« PreviousContinue »
LEE SENT AGAINST REYNOLDS.
over his head. Grant took possession of Paducah, and issued his proclamation, but the rebels, instead of retiring, began to move more troops into the state under orders of A. S. Johnston who had taken command of the rebel western department. While affairs were wearing this doubtful aspect in the west, the campaign which McClellan had so successfully prosecuted in Western Virginia, was being followed
up triumphantly by the Generals still in command there. Floyd, in the southern part, could not make a stand against Rosecrans, to whom neither mud, nor storms, nor mountains, could present insurmountable obstacles. Farther north we still held our own, though the enemy made a determined effort to drive us back. Wise and Floyd, having both showed themselves unable to cope with our generals, General Lee, the best officer of Virginia, was sent with nine thousand men against our position in Cheat Mountain held by General Reynolds.
LEE AT CHEAT MOUNTAIN AND ELK WATER.
On the same day that Price advanced against Lexington, Lee moved against Reynolds, stationed at Elk Water: Approaching Cheat Mountain he di rided his force into two columns, and sent one along the Staunton turnpike to attar our post on the summit, and led the other by the Hunters road towards Elk Water. These two posts of ours were cosi': seven miles apart by a bridle path over the mountains, ! 11 eighteen miles by the wagon road, which led through Cho ? Mountain Pass, where the brigade had a short time before been located. Lee, advancing along the Pass, attempted to get to the left and rear of Elk Water. But for the gallantry of four companies of Indiana troops, which held the whole force in check, he would have succeeded in this, and made Reynold's situation a desperate one. As it was, the enemy were forced to the rear and right of Cheat Mountain, completely hémming in the three hundred who held the summit. When
night closed in, the communication between our posts was entirely cut off. Determined at all hazards to open it, Reynolds, at three o'clock next morning, dispatched Sullivan with the Thirteenth Indiana, along the main road, and most of two Virginia and Ohio regiments by the bridle path, with orders, if possible, to fall simultaneously on the enemy, and force their way to the little beleaguered band on the suinmit. The latter, ignorant of what was going on at the base of the mountain, determined to cut its own way through to the army. So on the same morning Colonel Kimball put his little column in motion. Not knowing the number or position of the enemy, he started off his wagon train with a small escort. . It had proceeded but three quarters of a mile when it was met by a sudden fire. Kimball thought at first it came from only a scouting party, but on hurrying to the front, he found himself in presence of twenty-five hundred of the enemy. Nothing daunted, he immediately threw out his skirmishers, and ordered his men to hold their position. They did so, and opened such a fierce fire on the enemy that he turned and fled in confusion, leaving the woods strewed with dead and wounded, and guns and clothing in large quantities. The two columns below heard the firing, and pushed on up the mountain, but before they reached the scene of action the battle was over. As the heads of the columns appeared in sight, they were greeted with loud hurrahs, which were answered till the mountain rang again, T.ey ther proceeded to the summit, and secured the provis ion train, thus renpening the communication with Reynolds. While this was going on up in the mountain, Lee advanced straight on Elk Water. Checked in his progress by Reynold's artillery, he withdrew a short distance and took position. Towards night he heard the result of the fight in the mountain, and discouraged by it, fell back still farther. Next day be renewed his attacks on both positions, but was again ré.
FORTIFICATIONS AROUND WASHINGTON,
pulsed with severe loss, and retreated ten miles. Our loss was only nine killed, while that of the enemy was one hundred, and among them Colonel J. A. Washington, recent proprietor of Mount Vernon. A strange fatality attended every attempt of the rebels to occupy Western Virginia. While in every part of the Union we met with nothing but reverses, here we never lost a battle. McClellan had finished
his work so well, and given such a high, moral tone to the army, that it deemed itself invincible, and began to be regarded so by the enemy.
During all this time, no general movement of troops occurred in front of Washington. The idea that the rebels meant to attack the Capital had taken full possession of the government, and very extensive preparations were made for its protection. A net work of fortifications was steadily pushed forward, so that on both sides of the Potomac thirtytwo works were completed, or nearly so, of sufficient importance to call forth a general order from McCleilan, assigning them names. The work of drilling the troops was steadily prosecuted, both at Washington, and in the various camps in the several states. As fast as the regiments were properly equipped, they were ordered on, and a vast army soon stretched in a semi-circle, from near Alexandria in Virginia to the Potomac, some ten or fifteen miles above Washington, while we held the Maryland side up to the Alleghanies.
Whether McClellan shared the general fear that the enemy would make a descent on Washington, or whether he was willing it should be entertained, so as to give him more time to discipline his army, does not appear. It is hardly to be supposed, however, that a military commander should feel much alarm, lest an enemy without adequate means of transportation should put a broad river between him and his supplies and reserves, while seventy thousand men held the bank he proposed to leave.
Armed reconnoissances and skirmishes between pickets and small detachments served to break
the monotony of camp life. We pushed our lines to Lewinsville on the right, and forward in front, so as to include Munson's Hill. The occupation of the latter position was accompanied by a repetition of the blunder which occurred at Big Bethel: our troops firing into each other, but, as usual, nobody seemed to blame. It was said that but for the knowledge of this movement, which (in some mysterious way, and from some high official source) reached the enemy, we should have captured ten thousand men, who, being forewarned, had time to escape. It was soon apparent that no secret of importance could be kept from the rebels. The confederate government constantly received news of intended movements on our part, which the most assiduous, pushing reporters of the northern press could not obtain. The source from whence it was derived baffied the keenest scrutiny.
The most noteworthy event that marked the closing days of September was the observance of the national fast, which the President in accordance with a resolution of Congress had proclaimed soon after the defeat at Bull Run. No national fast since the time of the Revolution had been kept with greater solemnity. Previous to the signal defeat of our arms at Bull Run, rulers and people had exhibited an arrogance and confidence in the ability of the north to crush out the rebellion with a blow, that filled thoughtful men with alarm. Not only in the economy of God is "pride sure to go before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall," but even in human arrangements they always prevent that care and preparation which are necessary to insure success. We did not feel that help from on high was necessary, --we thought the flag was quite sufficient; and it looked as though minister and people thought more of the Stars and Stripes that draped every pulpit and waved from every church spire than
THE NATION HUMBLE.
they did of Him who presided over the sanctuary. Our conduct in this respect contrasted strikingly with that of the southern confederacy. It had begun its work with proclaiming a fast; and its Congress passed resolutions recognizing most emphatically its dependence on God. Our terrible defeat had humbled this boastful spirit which assumed that we were altogether righteous; and the fast, to all human appear. ance, was a sincere self-abasement of the nation before Him to whom all the nations of the earth are as the small dust of the balance.
From the outset, it had been apparent to every one who was not carried away by political prejudice or blind fanaticism, that this terrible war, whatever its end might be, would inflict the sorest punishment on both sections which had, though unequally, exhibited an uncharitable, bitter, and angry spirit.