« PreviousContinue »
After various successful skirmishes, he came in presence of the enemy under Colonel Pegram, formerly an officer in the United States army, strongly posted on Rich Mountain. The force of the latter numbered some four thousand men, and stood drawn up in order of battle at the foot of the mountain. He had rolled down trees from the sides, and lapped them together, filling in with earth and stones, behind which he had placed his army. McClellan, after reconnoitering the position, sent General Rosecrans with some Indiana regiments and one Ohio régiment, together with a body of Cincinnati cavalry, to get in their rear. Taking a hasty breakfast, they started about daylight, and entering the woods, preceded by a guide, pushed resolutely forward towards the top of the mountain, where the rebels had an intrenchment directly in rear of their main army. There had been a cold mountain rain, and the bushes were dripping wet, which soon drenched the soldiers to their skins. But keeping their ammunition dry, they pushed on in dead silence through the tangled laurel bushes, and over the rocks, still toiling upward--the daring, chivalrous Lander keeping close to the guide-till after a march of five miles amid unparalleled hardships, they arrived at noon, at the top of the mountain. McClellan intended to keep the enemy in profound ignorance of the movement, but a diagram of the route, which had been sent after the column with dispatches, was captured by them and thus revealed the whole strategem. Pegram immediately dispatched twenty-five hundred men and three pieces of artillery to the top of the mountain to resist the advance of Rosecrans. Arriving there before him, they greeted his arrival with a sudden discharge of cannon: The day had been overcast, and now the long; threatening clouds began to descend in torrents on the weary column. Rosecrans had no cannon with him, for it was impossible to drag guns up the rough
ROSECRANS AND LANDER.
and tangled path the troops were compelled to cut for themselves. This unexpected resistance arrested the progress of the column. Halting in its place, it stood still for half an hour in the pouring rain, while the necessary reconnoissances were made. The bushes were so thick that the opposing forces could not be seen, and the whereabouts of the enemy was known only by the dull explosions of cannon in front, whose shot crashed through the tree tops above them, scattering the shattered limbs on every side. Colonel Lander immediately took twenty sharp shooters and hurrying forward, posted them behind some rocks, and began to pick off the gunners. But as fast as they fell others took their places, when Lander endeavored to make his little handful charge the guns. The attempt, however, was too desperate, and they refused to obey. He then coolly seated himself on the rocks in open view of the rebel artillery, to show them there was no danger. They still hesitating to follow him, he called to the chaplain to come up and sit by his side, that the men might see how harmless the enemy's fire
But the latter not deeming this extraordinary movement to be a part of his duties, declined the invitation, and the gallant colonel was compelled to abandon his desperate purpose.
In the mean time, an Indiana regiment came up, and the order to "fix bayonets” ran along the undaunted line. The rattle of the iron sounded ominously in the pelting storm.
The next moment an Ohio regiment, posted on a rising piece of ground, poured in a volley, and then the Indianians with a loud and ringing cheer sprang forward. The enemy, pánic stricken, broke and fed with the exception of a single man, who stood to his gun till he was shot down by a revolver. Rending the air with their loud hur: rahs, the victorious troops now pressed forward, driving the enemy back full three hundred yards, when the bugle sounded a recall. They then halted and formed in line of
PURSUIT OF GARNETT.,
95 battle, to receive the force of Pegram at the foot of the hill, which they supposed would immediately advance to meet them. But dismayed at this sudden apparition in their rear, the latter broke for the woods, and fled in every directior.. McClellan, in the meantime, was cutting a road through the woods towards the intrenchments at the foot of the hill. The heavy firing came down to him from the top of the mountain, and ignorant of the result of the contest there, he kept pushing on through the driving storm, till he came to the enemy's works. Cautiously advancing against them, he found them to his surprise, deserted. Guns, tents, horses, baggage, every thing had been abandoned in their wild flight.
Many prisoners were taken, while the mountain was strewed with the dead and wounded-one hundred and fifty being buried on the field. . Pegram, with about six hundred followers, after wandering about in the woods, and finding no way of escape, surrendered prisoners of war. General Garnett, stationed a few miles distant, near Beverly, with six thousand men, hearing of Pegram's defeat, commenced a hurried retreat through the mountains. General Morris took possession of his camp on Laurel Hill, on the 12th,---next day at eleven o'clock five regiments of Ohio and Indiana troops started in pursuit.' The rebels had taken a by-road directly over the mountains, pushing straight for Cheat river. Our column pushed on that afternoon and encamped about two miles south of Leedsville. The next morning, at two o'clock, the loud reveille called up the weary soldiers, who snatching a hasty breakfast started after the fugitives. The rain soon began to fall in torrents, turning the roads into a bed of mortar, and making the wild and aesolate scene still more forbidding. They wanted no guide to direct the course which the enemy had taken, for the trampled mud, the abandoned tents, trunks, haversacks, and blankets, strew
A TERRIBLE MARCH.
ing the road marked plainly enough the route they had taken. Trees had been felled across the road to obstruct our passage, which the axe men ahead were compelled to clear away; and hour after hour, the only sounds that smote the ear, were the rapid blows of the axe, as though the stern occupation of the soldier had given place to that of the peaceful wood-chopper. Over creeks and rocks, across hills and through dense forests, the rebels took their course, hoping to elude pursuit-but like the western hunter on the track of his game, these western soldiers, pressed steadily after. Across swollen streams, up muddy heights, adown which the kneaded mire flowed like thick tar, they kept on, only halting long enough in the storm to snatch a bite of biscuit. At last they emerged from Laurel Mountain, and came out on Cheat river, at Kahler's ford. It was now noon, and after a halt, the tired troops were glad to dash into the stream, to wash off the mud of the mountains, which plastered them to their waistbands. As they emerged from the ford, they caught sight of the rear of the fleeing rebels, and at the second ford below, found them drawn up. in line of battle. But the first cannon shot set them in motion again, and throwing away their remaining baggage, even their canteens, they streamed in disorder forward. Again being pushed so close that their baggage train was in danger of falling into our hands, they a second time drew up in line of battle, and seemed determined to dispute our passage. But as soon as the baggage got under way, they resumed heir retreat,--the shouts of the teamsters, as they flogged the tired animals, rising in discordant sounds above the tree tops. It was a wild chase, through a wild country. Three miles farther on, they came to “Carrick's ford,” where the mountains receding away from the river, left an open space which had been turned into a farm. The bank of the stream here was fringed with laurel bushes, and a fence, while a
bluff, farther back, completely commanded the approach. On this, Garnett had placed his artillery, while the infantry was drawn up behind the laurel bushes and fence. It was a capital position, and no one knew it better than Garnett. With good troops under him he could hardly have been driven from it. The teams had been left standing in the stream, whether on purpose to draw our soldiers under fire, or from inability to proceed, was not known, and apparently as little heeded. The skirmishers dashed fearlessly up to the bank, when the teamsters called out, "Don't shoot, we are going to surrender.”
The captain then called out, "Colonel, they are going to surrender.” Colonel Steedman then ordered his regiment forward at the double quick, but as it came up shoulder to shoulder, Garnett shouted, “Fire!” The bank of the stream was instantly a long line of flame. The fearless Fourteenth Ohio, though taken by -surprise, never flinched, and halting only long enough to deliver one volley, sprang forward. At this moment the artiliery on the bluff opened, and had it been well directed would have shattered that regiment to atoms. But the shot flew just over their heads. Milroy's regiment then came up and delivered an oblique fire. In the mean time, Colonel Dumont, with six companies, was ordered to cross the stream some three hundred yards farther up, and ascending the hill take the enemy in rear. Before his difficult mission was fulfilled, the order was countermanded, and he was directed to proceed down the ford with his command, and charge them in front, on the road. Wheeling, he took the middle of the stream, wading down, often waist deep, through the fire, till he reached the position assigned him. Seeing his advance, the enemy broke, and crossing a wheat field, pushed for another ford, a quarter of a mile below. Reaching it, they dashed through the stream without stopping to defend the passage, and continued their flight