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Ascending the back hill of the beach, we found |
protecting themselves from our bullets, and shoot into our disorganized body for several minutes before we could come upon them. Several times we met these hostile squads and mistook them for friends, occasioning us heavy loss. One time, I remember in particular, we were assailed by a body of Zouaves who stood in a swamp. As they commenced firing we gave the watchword, and were answered, Friends. I thought perhaps they had forgotten the reply, yet they continued to shoot down the men around me at a fearful rate. I noticed them more closely, and could perceive the peculiarity of their dress, and could tell by the whiz of their bullets that they were armed with rifles that were not like ours.
We then turned upon them and soon cleaned out the company. This was the severest tug of all, and we suffered severely before we discovered their complexions. In the spot I fought from I saw some seven or eight of our men fall within five feet of me, while several others fell around. This was about the last skirmish we had, yet straggling bodies fired for miles, doing but little damage. Scattered as we were for such a distance, and exhausted as were our men, they could have completely cut us off with cavalry or flying artillery had they had either. It took a long time for us to reembark. As we were huddled together in open scows, they fell upon us after we were out of reach, and shot several of our men. Their large Enfield rifles carry a ball a great distance, and, elevate my musket as I would, the bullet fell short of the beach, while their balls fell among us or passed just over our heads. Here Brigadier-General Anderson was wounded very severely, though he had passed all danger on the island, and that, too, far in the rear of the enemy.
It was wonderful that our soldiers should have fallen into such disorder and been so entirely given up to excitement. Our men were as brave and daring as it was possible for soldiers to be, and in the presence of the enemy acted with as much gallantry as the occasion warranted. One cause of the confusion of ranks was the strange land we had to climb over and the deep bogs we had to wade. I should rather attempt to scale the ruggedest peak of the Rocky Mountains than to make a forced march on Santa Rosa Island. It is impossible for the best drilled troops in the world to keep in line in such a place. Another thing that prevented was, that the advanced bodies were less tired than the rear, and marched too fast. Again, one section just in front of us had their captain killed and a lieutenant wounded, and came crowding back into our ranks. I scarcely know whether we achieved a victory or suffered a defeat. We did the duty which we went to perform, and did it well; yet we shot down our own friends in numbers. Indeed, I think as many of our men were shot by friends as by foes. Night skirmishing is a dangerous business, especially in an unknown country, as was the island of Santa Rosa. It is impossible to estimate the damage done on
duced the quick retirement of the enemy's force
either side as yet. I came across and saw at
BATTLE OF BALL'S BLUFF, VA.*
FOUGHT OCTOBER 21, 1861.
GENERAL: On the 20th inst., being advised
Gen. McCall's movements had evidently attracted the attention of the enemy, a regiment of infantry having appeared from the direction of Leesburg, and taken shelter behind a hill about a mile and a half from our position at the ferry.
General Gorman was ordered to deploy his forces in view of the enemy, and in so doing no movement of the enemy was excited. Three flat boats were ordered, and at the same time, shell and spherical-case shot were thrown into the place of the enemy's concealment. This was done to produce an impression that a crossing was to be made. The shelling at Edwards' Ferry, and launching of the boats, in*This battle is variously known as the battle of Ball's Bluff, Edwards' Ferry, Harrison's Island, and Leesburg.
Orders were then instantly sent to Col. Devens to cross four companies to the Virginia shore, and march silently under cover of the night to the position of the camp referred to, to attack and destroy it at daybreak, pursue the enemy lodged there, as far as would be prudent, and return immediately to the island, his return to be covered by a company of the Maslanding place. Col. Devens was ordered to sachusetts Twentieth, to be posted over tho make close observation of the position, strength, and movements of the enemy, and in the event of there being no enemy there visible, to hold strengthened sufficiently to make a valuable on in a secure position, until he could be
At this time orders were sent to Col. Baker to send the First California regiment to Conrad's Ferry, to arrive there at sunrise, and to have the remainder of his brigade ready to move early.
chusetts, was also ordered to move with a batLieut.-Col. Wood, of the Fifteenth Massatalion to the river bank opposite Harrison's in charge of Lieut. French of Rickett's batIsland by daybreak. Two mounted howitzers, tery, were ordered to the tow-path of the canal opposite Harrison's Island. Colonel Devens, in pursuance of his orders, crossed and proceeded to the point indicated, Colonel Lee remaining
on the bluff with one hundred men to cover his return. To distract attention from Colonel Devens' movements, and to make a reconnoiswards' Ferry, I directed General Gorman to sance in the direction of Leesburg from Edthrow across the river at that point two companies of the First Minnesota under cover of a fire from Rickett's battery, and sent out a party of thirty-one Van Alen Cavalry under Maj. Mix, accompanied by Captain Chas. Stewart, assistant adjutant-general, Captain Murphy, and Lieutenants Pierce and Gouraud, with orders
to advance along the Leesburg road until they | ceeded to Edwards' Ferry, and reported to me in person, stating that his regiment was at the former place, and the three other regiments of his brigade ready to march. I directed him to Harrison's Island to assume command, and in full conversation explained to him the position as it then stood. I told him that Gen. McCall had advanced his troops to Drainesville, and that I was extremely desirous of ascertaining the exact position and force of the enemy in our front, and exploring as far as it was safe on the right, toward Leesburg, and on the left toward the Leesburg and Gum Spring road. I also informed Col. Baker that Gen. Gorman, opposite Edwards' Ferry, should be reinforced, and that I would make every effort to push Gorman's troops carefully forward to discover the best line from that ferry to the Leesburg and Gum Spring road, already mentioned; and the position of the breastworks and hidden battery, which prevented the movement of troops directly from left to right, were also pointed out to him.
should come to the vicinity of a battery which was known to be on that road, and then turn to the left and examine the heights between that and Goose Creek, and see if any of the enemy were posted in the vicinity, find out their numbers as nearly as possible, their disposition, examine the country with reference to the passage of troops to the Leesburg and Georgetown turnpike, and return rapidly to cover behind the skirmishers of the Minnesota First. This reconnoissance was most gallantly conducted, and the party proceeded along the Leesburg road nearly two miles from the ferry, and when near the position of the hidden battery came suddenly upon a Mississippi regiment, about thirty-five yards distant, received its fire and returned it with their pistols. The fire of the enemy killed one horse, but Lieutenant Gouraud seized the dismounted inan, and drawing him on his horse behind him, carried him unhurt from the field. One private of the Fourth Virginia Cavalry was brought off by the party a prisoner, who, being well mounted and armed, his mount replaced the one lost by the fire of the enemy.
Meantime, on the right, Col. Devens, having in pursuance of his orders arrived at the position designated to him as the site of the enemy's camp, found that the scouts had been deceived by the uncertain light, and mistaken openings in the trees for a row of tents. Col. Devens found, however, a wood in which he concealed his force, and proceeded to examine the space between that and Leesburg, sending back to report that thus far he could see no enemy. Immediately on receipt of this intelligence, brought me by Lieut. Howe, who had accompanied both parties, I ordered a noncommissioned officer and ten cavalry to join Col. ens for the purpose of scouring the country near him while engaged in the reconnoissance, and giving due notice of the approach of any force, and that Lieut.-Colonel Ward, with his battalion of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, should move on to Smoot's Mills, half a mile to the right of the crossing place of Col. Devens, and see where, in a strong position, he could watch and protect the flank of Col. Devens in his return, and secure a second crossing more favorable than the first, and connected by a good road with Leesburg. Capt. Candy, assistant adjutant-general, and Gen. Lander, accompanied the cavalry to serve with it. For some reason never explained to me, neither of these orders was carried out. The cavalry were transferred to the Virginia shore, but were sent back without having left the shore to go inland, and thus Col. Devens was deprived of the means of obtaining warning of any approach of the enemy.
The battalion under Col. Ward was detained on the Bluff in the rear of Col. Devens, instead of being directed to the right. Col. Baker having arrived at Conrad's Ferry with the First California regiment at an early hour, pro
The means of transportation across, of the sufficiency of which he (Baker) was to be judge, was detailed, and authority given him to make use of the guns of a section each of Vaughan's and Bunting's batteries, together with French's mountain howitzers, all the troops of his brigade and the Tammany regiment, besides the Nineteenth and part of the Twentieth regiments of Massachusetts Volunteers, and I left it to his discretion, after viewing the ground, to retire from the Virginia shore under the cover of his guns and the fire of the large infantry force, or to place our reinforcements in case he found it practicable and the position on the other side favorable. I stated that I wished no advance made unless the enemy were of inferior force, and under no circumstances to pass beyond Leesburg, or a strong position between it and Goose Creek, on the Gum Spring road, i. e., the Manassas road. Colonel Baker was cautioned in reference to passing artillery across the river; and I begged if he did do so to see it well supported by good infantry. The General pointed out to him the position of some bluffs on this side of the river, from which artillery could act with effect on the other, and, leaving the matter of crossing more troops or retiring what were already over to his discretion, gave him entire control of operations on the right. This gallant and energetic officer left me about nine A. M., or half-past nine, and galloped off quickly to his command.
Reinforcements were rapidly thrown to the Virginia side by General Ġorman at Edwards' Ferry, and his skirmishers and cavalry scouts advanced cautiously and steadily to the front and right, while the infantry lines were formed in such positions as to act rapidly and in concert in case of an advance of the enemy, and shells were thrown by Lieutenant Woodruff's Parrott guns into the woods beyond our lines, as they gradually extended, care being taken to annoy the vicinity of the battery on
though pitched against much superior numbers, three to one, maintained their ground under a most destructive fire of the enemy. Colonel Coggswell reached the field amid the heaviest fire, and came gallantly into action, with a yell which wavered the enemy's line. Lieutenant Bramhall, of Bunting's battery, had succeeded, after extraordinary exertions and labor, in bringing up a piece of the Rhode Island battery, and Lieutenant French his two howitzers; but both officers, after well-directed firing, were soon borne away wounded, and the pieces were hauled to the rear, so that they might not fall into the enemy's hands. At four P. M. Col. Baker fell at the head of his column, pierced by a number of bullets, while cheering his men, and by his own example sustaining the obstinate resistance they were making. The command then devolved upon Colonel Lee, who prepared to commence throwing out forces to the rear, but it was soon found that Colonel Coggswell was the senior in rank, and he, taking the command, ordered preparation to be made for marching to the left, and cutting a way through to Edwards' Ferry. But just as the first dispositions were being effected, a rebel officer rode rapidly in front and beckoned the Tammany regiment toward the enemy. It is not clear whether or not the Tammany men supposed this one of our officers; but they responded with a yell and charged forward, carrying with them in their advance the rest of the line, which soon received a depas-structive fire from the enemy at close distance. The men were quickly recalled, but their new position frustrated the movement designed, and Col. Coggswell gave the necessary order to retire. The enemy pursued to the edge of the bluff over the landing place, and poured in a heavy fire as our men were endeavoring to cross to the island. The retreat was rapid, but according to orders. The men formed near the river, maintaining for nearly half an hour the hopeless contest rather than surrender. The smaller boats had disappeared, no one knew where. The largest boat, rapidly and too heavily loaded, swamped some fifteen feet from the shore, and nothing was left to our soldiers but to swim, surrender, or die.
the right. Messengers from Harrison's Island informed me, soon after the arrival of Colonel Baker opposite the island, that he was crossing his whole force as rapidly as possible, and that he had caused an additional flat-boat to be rafted from the canal into the river, and had provided a line to cross the boats more rapidly. In the morning a skirmish took place between two companies of the Twentieth Massachusetts and about one hundred Mississippi riflemen, during which a body of the enemy's cavalry appeared. Colonel Devens then fell back in good order on Colonel Lee's position. Presently he again advanced, his men behaving adinirably, fighting, retiring, and advancing in perfect order, and exhibiting every proof of high courage and good discipline. Had the cavalry scouting party, sent him in the morning, been with him then, he could have had timely warning of the approach of the superior force which afterward overwhelmed his regiment. Thinking that Colonel Baker might be able to use more artillery, I despatched to him two additional pieces, supported by two companies of infantry with directions to come into position below the place of crossing, and report to Colonel Baker. Colonel Baker suggested this himself, later in the day, just before the guns on their way arrived.
After Col. Devens' second advance, Colonel Baker went to the field in person; and it is a matter of regret to me that he left no record of what officers and men he charged with the care of the boats and insuring the regular sage of troops. If any were charged with this duty it was not performed, for the reinforcements as they arrived found no one in command of the boats, and great delays were thus occasioned. Had one officer and a company remained at each landing, guarding the boats, their full capacity would have been made serviceable, and sufficient men would have been passed on to secure success. The forwarding of artillery before its supporting force of infantry also impeded the rapid assembling of an imposing force on the Virginia shore. If the infantry force had first crossed, a difference of one thousand men would have been made in the infantry line at the time of attack, probably enough to have given us the victory.
With a devotion worthy of the cause they Between twelve and one P. M. the enemy ap- were serving, officers and men, while quarter peared in force in front of Colonel Devens, and was being offered to such as would lay down a sharp skirmish ensued, and was maintained their arms, stripped themselves of their swords for some time by the Fifteenth Massachusetts and muskets, and hurled them out into the unsupported, and finding he would be out- river to prevent their falling into the hands of flanked, Colonel Devens retired a short dis- the foe, and saved themselves as they could tance and took up a position near the wood, by swimming, floating on logs, and concealing half a mile in front of Colonel Lee, where he themselves in the bushes of the forest, and to remained until two o'clock, when he again fell make their way up and down the river bank to back, with the approval of Colonel Baker, and the place of crossing. The instances of pertook his place with the portions of the Twen-sonal gallantry of the highest order were so tieth Massachusetts and First California which many that it would be unjust to detail particuhad arrived. Col. Baker now formed his line, lar cases. Officers displayed for their men, and waited the attack of the enemy, which and men for their officers, that beautiful devocame upon him with great vigor about three tion which is only to be found among true solP. M., and was well net by our troops, who, diers. While these scenes were being enacted VOL. III.-Doc. 15
A report of division for the following days will be made out speedily. I cannot conclude without bearing testimony to the courage, good discipline, and conduct of all the troops of this division during the day. Those in action behaved like veterans, and those not brought into action showed that alacrity and steadiness in their movements which proved their anxiety to engage the foe in their country's cause. We mourn the loss of the brave departed, dead on the field of honor, if not of success, and we miss the companionship of those of our comrades who have fallen into the hands of our enemies. But all feel that they have earned the title of soldier, and all await with increased confidence another measurement of strength with the foe.
on the right, I was preparing on the left for a | to Harrison's Island and protect the line of the rapid push forward to the road by which the river. At three A. M. Major-General Banks arenemy would retreat if driven, and entirely rived and took command. unsuspicious of the perilous condition of our troops. The additional artillery had already been sent, and when the messenger, who did not leave the field until after three o'clock, was questioned as to Col. Baker's position, he informed me that the Colonel, when he left, seemed to feel perfectly secure, and could doubtless hold his position in case he should not advance. The same statement was made by another messenger half an hour later, and I watched anxiously for a sign of advance on the right, in order to push forward General Gorman. It was, as had been explained to Colonel Baker, impracticable to throw General Gorman's brigade directly to the right, by reason of the battery in the woods, between which we had never been able to reconnoitre. At four P. M. or thereabouts, I telegraphed to Gen. Banks for a brigade of his division, intending it to occupy the ground on this side of the river near Harrison's Island, which would be abandoned in case of a rapid advance, and shortly after, as the fire slackened, a messenger was waited for on whose tidings should be given orders either for the advance of General Gorman to cut off the retreat of the enemy, or for the disposition for the night in the position then held. At five P. M. Captain Candy arrived from the field and announced the melancholy tidings of Colonel Baker's death, but with no intelligence of any further disaster. I immediately apprised Gen. Banks of Colonel Baker's death, and I rode quickly to the right to assume command. Before arriving opposite the island, men who had crossed the river plainly gave evidence of the disaster, and on reaching the same I was satisfied of it by the conduct of the men then landing in boats.
your most obt. servt., CHAS. P. STONE, Brigadier-General Commanding. The second order which follows, was deliver
The reports made to me were that the enemy's force was ten thousand men. This I considered, as it proved to be, an exaggeration. Orders were then given to hold the island, and establish a patrol on the tow-path from oppo-ed on the battle-field by Col. Coggswell, who site the island to the line of pickets near the said to Col. Baker, in reply to a question what Monocacy, and I returned to the left to secure it meant, "All right, go ahead." Thereupon the troops there from disaster, and make prep- Col. Baker put it in his hat without reading. arations for moving them as rapidly as pos- An hour afterward he fell :
Orders arrived from General McClellan to hold the Island Virginia shore at Edwards' Ferry at all risks, indicating at the same time that reinforcements would be sent, and immediately additional means of intrenching were forwarded, and General Gorman was furnished with particular directions to hold out against any and every force of the enemy.
During that time, General Hamilton with his brigade was on the march from Darnestown. Before I left to go to the right I issued orders to intercept him, and instructed him to repair to Conrad's Ferry, where orders awaited him to so dispose of his force as to give protection
CHAS. P. STONE, Brig.-Gen. Comdg. GEN. STONE'S ORDERS TO COL. BAKER.-The
following are exact copies of the orders from Gen. Stone to Col. Baker, which were found beneath the lining of the latter's hat by Capt. from the field. Both were deeply stained with Young, his aid, after the body had been taken Col. Baker's blood, and one of the bullets, which went through his head, carried away a corner
of the first:
H. Q. CORPS OF [Here the bullet struck and a word is missing.] EDWARDS' FERRY, October 21, 1861.
Col. E. D. Baker, Com. of Brigade:
COLONEL In case of heavy firing in front of Harrison's Island, you will advance the California regiment of your brigade, or retire the regiments under Cols. Lee and Devens, now on the almost rendered illegible by blood] Virginia side of the river, at your discretion-assuming
command on arrival.
Very respectfully, Co
HEAD-QUARTERS CORPS OF OBSERVATION, EDWARDS' FERRY, Oct. 22-11.50. E. D. Baker, Commanding Brigade:
COLONEL: I am informed that the force of the enemy is about four thousand, all told. If you can push them, you may do so as far as to have a strong position near Leesburg, if you can keep them before you, avoiding their batteries. If they pass Leesburg and take the Gum Springs road, you will not follow far, but seize the first good position to cover that road.
Their design is to draw us on, if they are obliged to retreat, as far as Goose Creek, where they can be reinforced from Manassas, and have strong position.