Williamsburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
An Ugly Place to Have to Attack
—1862 Peninsula Campaign —
Fort Magruder formed an elongated pentagon 600 yards in circumference. Its walls rose 15 feet from a flooded moat and mounted eight guns. The fort guarded the intersection of the Yorktown – Hampton and Warwick roads a quarter-mile in front of you which provided the primary land access to Williamsburg.
At dawn on May 5, 1862, Brig. Gen. Richard H. Anderson’s South Carolina “Palmetto Sharpshooters” occupied the fort. Union Brig. Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker’s troops from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New York, deployed to either side of the Warwick Road and advanced toward the Confederate redoubts amid concentrated artillery and infantry fire. An abatis of felled trees spread directly in front of the fort and the flanking redoubts. The abatis, along with the quagmire
Union artillery commander, Maj. Gen. Charles S. Wainwright, called it “a very ugly place to have to attack.” One of Hooker’s troops said, “Their heavy shot came crashing among the tangled abatis of fallen timber, and plowed up the dirt in our front, rebounding and tearing through the woods in our rear … the continuous snap, snap, crack, crack was murderous.”
The battle ebbed and flowed all day, with both sides claiming victory. Nearly 20,000 troops were engaged. Union casualties numbered 2,283, while the Confederate losses were 1,560. The Southern troops abandoned Fort Magruder and the other redoubts of the Williamsburg Line during the night of the battle as the Confederate army withdrew toward Richmond. The desperate fighting and heroism displayed by both sides near this spot foretold the brutality and the battles to follow during the Peninsula Campaign.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 37° 15.845′ N, 76° 39.967′ W. Marker is in Williamsburg, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Penniman Road Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Williamsburg VA 23185, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Fort Magruder (a few steps from this marker); Vineyard Tract (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Magruder’s Defenses (approx. half a mile away); Battle of Williamsburg (approx. half a mile away); a different marker also named Battle of Williamsburg (approx. half a mile away); Peninsula Campaign (approx. 0.7 miles away); Quarterpath Road (approx. 0.7 miles away); History of Fort Magruder (approx. ¾ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Williamsburg.
More about this marker. The upper left of the marker contains a photograph of Maj. Gen. Richard Heron Anderson, CSA – Courtesy of the Library of Congress. The bottom right of the marker features a watercolor of “Fort Magruder” by Lt. Robert K. Sneden, Copyright Virginia Historical Society, 1997.
Also see . . .
1. Williamsburg, Fort Magruder, Civil War Virginia, May 5, 1862. American Civil War website. (Submitted on August 17, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
2. Battle of Williamsburg, 5 May 1862. (Submitted on August 17, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
3. The Peninsula Campaign of 1862. (Submitted on August 17, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
4. Tidewater Virginia, The 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Civil War Traveler. (Submitted on August 17, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Categories. • Forts, Castles • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 17, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 2,369 times since then and 97 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 17, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. 3. submitted on August 8, 2015, by Brandon Fletcher of Chattanooga, Tennessee. 4. submitted on August 17, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.