« PreviousContinue »
the army, however, it did not bring equal exultation, for it was not known whether another battle was yet to be fought. Lee still confronted our lines, but no general movements took place. But he had resolved on retreat, and by next morning his columns were retracing their steps, over the Cumberland Mountains, on their way back to the Potomac, leaving thirteen thousand, six hundred and twenty-one prisoners in our hands—so that if his loss in killed and wounded was no greater than ours, his total loss would have been over thirty thousand. But as the attacking party, unless successful, always suffers the most, a large number must be added to this, showing that Lee had good cause for retreating, vithout assigning, as he did, the lack of ammunition, and the strength of our position, as the reasons.
He saved his artillery, with the exception of two or three guns, though he left twenty-five thonsand small arms strewn through the fields and woods.
With his splendid army thus shivered into fragments, he recrossed the Cumberland Mountains, and pressed rapidly towards the Potomac. Sedg. wick, with the Sixth Corps, was sent in pursuit, but on reaching Fairfield Pass, he found it so strongly. held that he was compelled to abandon it, and then pressed towards the Potomac on the east side of the Cumberland Mountains, to intercept Lee's march. The cavalry, moving by different routes, harassed him continually, capturing trains and prizoners, and keeping the tired troops continually on the aler... A portion of the force, under General French, destroyed the enemy's pontoon train, at Falling Waters. Kilpatrick clung to the rebel army with a tenacity that did not allow it a moment's rest. At midnight, in a furious thunder storm, he charged down the mountain, through the darkness, with unparalleled boldness, and captured the entire train of Ewell's division, eight miles long. At Emmettsburg, Hagerstown, and other places, he smote the enemy with blow after
À DANGEROUS POSITION.
blow. Buford, Gregg, Custis, and others, performed deeds which, but for the greater movements that occupied public attention, would have filled the land with shouts of admira-' tion. In fact, the incessant, protracted labors of the cavalry, during this campaign, rendered it useless for some time. That it was so effective, was due to Hooker, who took great pains in its organization, when he assumed command of the Army of the Potomac.
Before Lee reached the Potomac, a heavy rain storm set in swelling the river so that all the fords were impassable. This seemed a special interposition of Providence, and the country looked to see Lee's army utterly destroyed or captured, before he could get across.
Meade, having spent the 5th and 6th in burying his dead and caring for the wounded, followed the enemy, by a flank movement, to Middletown, Md., and thence passed through South Mountain, and, on the 12th, was in front of Lee, drawn up on the heights of Marsh Run, near Williamsport. À whole week had thus been allowed to pass away, while Lee looked with anxious gaze on the turbulent waters of the Potomac, whose loud, monotonous roar seemed to scoff at his helpless condition. No sooner did the flood begin to subside, than another storm would set in, sending the water in torrents down the slopes of the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies, and keeping the stream full to the top of its banks. It was a tantalizing condition for Lee, and seemed ominous of evil, for such a sustained freshet in July was a thing unheard of. It seemed sent on purpose to destroy him— just as the early and severe Winter, in Russia, came to overthrow the grand army of Napoleon. The whole country was kept in a state of the highest excitement, for a majority of the people believed that the escape of Lee, the year before, near the same place, after the battle of Antietam, was owing to the negligence or incapacity of McClellan.
THE SANITARY COMMISSION.
Though Lee then got off, the first night after the battle, and under cover of the darkness, his escape seemed unpardonable. Hence, it was belicved that if Meade should do his dutyswelled as his army was by reinforcements, and with ample time before him-Lee could not escape.
But the latter was unmolester?, and, gathering timber from the neighboring country, he constructed a bridge, and, the water at length falling, he transferred his entire army, trains, and munitions of war, safely into Virginia. The cavalry took some prisoners at Falling Waters, and Gregg's cavalry attacked and harassed the enemy at Charlestown and Shepherdstown; yet the latter escaped comparatively scathless—to the chagrin, disappointment, and ill-suppressed murmurings of the people.
Meade crossed the Potomac, and moved down the Loudon Valley on Lee's flank, hoping to cross his line of march somewhere; but the latter leisurely pursued his way to the Rapidan; and the Army of the Potomac, at the close of July, took up its position on the banks of the Rappañannock; and the campaign was over. It had been a grand succes by our arms, marred only by the strange delays and inaction that allowed Lee to rest a week on the northern bank of the Potomac, and then get off without a blow being dealt him.
It would not be just to pass by this great battle without alluding to the efforts of the Sanitary Commission to relieve and care for the wounded. Never before was such a prodigality of expenditure in the way of charity, witnessed on a battle-field. Its agents, trains and supplies were everywhere Clothing, medicines, food and luxuries were in profusios. Hospitals sprung up like magic on all sides, till it has nearly fifteen thousand wounded under its kind and generous protection. Its blessed charities, distributed alike to friend and foe, shed a benign radiance over the scene of slaughter, and rescued it from half its horrors.