When George had got his army “all ashore,” he set out on his grand journey to Richmond. But when he had waded for twenty miles or so through quicksands, he halted before a little old town called Yorktown. Now the old women along the road told George that he had better have nothing to do with Yorktown, that Yorktown was not much account anyhow, and not worth spending much powder on. They told him also that although Mr. Beauregard had not been seen, there was one General Johnson, who had just come to town with a large army; and had made no end of sand heaps, and put mighty big guns on them. That he would not find it so easy to get into Yorktown while General Johnson sat smoking his pipe behind them big sand heaps. And so it proved.
Nobody home at Yorktown.
This, my son, is an exact portrait of the general who sat behind the great sand heaps at Yorktown, smoking his pipe, and gave our George so much trouble. George and he had been old friends and playmates at school, where they had played pitch and toss in a harmless way. So it is natural to suppose they knew each other’s game perfectly well. George took the hint given him by the old women along the road, and when he got to Yorktown he saw clear enough that his old friend Johnston was playing a game of brag with his big sand hills. And to show Mr. Johnston that he was not to be outdone in that line of art, George, when he had settled his army down in the soft ground, went to work satisfying the nation that he could build just as big sand heaps as any other general. In short, my son, George found himself in a worse predicament than he was in at Manassas, for his friend Johnston had a large army, and stronger works than Mr. Beauregard left behind him. So his army laid down its guns, and took up the spade, and went largely into the ditching and dyking business. He made sand heaps bigger than Mr. Johnston’s, and stretched them all the way across the Peninsula, so that there was no getting on either side of him. And when he had done this he mounted them with the biggest cannon, which he intended to fire when he got them all up; so as to make a magnificent display of substantial fire-works, and in that way frighten Mr. Johnston out of town. So careful was George not to do his old friend any bodily injury before he got all his guns mounted, that he would only exchange compliments with him at morning and evening, when few shells would be tossed backward and forward, just to preserve what was called the etiquette of war. I have sometimes thought these compliments were exchanged with the very best of motives, intended only to change the monotony of camp life with a little excitement.