Siege of Yorktown (1862)

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Siege of Yorktown (1862)
Part of the American Civil War
Battle of Yorktown, Pursuit sketch.png
Pursuit of the flying rebels from Yorktown Sunday morning.
Alfred R. Waud, artist.
DateApril 5 – May 4, 1862
Result Inconclusive
 United States (Union)  Confederate States
Commanders and leaders
George B. McClellan John B. Magruder
Joseph E. Johnston
121,500[1] 35,000[2]
Casualties and losses
182[3] 300[3]

The Battle of Yorktown or Siege of Yorktown was fought from April 5 to May 4, 1862, as part of the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War. Marching from Fort Monroe, Union Major general George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac encountered Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder's small Confederate force at Yorktown. McClellan suspended his march up the Virginia Peninsula toward Richmond and settled in for siege operations.

On April 5, the IV Corps of Brigadier general Erasmus D. Keyes made initial contact with Confederate defensive works at Lee's Mill. This was an area McClellan expected to move through without resistance. Magruder's movement of troops back and forth convinced the Union that his works were strongly held. As the two armies fought an artillery duel, reconnaissance indicated to Keyes the strength of the Confederate fortifications, and he advised McClellan against assaulting them. McClellan ordered the construction of siege fortifications and brought his heavy siege guns to the front. In the meantime, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston brought reinforcements for Magruder.

On April 16, Union forces probed a point in the Confederate line at Dam No. 1. The Union failed to exploit the initial success of this attack, however. This lost opportunity held up McClellan for two additional weeks while he tried to convince the U.S. Navy to bypass the Confederates' big guns at Yorktown and Gloucester Point and ascend the York River to West Point and outflank the Warwick Line. McClellan planned a massive bombardment for dawn on May 5. But the Confederate army had slipped away during the night of May 3 toward Williamsburg.

The battle took place near the site of the 1781 Siege of Yorktown, the final battle of the American Revolutionary War in the east.

References[change | change source]

  1. Stephen W. Sears, To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign (New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1992), p. 24
  2. John S. Salmon, The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001), p. 76
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Civil War Battlefield Guide, 2nd Edition, ed. Frances H. Kennedy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998), p. 90