Reading the Mount Vernon Democratic Banner in April 1862 is not the place to find out what was going on with Gen. George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac. Part of that is obviously because the reports from Shiloh crowded other news out of the paper, and part because most of the companies raised in Knox County were serving with western regiments.
On April 15, the Banner ran a report dated April 9 from near Yorktown, reported conditions “unfavorable for military operations,” with two days of rain leaving flooded streams and muddy roads to deal with.
Meanwhile, the report said at least 60,000 rebel troops were in Yorktown, with 300 guns, and was being reinforced from the Richmond area. Gen. Johnson (meaning Gen. Joe Johnston) had reportedly arrived and taken command in person.
On April 22, the Banner printed reports of “heavy cannonading” from Yorktown, where the rebels were present “in great force” with President Jefferson Davis reported in the rebel camp.
Elsewhere in the same day’s paper, Banner readers were informed that a “Colonel Magruder” held the Yorktown position with 30,000 troops (what happened to the 60,000 and constant reinforcements?) that McClellan planned to dislodge.
McClellan began his siege of Yorktown on April 5. A month later, he occupied the village when Gen. John Bankhead Magruder (known as “Prince John” Magruder for his theatrical flair) abandoned the post. He took his force of 10,000 men and joined Johnston at the Confederate positions near Williamsburg.
Magruder had put on a show for McClellan, convincing him there were far more Confederates in front of him than there were. When McClellan finally built his siege positions up until he would overwhelm the defenders, Magruder simply left.
McClellan’s showdown with Joe Johnston would have to come later.
Meanwhile, Banner readers on April 22 also read a dispatch from Brig. Gen. Ormsby Mitchell reporting on April 11 that a force under his command had captured Huntsville, Ala. Two hundred rebel soldiers were captured, along with 15 locomotives.
Parts of Alabama did not support secession and Alabama regiments would serve in Union armies.