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          23rd Pennsylvania

Map of Williamsburg 1862
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Closup of Ft. Magruder
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Painting of Battle of Williamsburg
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Sketch of Battle of Williamsburg
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23rd PA at Williamsburg

April 4th- May 5th 1862
Siege of Williamsburg

The 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 Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac encountered Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder's small Confederate army at Yorktown behind the Warwick River. Magruder's theatrics convinced the Federals that his works were strongly held. McClellan suspended the march up the Peninsula toward Richmond, 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 weakness in the Confederate line at Lee's Mill or Dam No. 1, resulting in about 309 casualties. Failure to exploit the initial success of this attack, however, held up McClellan for two additional weeks, while he tried to convince his navy to maneuver the Confederates' big guns at Yorktown and Gloucester Point and ascend the York River to West Point, thus outflanking the Warwick Line. McClellan planned for a massive bombardment to begin at dawn on May 4, but the Confederate army slipped away in the night toward Williamsburg.

The Twenty-third Pennsylvania belonged to a brigade which consisted of the First Long Island Regiment, The Thirty-first Pennsylvania (which later became the 82nd PA), The Sixty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers and a Battery of The First Pennsylvania Artillery, commanded by Captain Miller. Orders were received from division Headquarters to take two or three regiments of General Grahamís Command and a section of Millers Battery and capture the forts on The Warwick River in front of Dam #2, below Leeís Mill. The Twenty Ėthird Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Neill, and the 1st Long Island, Lieutenant Cross, were ordered forward. Upon arriving in front of the main works it was presumed they had been abandoned by the Confederates, however they guarded against a surprise attack. The Twenty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers proudly were the first to plant the flag in the works. The Works which were quite extensive and strong, were found abandoned by the enemy. The 23rd was ordered forward on a reconnaissance. After a march of 7 miles the march was halted. Realizing there were no supplies, a large force was sent back to retrieve them. This along with the horrible state of the roads held up the brigade until 3.P.M the following day, when orders were received to proceed to the front to join the brigade which was now hotly engaged with the Rebels.

The 23rd Pennsylvania Volunteers were at once ordered to the front along with the First U.S. Chasseurs and were placed as Pickettís. A company of the 61st PA and a Company of the 31st were detailed to guard prisoners. At 3:30 P.M on the 6th the 23rd PA was ordered to a position within a half mile of Fort Magruder and itís supporting Batteries. The 23rd Pennsylvania was advanced toward the fort as Skirmishers and entered it without opposition, having found it abandoned just an hour earlier finding many of the enemy wounded inside. Again the Twenty-third PA was the first Regiment to place their colors in the enemy works.

Some of those wounded in the Battle of Williamsburg from the 23rd PA were, George F. Peiffer, Edward Rehn and William Ridgeway of Company B. The battle took place near the 1781 siege of Yorktown, the last battle of the American Revolutionary War in the east. The Palmetto's fought in Fort Magruder during the battle. What little remains of the fort now lay in the grounds of the Radisson Hotel, Williamsburg, with the remainder of the battlefield laying in the grounds of private houses, parts can just be seen by looking over fences. All that remains of the fortís very overgrown.


  • 3 Wounded

    In 1982 Columbia Tri-star Pictures released a movie, written by Bruce Catton, about the Civil War which included scenes from The Peninsula Campaign entitled "The Blue and the Gray". It even had a mention of the 23rd PA in it. It is 381 minutes long and available on DVD and Video.

    "The Blue and the Gray" The Movie (Click for more info)

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