The Siege of Yorktown

[Correspondence of the Philadelphia Inquirer.]

Near Yorktown, April 23.

The beautiful sun once more breaks upon us, after an absence of three days, shedding his genial warmth and animating all living creation. The roads are in a horrible condition, notwithstanding the immense labor bestowed upon them by our engineers. The whole peninsula is one grand swamp — hence the difficulty. How the white folks manage to live here is a quary hard to be answered. There are a few garden spots, but they are so isolated from the outer world that one might as well be in the centre of the desert of Arabia, as to reside on one of those farms. Along the creeks and rivers the "poor white trash" manage to eke out a miserable existence by oystering, fishing, wood-chopping, &c. They have, heretofore, traded principally with Baltimore and Washington, but since the rebellion they have been living on their wits. The rebel soldiers eat them out, and they are now afraid the Federals will finish them.

The rebels persevere in their attempts to strengthen their fortifications, but our sharpshooters manage to keep them from doing much work. A rebel makes his appearance — bang goes a rifle. The rebel either leaves quickly, or lies might still — perhaps dead.


There is an old chap in the Berdan Sharpshooters, known as "old Seth." He is quite a character, and is a crack shot — one of the best in the regiment. His "instrument," as he calls it, is one of the heaviest telescopic rifles. The other night, at roll call, "old Seth" was non est. This was somewhat unusual, as the old chap was always up to time. A Sergeant went out to hunt him up, he being somewhat fearful that the old man had been hit. After perambulating around in the advance of the picket line, he heard a low "halloo." "Who's there?" inquired the Sergeant. "It's me," responded Seth; "and I've captured a Secesh gun." "Bring it in," said the Sergeant. "Can't do it," exclaimed Seth.

It soon became apparent to the Sergeant that "Old Seth" had the exact range of one of the enemy's heaviest guns, and they could not load it for fear of being picked off by him. Again the old man shouted — "Fetch me a couple of haversacks full of grub, and this is my gun, and the cussed varmints shan't fire it agin while the scrimmage lasts." This was done, and the old patriot has kept good watch over that gun. In fact, it is a "captured gun."


The rebels are very careful of their lives. The other day the sharp-shooters, on the extreme left of the line, kept the enemy from using a gun. They did not dare to load it. They got a colored man on their ramparts, by force, which could be plainly seen by our troops, and compelled him to load the gun. It was life or death with him. He commenced to load, when one of the sharp-shooters picked him off. It was a "justifiable homicide," as the gun might have killed several of our men, it being in easy range.


Last night was a dark one, and very uncomfortable to many of the soldiers whose camps are situated on low ground. The fact is, it is all low, but some of it is very low. The wind blew a strong gale all night long, whistling through the trees, making a noise resembling the roar of old ocean. Those persons who have traveled over the Camden and Atlantic road may form some idea of this delectable country. For instance, after leaving the German settlement of Egg Harbor it is all swamp for several miles — trees, underbrush, water and mud predominating. This is the peculiarity of this "cussed country," as the soldiers say — only worse. If we had the addition of mosquitoes it would be delightful; and the presumption is, if we have to stay here until the season advances somewhat, we shall enjoy these musical insects to our hearts content.

Mid the noise of the whistling winds an occasional boom of a heavy gun comes thundering low and sullon, through the surrounding forests, as a reminder that war, grim visaged war, is raging in our midst. Now and then we hear some watchful sentinel of the night calling out, "Corporal of the guard ‘No. 7’" — or whatever his heat may be — evincing with what care a patriot should guard his country either in a high or subordinate position.