworth after the death of Elmer Ellsworth, colonel of the 11th New York Infantry, or 1st Fire Zouaves, another earthwork protected the immediate approaches to the city of Alexandria. An outer line of works consisting of forts Ward, Worth, Blenker, and Richardson, was established to secure the same city during September 1861. Fort Lyon guarded the route from the south.

A bulletproof barricade, capable of being thrown down "at will," was erected across the Chain Bridge over the Potomac at "the first pier from the Virginia side," with a movable staircase to the flats below, by which defenders could retreat. A stonewall was erected as a temporary measure at the Washington end of the bridge, behind which two antiquated 12-pounder howitzers were placed. Battery Martin Scott, consisting of one eight-inch seacoast howitzer and two 32-pounders, was placed on the bluffs at the Maryland end of the bridge. Battery Vermont provided additional protection from a higher point to the northwest. The occupation of the Virginia shore was secured by the

Richardson Virginia Brady

Elements of the I st Connecticut Artillery drilling with their guns at Fort Richardson, near Fair Oaks Station,Virginia. (Library of Congress B8171-23 I I)

construction of forts Marcy and Ethan Allen. These works were subsequently connected and supported by covered-way rifle pits, and batteries for field guns. Further west in Virginia, Fort Ramsay was established as an advanced post on Upton's Hill.

To protect the northern approaches to the capital, a series of earthworks known as forts Pennsylvania (changed in January 1863 to Fort Reno, in memory of General Jesse Lee Reno, killed at South Mountain); Massachusetts (changed to Fort Stevens); Slocum; Totten; Bunker Hill; Saratoga; and Lincoln, were begun during August, and completed during the winter of 1861. Forts Gaines, De Russy, and Thayer were started shortly afterwards. A further set of strongpoints consisting of forts Greble, Meigs, Carroll, and Mahan protected the southeastern approaches to the Navy Yard Bridge, and gaps were subsequently filled by six more forts and a battery.

Eventually, a total of 68 forts, 93 batteries, and 20 miles of rifle trenches, manned at one time by approximately 23,000 troops, surrounded Washington, DC. Amounting to about 450 pieces, the armaments in these forts were made up of 24- and 32-pounder cannon on seacoast carriages, with a limited number of 24-pounder siege guns, rifled Parrott guns, and guns on field carriages of lighter caliber. This required about 7,200 men to furnish three relief crews of gunners. The underground shelters, or bomb-proofs, placed in nearly all of these works were capable of accommodating about one third of the garrison. Some forts also had blockhouses and/or log barracks. Infantry trenches were placed in advance of many forts in order to cover ground not seen from the larger earthworks.

Elements of the I st Connecticut Artillery drilling with their guns at Fort Richardson, near Fair Oaks Station,Virginia. (Library of Congress B8171-23 I I)

The Peninsula Campaign, 1862

With the Federal defeat at First Manassas in 1861, George Brinton McClellan was made Commander-in-Chief of the Union armies. Following the withdrawal of the Confederate Army of the Potomac, under General Joseph E. Johnston, to the line of the Rappahannock, McClellan was able to execute his plan of advancing on Richmond by water. Transporting his army by sea to the Peninsula during March 1862, he sallied forth from Fortress Monroe, only to find the way to the Confederate capital blocked at Yorktown by the most formidable of fortifications, many of which were begun during the previous year. In keeping with his proclivity for entrenchment, the Union general ordered his forces to also dig in, and Hampton Roads and the Peninsula became the most fortified area in North America. As a result, the Confederate and Union positions contained every example of fortification design.

Built by slave labor under the orders of General Magruder, the Confederate defenses consisted of two main lines across the Peninsula, the most formidable being the Warwick-Yorktown line. This stretched from Mulberry Island on the James River, and followed the Warwick River to within l'A miles of Yorktown. The defenses at Yorktown consisted of a series of redoubts, the largest two being known as the "red" and "white" forts or redoubts, some of which were built atop British works remaining from the Revolutionary War siege of 1781. The

Confederates also constructed dams to make the sluggish Warwick River into a defensive barrier. Dam No. 1 was the midpoint between two pre-war tide mills at Lee's Mill and Wynne's Mill. Companion works were constructed across the York River at Gloucester Point.

A third defensive line was constructed further north outside Williamsburg. This consisted of a series of 14 redoubts, complete with supporting redans and rifle pits, with its centre anchored by Fort Magruder, also known as Redoubt No. 6, which sat astride the Williamsburg Road. In his report on the Peninsula Campaign, McClellan described this fort as including a parapet "about 6 feet high and 9 feet thick, the ditch 9 feet wide and 9 feet deep, filled with water. The length of the interior crest is about 600 yards. The redoubts have strong profiles, but are of small dimensions, having faces of about 40 yards. The woods in front of the position were felled and the open ground in front of the works was dotted with numerous rifle pits."

In his report dated May 6, 1862, Federal General Barnard, US Engineer Corps, described the Williamsburg defenses as follows: "In Fort Magruder [the first exterior work] there were found one 8-inch columbiad, one 42-pounder, and one 8-inch siege howitzer, the two former en barbette ... guns on field or siege carriages, making, I think, with the foregoing, twenty-two. Two of these were placed behind traverses, with embrasures covered by blindages. The two external redoubts with the connecting parapets formed a re-entrant with the fronts of attack, and all the guns bore on our approaches. It will be seen, therefore, that our approaches were swept by the fire of at least forty-nine guns, nearly all of which were heavy, and many of them the most formidable guns known."

McClellan commenced his siege operations on Yorktown on April 5, 1862. With Brigadier General Fitz John Porter as the Director of siege operations, and Captain James C. Duane, US Engineer Corps, superintending the siege works, he ordered the construction of bridges, and the building and improving of roads for the rapid transit of supplies to aid his advance. The first parallel was opened about a mile from the Confederate fortifications, extending along the entire front of their works. Along this were planted 14 batteries and three redoubts, each of which was heavily armed with ordnance. Sergeant Warren Lee Goss, Co. H, 2nd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, recalled, "We had at last corduroyed every road and bridged every creek; our guns and mortars were in position; Battery No. 1 had actually opened on the enemy's works, Saturday, May 3d, 1862, and it was expected that our whole line would open on them in the morning. About 2 o'clock of Saturday, or rather Sunday morning, while on guard duty, I observed a bright illumination, as if a fire had broken out within the enemy's lines. Several guns were fired from their works during the early morning hours, but soon after daylight... it was reported that they had abandoned their works in our front, and we very quickly found the report to be true. As soon as I was relieved from guard duty, I went over on 'French leave' to view our enemy's fortifications. They were prodigiously strong. A few

Sandbags provided the traverses for this Confederate redoubt captured at Yorktown in April I862.A32-pounder seacoast gun stands nearest the camera, while a 24-pounder siege piece on a wooden barbette carriage is seen nearby. (Library of Congress B8I I-2366A)

An engraving based on this drawing by Alfred Waud showing Federal troops occupying the "Red Redoubt" atYorktown was published in Harper'sWeekly on May 24, 1862. (Library of Congress)

tumble-down tents and houses and seventy pieces of heavy ordnance had been abandoned as the price of the enemy's safe retreat."

Line Drawings James Longstreet Hookers Retreat Route Waud Sketch

A sketch of the Confederate fortifications in front of Williamsburg, Virginia, drawn by Lieutenant Miles Daniel McAlester, Chief Engineer, 3rd Corps, Army of the Potomac, on May 5, 1862. (Library of Congress)

Battle of Williamsburg, 1862

When General Joseph E.Johnston withdrew from Yorktown, his forces fell back to the Williamsburg line. Major General James Longstreet's division took up rearguard positions in Fort Magruder and the 13 other redoubts during the evening of May 4, 1862. The next morning Federal troops commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker attacked these positions. An unidentified member of this force remembered: "The main fort [Magruder] was a strong earth-work with a bastioned front and a wide ditch. In front of this muddy-looking heap of dirt was a level plain, sprinkled plentifully with smaller earth-works; while between us and the level plain the dense forest, for a distance of a quarter of a mile, had been felled, thus forming a labyrinth of tangled abatis difficult to penetrate. A mile away lay the village of Williamsburg." Advancing into this exposed area, Hooker's division fought the first pitched battle of the Peninsula campaign but was repulsed and driven back by a strong Confederate counter-attack, until Brigadier General Philip Kearny's division arrived to stabilize the Federal position.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Winfield Scott Hancock's brigade marched around the Confederate left flank and occupied two abandoned enemy redoubts, numbered 12 and 13, along Cub Creek. Hancock's men then began shelling the Confederate flank and rear. Longstreet ordered elements of Major General D. H. Hill's division to dislodge the Federals, but Hill's efforts were misdirected and disjointed, resulting in a bloody repulse for the Confederates. Confederate casualties for the battle were 1,600, while Union losses were 2,300. Nonetheless, this action delayed the Federal advance, while the Confederates abandoned the Williamsburg redoubts and continued their withdrawal toward Richmond.

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