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178

DIFFICULTY OF CROSSING.

this purpose, consisted of two scows manned with poles, and which owing to the swiftness of the current, consumed a great deal of time in the trip from the main land to the island. I crossed with the first piece after half an hour's hard labor to keep the boat from floating down the stream. We ascended the steep bank, made soft and slippery by the passage of the troops, and at a rapid gait crossed the island to the second crossing. Here we found only a scow, on which we did not dare to cross the piece and horses together, and thus lost farther time by being obliged to make two crossings. Upon arriving on the Virginia shore, we were compelled to dismount the piece and carriage, and haul the former up by the prolonge, the infantry assisting in carrying the parts of the latter, to a point about thirty feet up a precipitous ascent, rendered almost impassable by soft mud, where we remounted the piece, and hitching up the horses, dragged it through a perfect thicket to the open ground above, where the fighting was going on." How many field pieces at this rate it was expected could be got across in case of need, or how many it was supposed could be saved in case of retreat, can easily be imagined. It appears that they managed, however, to get this one gun and two howitzers on to the field of battle.

In the mean time, Colonel Baker moved forward his force, and took position--the Massachusetts Fifteenth and a portion of the Tammany regiment being on the right, the Massachusetts Twentieth on the left and center, and the California battalion in the center. The three guns were placed in front, the howitzers one on each wing, and the six-pounder in the center. Soon the enemy made his appearance, and advanced against the whole line, but more compactly against the left and center, yelling and firing volleys at short intervals as they came on. It was soon evident that they outnumbered us; but, talang our three guns into the estimate,

DEATH OF BAKER.

179

it was not a very unequal fight. The rebels seemed to understand this, and, determined to get rid of the cannon, directed a murderous fire on the gunners. In a short time, those manning the six-pounder were wounded and missing, and with one of them disappeared the lanyard and tube pouch, and the gun was hauled to the rear. In a few min. utes, the missing articles stained with blood, were found, but only one cannoneer was left. Baker, Cogswell, and Lee immediately seized the gun, and, with the help of Bramhall, rolled it into position again, when they spurred to their respective commands. The lieutenant then called for volunteers from the infantry; and the gun again opened with shell on the enemy. The battle raged hotter and hotter, and soon Bramhall had but one man left to help him-a brave Californian named Booth, who stuck to him gallantly to the end: Not more than eighteen or twenty rounds, how. ever, were fired from first to last. The same fatality attended the other guns. The enemy, emboldened by their success, pushed their attack more vigorously, but they were firmly met at every point by our undaunted troops, as they were determined to hold their ground till the promised reinforcements came.

General Gorman had crossed the river with a part of a brigade, a few miles below, and an adjutant of General Stone had arrived, saying that he would soon be on the feia to aid them, but no signs of his coming appeared. At this critical moment, Baker, while gallantly leading on his men, fell. This was the turning point of the battle.

No one seemed to know on whom the command now devolved. Colonel Lee, supposing it belonged to him, decided that the battle was lost, and they must retreat to the river. But Colonel Cogswell at that moment galloping up, it appeared that he was entitled to it, as the senior colonel; and he determined to cut his way through the enemy down to Edward's Ferry, and changed his line of battle accordingly.

180

SINKING OF THE SCOW.

While the different movements were being executed to carry out this plan, a rebel officer on a white horse galloped up to the Tammany regiment, and shouted "Charge!" pointing to the woods where the enemy was concealed. The regiment supposing the order came from their own officer, gave a shout, and dashed forward, followed by the dauntless Massachusetts Fifteenth, who supposed that the whole line was ordered to advance. A deadly volley received the brave fellows, and they fell back in confusion. The officers, confounded at the terrible mistake, ordered the recall to be sounded, and hastily re-formed their men. They strove gallantly to retrieve their error, and poured in volley after volley, but it was too late. The enemy seeing the success of their stratagem gave them no time to restore their order of battle, but pressed furiously forward, rending the air with shouts. The army rapidly fell back to the river •bluff

, then over it to the shore, where they stood packed in dense masses. In vain skirmishers were sent to the summit to keep back the foe. They came resistlessly on-and from the hights above sent their plunging fire into the brave men, who could neither fight nor retreat. The only scow by which even a portion could be crossed, overloaded with the wounded and fleeing, had already pushed off into the river. Presenting a fair mark to the enemy, the bullets fell like rain into their midst. Those in the hind part, rushing forward to escape the deadly volleys, unbalanced the unwieldy thing, and with one heavy lurch it went to the bottom with all on board. The scene at this moment was fearful enough to appall the stoutest heart. Before the exhausted, bleeding band rolled the rapid river, while mingled with its sullen roar there struggled up from the deepening gloom groans, and cries, and shrieks for help. Behind, and above them, in the intervals of the demoniacal yells, came the plunging volleys, strewing the crimson shore with the slain

À EROIC DEVOTION.

181

Still no voice called for quarter,—no white flag floated in the darkness. Overwhelmed, but not conquered, they disdained to surrender, and there on the banks of the Potomac, on that gloomy October night, were exhibited deeds of personal devotion and self-sacrifice which have never been surpassed in the history of man. Men plead with their officers to escape, and officers used their right to command, to compel their troops to abandon them, and save themselves.

Devens ordered his men to fling their muskets into the river that they might not fall into the hands of the enemy, and swim for their lives. Captain Bartlett of the twentieth Massachusetts, directed those immediately about him who could not swim, to follow him up the river, in order to get out of the murderous volleys that kept the bluff above in a blaze of light. About eighty obeyed him, and they proceeded up stream till they came upon a sunken skiff. Raising it, he found it could carry five men at a time. Sending over a lieutenant with the first load to take charge of the men as fast as they crossed, he with Captain Tremlett and Lieutenant Abbott remained behind till all were over, then crossed themselves. Opposite Harrison's Island, towards which the swimmers struck, the Potomac ran blood, for the bullets of the enemy pattered like hail-stones on the water darkened by the heads of the fugitives. Many a bold swimmer, struck by a bullet in his head, went down in midstream. Soldiers swam slowly by the side of their wounded officers, refusing, though repeatedly ordered to do so, io leave them. At last the struggle, the flight, and the slaughter were over, and silence fell on the Potomac, broken only by the roar of the torrent and groans of wounded men that lined the shore and the bluff. Far down, over the rugged rocks, were rolling the lifeless bodies of the brave, while the living sat down in sullen rage, feeling that they had been led like

182

FEELING AT THE NORTB.

sheep to the slaughter. Of our whole force, numbering not far from eighteen hundred, full half were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. Among the latter were Colonels Cogswell and Lee. The news of this disaster spread a gloom over the land. Not only was the fall of Baker, a gallant man, and senator of the United States, deeply lamented, but the destruction in the two Massachusetts regiments, composed as they were of some of the finest young men of the state, was felt to be a national loss. Added to all this, was the universal feeling that they fell victims to an unpardonable blunder, or to treason. McClellan had never ordered a movement of this kind, and the blame was at first divided between Stone and Baker, but finally settled down on the former. The whole affair remains a mystery to this day.

A portion of Banks' division, under General Gorman, had in the mean time, been thrown across the river at Edward's Ferry, five miles below. But when McClellan, who had hurried

up from Washington, arrived on the field, and examined the state of affairs, the whole force was ordered back again to Maryland. Colonel Lander was at once appointed to take the place made vacant by the death of Baker, but was almost immediately rendered unfit for the field by a wound which he received in a skirmish with the enemy.

CAVALRY CHARGE OF ZAGONII.

Four days after the battle of Ball's Bluff, a little light broke through the cloud that hung over Fremont's operations in Missouri. Hearing that Springfield, fifty-one miles from his camp, was held by only three hundred rebels, he dispatched Major Zagonyi, a Hungarian, with his body guard of a hundred and fifty, to seize it in advance of his arrival. Putting himself at the head of his gallant band, this officer started off at eight o'clock in the evening, and

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