Page images
PDF
EPUB

88

GENERAL COLELLAN.

and clearer ideas of the rights and powers of the general gov. ernment, saw was foolish and suicidal.

MC CLELLAN ASSUMES COMMAND IN VIRGINIA.

Western Virginia, having taken a decided stand for the Union, asked for assistance in men and arms to drive the rebels over the mountains. George B. McClellan, appointed by the President as major-general, was ordered to take charge of this department. Educated at West Point, he saw active service in Mexico, and afterwards, with two others, was sent by the government to the Crimea to witness the grand military operations going on there between Russia and the combined forces of England and France. Returning from this mission, he resigned his position in the army to accept the more lucrative one of President of a western railroad. At the breaking out of the rebellion his services were sought for, and he was the first to receive the appointment of majorgeneral in the regular army, thus ranking next to General Scott, for General Wool was only major-general by brevet. Just before starting for Virginia, in the latter part of May, he issued an address to his soldiers full of spirit and patriotism, and another to the people of Virginia. His presence there, and the occupation of Virginia by our troops in front of Washington, stung the pride of the south, and roused the secessionists to the highest pitch of indignation. The northern hordes had dared to pollute with hostile feet southern soil, and ine cry rung over the siave states to rise and hurl back the daring invaders. The Potomac, from just below Alexandria, nearly to Fortress Monroe, began to be lined with their batteries, while from little above Washington, the river, for most of the way, also served as a dividing line be. tween the hostile forces. The movements of cur troops, however, rendered the occupation of Harper's Ferry which

1

BATTLE OF PHILIPPI.

89

the rebels had held since Lieutenant Jones set fire to the public works there untenable, and they evacuated it. Their main force was rapidly concentrating at Manassas Junction, a strong natural position, about thirty miles southward from Washington. Skirmishing between the pickets along the lines was now incessant, relieved occasionally by more or less important engagements between large bodies of troops.

[ocr errors][merged small]

One of the most important of these engagenients occurred on the third of June at Philippi between a force of the enemy, variously estimated at fifteen hundred and two thousand under Colonel Porterfield, and four regiments of Union troolis in two divisions commanded by Colonels Lander and Kelly.

The two latter left Grafton at ten o'clock at night on the • second of June, and proceeding by railroad to within twenty

five miles of Philippi, disembarked their troops in a terrible storm of rain. The columns were formed in total darkness, and set forward rapidly. In dead silence they pushed on through the storm, but the darkness and mud so impeded their progress that they did not arrive before Philippi till near light. The attack was to be in two divisions, Colonel Kelly making a circuit so as to take them in rear, while Colonel Lander should move on them in front. The hour fiscal for the attack was four o'clock in the morning, but Colonel Kelly was unable to be at the designated place at that hour. Colonel Lander's command, in the mean time, stood ad waited in the darkness for the order to advance, till daylight revealed them to the enemy. The Colonel, then, seeing the enemy's camp

in commotion, and fearing they were about to escape by flight, ordered his artillery, situated on the brow of a hill, to open upon them. At that moment the columr. of Colonel Kelly came in sight across the river below the

[blocks in formation]

camp, and hearing the heavy boom of Lander's guns, rushed forward with a shout. The rebels hearing the rapid roll of drums in front and rear, and catching sight of the gleaming bayonets, turned and fled in confusion. Kelly broke with a shout into the town only to find it emptied of the enemy. Passing along, he suddenly fell from his horse, shot by some one concealed behind a fence or in a house. He was struck full in the breast, and was supposed at first to be mortally wounded. Wagons loaded with munitions of war, forage, officer's blankets, and baggage were abandoned by the enemy in their precipitate flight, and fell into our hands.

Another small affair occurred in the latter part of this month, which provoked a great deal of comment at the north. General Schenck of Ohio was sent with six hundred and sixty-eight men to take possession of Vienna, a small village in front of our lines on the Potomac. Leaving companies stationed at different points along the

pro.. ceeded with four companies in the cars to within a quarter of a mile of the place, when he run right into masked batteries placed near the road. The balls went crashing through the cars, when the engine was suddenly stopped, the men hurried out, and ordered to fall back along the road. instead of following up his success, and completing the destruction of the detachment, thinking a larger force close at hand, also retreated. Our loss, in killed, wounded, and missing, was twenty-one. This marching on the enemy in a railroad train, without any scouts being sent in advance to reconnoiter, was looked upon as a most extraordinary mode of próceeding, and received the severest condemnation. It was, however, strictly in keeping with the unreasonable, headlong spirit of the north, that seemed to think our brave troops had only to take the first train, and rush unchecked over the south.

Thus the month of June wore slowly away, without any

way, he

The enemy,

THE SUMTER AT SEA.

91

thing decisive being done, and serving only to reveal the chaos and embarrassments in which the country was strug. gling. Fugitive slaves escaping to our army now began to present a problem difficult of solution. What should be done with them, was a question pressed on the government from every side.

General Butler, who had been placed in command in Maryland, had, for the time being, disposed of it by calling them "contraband of war;" and they aiterwards took the name of “contrabands,”—a species of property not before recognized in 'international law. But it was becoming apparent that the question was too complicated to admit of a solution in this way.

The close of the month was signalized by the capture of the schooner Savannah, the first rebel privateer that had ventured out upon the ocean.

All eyes were now turned towards the approaching sessica of Congress. Its presence was required to sanction some of the acts of the President, which, though deenied necessary by all, were felt by the best men of the country to need the authority of Congress. Many, however, who were familiar with Congressional history, and remembered how it had always, from the Re:olution down, made politics paramount to success in the field, trembled with anxiety. While the members were slowly gathering to the Capital, on the first of July, the commercial men of the north were startled with the report that the first formidable privateer, the steamer Sumter, had escaped the blockade at New Orleans, and was off on her mission of destruction on the deep. Whether she would waylay our richly freighted steamers from California, or sweep down on our unprotected commerce on the Atlantic, no one could tell ; and in the uncertainty attached to her career, her power to work mischief became greatly may. nified in the public imagination

CHAPTER VI.

JUNE, 1861.

MCCLELLAN TAKES COMMAND OF THE ARMY IN WESTERN VIRGINIA-ADVANCES

ON THE ENEMY--BATTLE OF RICH MOUNTAIN_GALLANT ACTION OF ROSE

CRANZOF LANDER-DEFEAT OF PEGRAM AND CAPTURE OF HIS FORCESPURSUIT OF GARNETT-ACTION OF CARRICK'S FORD-A TERRIBLE MARCH DEATH OF GARNETT AND DEFEAT OF HIS FORCES-COX ON THE KANAWIAS ACTION OF BARBOURSVILLE--RETREAT OF WISE-CLOSE OF THE CAMPAIGN

IN WESTERN VIRGINIA-SIGEL

IN MISSOURI-BATTLE OF CARTHAGE_HIS

ADMIRABLE RETREAT-STATE OF KENTUCKY UNIONISM IN EASTERN TEN

NESSEE.

WHILE

HILE Congress was thus consulting on the proper

way to conduct the war, and a portion of the Northern press was furnishing General Scott and the administration with gratuitous counsel respecting their duty, General McClellan, who had taken command in person in Western Virginia, was showing what a competent military leader, conducting war on strictly strategic principles, could accomplish. On the 22d of June, Pierpont, who had been elected provisional governor of Virginia by the loyal inhabe itants west of the Blue Ridge, issued his proclamation, calling together the new constitutional legislature of the state. On the 23d, General McClellan issued his proclamation, stating the course he should pursue towards those who were loyal, and those found with arms in their hands against the general government. Immediately after, he began his series of movements, which met with no successful resistance till he had finished the work assigned him. With a definite object in view, he pushed straight forward, deterred neither by mountains, streams, almost impassable roads, nor the enemy, till he accomplished what he set out to perform,

« PreviousContinue »