Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XVII.

JANUARY, 1862

OPENING OF

THE

NEW YEAR AROUND WASHINGTONAT PENSACOLA-BOMBARDMENT OF FORT PICKENS-FIGHT AT PORT ROYAL THE SAME DAY-EXPEDITION BY

MILROY IN WESTERN VIRGINIA—JACKSON ADVANCES TO THE POTOMAC AND

TEARS UP THE BALTIMORE AND OHIO RAIL ROAD---FIGHT OPPOSITE HANCOCK-FIGAT AT BLUE'S GAP-BATTLE OF MIDDLE CREEK, KENTOCKY, AND VICTORY OF GARFIELD-POPE IN MISSOURI.

1

TH

HE new

year opened with comparative quiet around Washington, and indeed all along the great line of defense that crossed half the continent. Even at Richmond, the rebel Capital, more than usual gaiety prevailed; but far off

, on the southern coast, the thunder of cannon heralded it in with. ceremonies more becoming the terrible scenes of

were to mark its passage.

that

carnage

FIGHT AT PENSACOLA.

On new year's morning, a small rebel steamer was observed from fort Pickens, making her way towards Pensacola navy yard, waving a secession flag in a defiant manner. As she drew near the fort, it opened a fire on her, sending the shot and shell so thickly around her that she beat a hasty retreat. The rebel batteries on shore immediately replied, and a ter· rific artillery fight commenced which lasted all day. Both sides had been so long occupied in obtaining the accurate

of each other, that the firing was characterized by great precision. Shells fell like hail stones within the fort, and thundered incessantly on its massive walls, while its own heavy guns hurled a terrible storm of iron on the opposing

range

batteries

234

A FIERCE CANNONADE,

The sun went down on the fight and darkness fell over land and water, yet the heavy cannonading was kept up. The fort, however, confined itself chiefly to its thirteen-inch mortars, but the enemy kept all its batteries in full play. As night deepened, the scene became indescribably grand. Every shell could be traced in its course by its burning fuse, till it burst in flame on the shore. The screaming missiles crossed each other in their flight, weaving a strange tracery in the gloom, and lighting up as by incessant flashes of lightning, that dark structure and the resounding shores and distant shipping During the night the navy yard was set on fire by our shells, and burst into fierce conflagration, casting a lurid glare on the heavens, and shedding a strange, weird light on island, stream, and forest. Its reflection was seen forty miles at sea. The heavy thunder, however, gradually died away, and when the dull gray light of morning broke over the desolate scene, the useless bombardment ceased. But little damage was done on either side, and if there had been, no important result would have been gained, for neither was in a condition to take advantage of any success it might achieve. Bragg, commanding the rebels, if he had effected a breach, would not have dared to storm the works, while Brown, commanding the fort, even if he had dismounted every battery, had no force with which to seize and hold the piace.

On this same new year's morning, a combined attack of the land and naval forces at Port Royal, was made on the enemy who had concentrated in large numbers in the vicinity, with the intention of driving our army out of Beaufort. Rodgers commanded the naval force, which was to protect the debarkation of a part of the troops under Steven’s, at Haywood's landing, and to cover the route of the column to Adams' plantation, and then protect the landing of the rest.

The rebels were driven from their battery, at

[blocks in formation]

Port Royal ferry, and our troops took possession of it. The former made a feeble resistance, and our total loss out of a force of some three thousand men, was only ten or twelve killed and wounded. The movement was well planned and skilfully carried out. The enemy's works were destroyed, themselves driven five miles into the interior, and the navigation of Broad and Coosaw rivers which it was their intention to close, permanently opened to our transports and gun boats.

The night before new year's, an expedition; composed of seven hundred men and thirty-eight cavalry, all under command of Major Webster, was sent by Milroy, in Western Virginia, to destroy a quantity of rebel stores known to be accumulated at Huntersville, in Pocahontas county, about forty miles from Staunton. New year's morning was freezing cold, and the wintry wind from the snow-clad mountains swept in fierce gusts across the open valley where the detachment had encamped. The bugle that summoned them to the march at daylight, had any thing but a cheerful sound in the howling blast, but the men left their blazing fires with alacrity, and marched twelve miles to the foot of Elk mountain, and encamped in a pine grove whose dark arcades were soon all aglow with the roaring camp fires. Here they found the road so blockaded by fallen trees, that they were compelled to leave behind their ambulances and wagons, and take a mountain trail which led to the summit. Keeping on their way, they at length came in sight of the enemy at a bridge over Green Brier river, about six miles from Huntersville. The rebels retreated, and the detachment followed in pursuit till it came within two miles of the town, when it again - encountered them. Askirmish followed, and the rebels again fell back, while the cheers and shouts that fol. lowed them made the mountains ring. At length their cavalry drew up in imposing force on a level plain as if about to charge, but as the excited little band dashed toward them

236

EXPEDITION OF-JACKSON,

on a run, they turned and fled. The whole force then broke on the double quick into the town, shouting like madmen. The enemy had all fled, and Major Webster finding six buildings filled with provisions set fire to them, and by the light of the conflagration took up his backward march.

The expedition was gone six days in all, and marched in that time over a hundred miles.

The rebel General Jackson, stationed at Winchester, also chose the first day of the new year on which to start an expedition towards the Potomac, for the double purpose of clearing out our scattered forces between him and the river, and tear up the track of the Baltimore and Ohio rail road.

On Saturday, the fourth, as they approached Bath, they surprised forty men of the Thirty-ninth Illinois, out on a scout, and killed one and took eight prisoners.

The regiment at Bath immediately planted cannon, so as to com. mand the roads leading to the place, and soon as the rebels came in view, opened on them. Colonel Murray, with the Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania, hastened over the river to its support, but on arriving and assuming command, he ordered a retreat, leaving all his stores and camp equipage in the hands of the enemy.

It was a terribly cold day; and both parties suffered severely. An artillery fire was kept up as we retreated, and the regiments effected a safe passage across the river to' Hancock, on the Maryland shore.

The next morning at daybreak, the rebels appesred on the opposite bank, and commenced shelling the town. No damage, however, was done, and they contented themselves with tearing up the rail road track. In the mean time, Lander arrived, and prepared to defend the town, The rebels

, however, made no farther attempt, and on Tuesday, retired, taking with them a few prisoners.

On this same day, (the seventb,) an expedition from

FIGAT AT. BLUE'S GAP.

237

Kello y's command at Romney, which had set out at midnight, approached Blue's Gap. The night had been clear and cold, and the ground was covered with six inches of snow, which made the march slippery and difficult. But the men, though benumbed with frost, pressed forward with spirit, and after proceeding some fourteen miles, came up with the outposts of the enemy, just as the cold, wintry morning was broadening over the mountains. The latter turned and fled; and though the Gap was still some two miles distant, Colonel Dunning in command) shouted "Forward! Double quick !'" The excited troops started off on a trot, and as the measured foot-falls beat the frozen ground, they sent up a shout which they kept up in a sort of measured cadence to their tread. They thus unfortunately announced their coming, so that the enemy was prepared to receive them.

FIGHT AT BLUE'S GAP.

The Gap in which they had taken position was formed by two high hills, which, as they approached the road, became two precipices, leaving a gorge not more than twenty or thirty feet wide, through which wound a narrow road skirted by a stream. Here the enemy had planted two cannon, while the hill on the north side was protected by a rifle pit. The one on the south side was left undefended, it being considered too precipitous for any troops to scale. Just before reaching the Gap, a bridge crossed the stream, which the enemy undertook to tear up; but before they could accomplish it, the advance guard was upon them, and replacing the uptorn planks, dashed across. Colonel Dunning then drew up his force, and ordered the Ohio Fifth to charge on the rifle pits, the Fourth to scale the steep south mountain, and the Seventh, when the action had fairly commenced, to push straight along the road. The Fifth mounted the hill in

« PreviousContinue »