Page images
PDF
EPUB

ELLSWORTH'S APPEARANCE AND CHARACTERISTICS.

111

faculty in a high degree, which is always an element of intellectual greatness the faculty of controlling the wills of others around him. There was also an originality, we may even say grandeur and dignity, in his manner, his voice, his whole person, while engaged in the process of drilling, which was a triumph of martial genius and beauty. At his first word of command, uttered by a voice singularly manly but melodious, with an accent remarkably firm and crisp, every eye brightened, every head became erect, each man instantly became himself, in all his physical and mental fulness; and then followed such a display of skill and precision in the most elaborate and difficult species of drill known to the profession of arms, as was rarely witnessed. Though not large in person, Ellsworth exhibited as much graceful sublimity and physical grandeur in a field exercise, as any orator could display in the midst of his most imposing and impassioned flight of eloquence. Nor will this result appear anomalous when we remember the masterly thoughts which lay at the foundation of his military system. When he commenced his training of the Chicago Zouaves, he trained himself with a degree of vigor which was astonishing. He practiced the manual of arms with so much industry, that he became one of the best marksmen and ablest swordsmen in America. He investigated the theory of every motion with particular reference to the principles of anatomical science; and so arranged each movement that it became the logical and legitimate groundwork of the one which succeeded it. Thus it was that he introduced a sort of scientific unity and harmony into the manual of arms which had not before existed in it. This was the stroke of a master; this, the indication and the presence of superior, creative genius-a genius similar in nature to that which the young Napoleon exhibited when, to the horror of all the military drones and fossils of Europe, he not only constantly vanquished the Austrians in Italy, but vanquished them in utter defiance of the established and immemorial usages of the military art. So far had Ellsworth trained himself, in order that he might successfully train others, that a photograph of his naked arm, taken at the period of his visit to Philadel phia, was a model of anatomical and physical beauty; it was an arm whose formidable accumulation of muscles and sinews, and whose faultless proportion of outline presented such a picture as Michael Angelo or Rubens would have painted, when representing on canvas the ancient Greek conception of the forms of Hector or Hercules.

After the return of the Chicago Zouaves to that city, Ellsworth engaged with zeal in the Presidential campaign which ensued; and strange as it may appear, this youth, so richly gifted as a soldier, proved himself as highly endowed for another sphere. He distinguished himself as one of the most effective and popular of the orators, who, in the State of Illinois, advocated the claims of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency. As a speaker he was peculiar for his strong, clear sense, mixed with a degree of wit and repartee

such as few orators possess. After the termination of the campaign, and when the war-clouds began to darken the political horizon, and roll up with portentous gloom from the rebellious South, he tendered his services to the new President. He then proceeded to the city of New York in order to select, from the numerous body of firemen in that city, the materials for an entire regiment of Zouaves. Having obtained these, he removed to Fort Hamilton for the purpose of drilling. After his new recruits had become partially fit for service, through his untiring labors, he proceeded with them to Washington. Their subsequent career is involved in the history of the events which ensued in the vicinity of the Federal capital. Had this gallant young commander survived to take part in the battle of Bull Run, it is not improbable that the presence and influence of his dauntless courage on the field, might have diminished, though it could not have averted, the horrors and the ignominy of that struggle.

It is proper that at this stage of our history, we should narrate the chief incidents connected with the three months' campaign of the Federal forces in Virginia, under the command of General Robert Patterson. On the 30th of June, 1861, the different brigades comprising the division were consolidated into one body, preparatory to their crossing the Potomac. Two enterprises of importance to the Federal cause, were assigned by popular opinion and popular wishes, to this portion of the Union forces. The first was the expulsion of the Rebels under Johnston from Harper's Ferry; the second was intercepting the march of that general to Manassas, and preventing the junction of his troops with those commanded by General Beauregard. Neither of these purposes was ultimately accomplished. When the Union forces, nearly twenty thousand strong, began to move toward Virginia, instead of advancing directly to Harper's Ferry, for the achievement of the first of these enterprises, the route taken was toward Williamsport. The enemy were left in undisturbed possession of Harper's Ferry, until, at a later period, when the Rebel generals perceived the greater importance of concentrating their forces at Manassas, General Johnston evacuated the place, having previously destroyed a vast amount of Federal property, and the public works erected there. After its evacuation, General Patterson, instead of intercepting, if his force were sufficiently large for that purpose, the march of Johnston toward Manassas, proceeded to occupy the deserted and desolate town; and entered it on the very day on which the battle of Manassas was fought, and by the very road on which the Rebel general had marched from it. It was thus that neither of the enterprises anticipated by the popular will was achieved by the division of General Patterson.

It was on the 2d of July, that his troops crossed the Potomac, by the ford at Williamsport. The process began at dawn of day, and continued

BATTLE OF FALLING WATERS.

113

until near nightfall. Before the fording commenced, a skirmish took place between the Federal pickets, which had been thrown over the river on the preceding day, and the Berkley Border Guard. General Abercrombie's brigade were in the advance of the Federal forces; and having crossed the Potomac, they continued their march on the turnpike leading from Williamsport to Martinsburg, across the neck of land which is formed by the bend of the river, which takes place at that point. The pickets of the enemy were first seen at Falling Waters, five miles distant from Williamsport. They retired, and about a mile beyond, the encoun ter took place which has been designated as the battle of Falling Waters. This imposing title was applied to a small but pretty stream, whose limpid waters flow over a mill-dam, and perform the useful function of filling the race, which turns the wheels of a solitary grist mill. It was situated a short distance from the Potomac. The skirmish which ensued was sustained on the Federal side by a portion of Abercrombie's brigade, consisting of the eleventh Pennsylvania and first Wisconsin regiments, McMullen's Independent Rangers, the Philadelphia City Troop, and Perkin's battery of six guns. After a short but spirited engagement the Rebels were routed, and were pursued for the distance of two miles as far as the village of Hainesville. The rear guard of the enemy were about being captured, when orders arrived from General Patterson to stop the pursuit. Both the battle and the chase occupied nearly two hours. The Rebels were commanded by Colonel, afterward General, Jackson; and his forces in the action comprised an entire brigade. The Federal troops then proceeded to encamp; and occupied the position which Jackson had deserted. On the next day they advanced to Martinsburg, which the enemy evacuated at their approach, and it was thus occupied without opposition. The Federal loss at Falling Waters was insignificant, being wo killed and five wounded.

After a delay of nearly two weeks at Martinsburg, by which means the period of the enlistment of the Federal troops was very sensibly dimin ished, General Patterson again commenced to move. On the 15th of July, the march began toward Winchester. Nearly the whole division proceeded as far as Bunker Hill, ten miles from Martinsburg, before nightfall. At Bunker Hill a small body of Rebels had been encamped, who retreated as the Federal troops approached. At this place, which is twelve miles distant from Winchester, the Federals remained for two days. Here the pickets of the armies of Johnston and Patterson were often within hailing distance of each other. On the 17th of July the march was resumed by General Patterson before daylight, and the advance toward Winchester was continued; but before his rear guard had entirely descended the sides of Bunker Hill, or had reached the road which led to Winchester, a countermarch was ordered, the route to that town was abandoned, and the whole division proceeded twelve miles east

ward. By this detour Winchester was left on the flank, and a wide area was opened by which General Johnston might transport his troops at any moment, and with perfect safety, toward Manassas. The Federal forces were placed in camp at Charlestown; and as soon as Johnston became assured that this flank movement was not intended to operate against him, and that there was no danger that he would be attacked in bis intrenchments at Winchester, he left a small detachment to occupy them, and hastened to Manassas. After remaining four days at Charlestown, General Patterson enlarged the space between himself and the enemy, by proceeding to Harper's Ferry, which had been evacuated and burned by the Rebels some time previous. Soon after this date the term of the enlistment of the Federal troops, as well as the period of the appointment of General Patterson as their commander, expired; and thus the first army of the Potomac dissolved and vanished from view. If the men and officers who composed this army had not achieved any result of importance to the cause of the Union, if they had not gained any victory of conse quence over the forces of the enemy, it was not from the want of valor or patriotism on their part; for on every occasion on which they were permitted to encounter the Rebels, or to exhibit the spirit which actuated them, they displayed the coolness and bravery of veterans, the zeal and ardor of patriots.

THE BATTLE OF GREAT BETHEL.

CHAPTER VIII.

115

THE ENCOUNTERS WITH THE REBEL TROOPS AT FAIRFAX COURT HOouse, at aquIA CREEK, AT ROMNEY, AT PHILIPPI-GALLANTRY OF COLONEL KELLEY-BATTLE OF GREAT BETHEL —CAUSES OF THE DISASTER-GENERAL PIERCE-DEATH OF LIEUTENANT GREBLE-SKETCH OF HIS CAREER UNION SENTIMENT IN WESTERN VIRGINIA-THE NEW STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA-HARPER'S FERRY Devastated bY THE REBELS—THE OHIO TROOPS FIRED on near VIENNA-RESULTS OF THE ATTACK-OPERATIONS OF GENERAL MCCLELLAN IN WESTERN VIRGINIA-HIS ADMIRABLE PLANS THE BATTLE OF RICH MOUNTAIN-GENERAL GARNETT -COLONEL ROSECRANS-RESULTS OF THE ENGAGEMENT-SKETCH OF GENERAL MCCLELLAN -HIS CONduct durING THE MEXICAN WAR-HIS RECONNOISSANCE OF THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS-HIS SECRET MISSION TO THE WEST INDIES-HIS JOURNEY TO THE CRIMEAHIS OFFICIAL REPORT AS COMMISSIONER-HIS SUBSEQUENT MOVEMENTS-HE BECOMES COMMANDER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF OHIO.

MANY incidents occur during the progress of a conflict like that against the Rebels of the South, which excite intense interest, and which are in themselves not entirely destitute of importance at the period of their occurrence, but which, after the lapse of time, and when they are considered in connection with the grand current of events, necessarily become of trivial and inferior consequence. Among such incidents it is proper here to enumerate the different skirmishes which took place between the detachments of Federal and Rebel troops at Fairfax Court House, at Aquia Creek, at the village of Romney, and at Philippi in Western Virginia. At Romney a Rebel camp had been formed. Colonel Wallace, who commanded one of the Indiana regiments, marched from Cumberland to Hampshire county and attacked the troops collected there. The Rebels were surprised by the movement and completely routed; their camp equipage, their provisions and their arms were captured; and a decisive reverse inflicted on them by the bravery of Colonel Wallace and his men. A similar contest attended by a similar result took place at Philippi. The assault upon the enemy who held possession of that town, was led in person with great gallantry by Colonel Kelley. The Rebels were defeated and expelled from their position. The most important incident connected with this engagement was the wounding of the commanding officer, who was shot in the breast. The wound was at first regarded as mortal; but Colonel Kelley eventually recovered, to resume active service in defence of the Union, and to receive the rank of brigadier general, to which his merits fully entitled him.

The first serious disaster to the Federal arms which occurred during the progress of the war, took place at Great Bethel, on the 10th of June, 1861. General Butler, who then commanded a large body of troops at Fortress Monroe, having ascertained that there was established a camp at a place ten miles distant from Hampton, which they had strongly fortified,

« PreviousContinue »