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The Ball's Bluff Disaster.



The Ball's Bluff Dieaster.

upon him with great vigor | New York city, commandabout three P. M., and was ing Company G, California met with admirable spirit regiment, seeing the assasby our troops. Though evidently struggling sination of Colonel Baker, rushed upon the against largely superior numbers, (nearly if ruffian, seized him by the throat, and shot not quite three to one,) they maintained their him dead on the spot with his revolver. ground and a most destructive fire upon the Colonel Lee then took command, and preenemy. Colonel Cogswell, with a small por-pared to commence throwing all his forces to tion of his (Tammany) regiment, succeeded in reaching the field in the midst of the heaviest fire. His men rushed into the conflict with a wild shout.

Lieutenant Bramhall, of Bunting's battery, succeeded, after great exertions, in bringing up a piece of the Rhode Island battery, and Lieutenant French, First artillery, his two mountain howitzers; but, while, for a short time, these maintained a well-directed fire, both officers and nearly all the men were soon borne away wounded, and the pieces were passed to the rear to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.

About four o'clock P. M., Colonel Baker, pierced by a number of balls, fell, at the head of his command, while cheering on his men, and by his own example maintaining the obstinate resistance they were making. In full uniform, with a "regulation" hat and feather, and mounted on his horse, he was a conspicuous mark for the sharpshooters. Entirely regardless of personal safety, he led and cheered on his men. He remarked to those around him, "A rascal up in that tree has fired at me five or six times;" and the rascal in the tree was speedily brought down by a well-directed ball. Soon after this Colonel Baker was surrounded by a body of rebel cavalry and taken prisoner; but the right wing of the battalion charged with the bayonet, routed the cavalry, killed numbers of them, and recaptured their Colonel.

But a few minutes had elapsed, however, when a tall, ferocious Virginian, with eyes fairly ablaze, came rushing from behind a tree, with a huge revolver in his hand, and, placing the weapon almost against the Colonel's head, inflicted a mortal wound. Not satisfied with his deadly work, he fired the second ball, while simultaneously the body was pierced with four bullets from the tops of trees. The brave Colonel fell lifeless from his horse. Captain Louis Berial, of

the rear, but Colonel Cogswell, of the Tammany regiment, being found to be senior in rank, assumed command, and ordered dispositions to be made immediately for marching to the left, and cutting a way through to Edwards' Ferry.

Unfortunately, just as the first dispositions were being made, an officer of the rebels rode rapidly to the front of the Tammany regiment and beckoned them towards the enemy. Whether the Tammany understood this as an order from one of its officers, or an invitation to close work, is not known; but the men responded to the gesture with a yell, and charged forward, carrying with them in their advance the rest of the line, which soon received a murderous fire from the enemy at close distance. The officers rapidly recalled their men, but in the position they had now placed themselves, it was impracticable to make the movement designed, and Colonel Cogswell reluctantly gave the order to retire. The enemy pursued to the edge of the bluff over the landing place, and thence poured in a heavy fire on the men who were endeavoring to cross to the island.

Rapid as the retreat necessarily was, there was no neglect of orders. The men formed near the river, deploying as skirmishers, and maintained for twenty minutes or more the unequal and hopeless contest rather than surrender.

The smaller boats had disappeared, no one knew whither. The largest boat, rapidly and too heavily laden, swamped some fifteen feet from the shore, and nothing was left to the gallant soldiers but to swim, surrender or die.

With a devotion worthy of the cause they were serving, officers and men, while quarter was being offered to such as would lay down their arms, stripped themselves of their swords and muskets, hurled them into the river to prevent their falling into

The Ball's Bluff Dis


the hands of the foe, and saved themselves as they could by swimming, floating on logs, or by concealing themselves in bushes and forests to make their way up and down the river, back to a place of crossing.

A correspondent present who appears to have been in General Stone's confidence, wrote:

The Ball's Bluff Disaster.

ordered the wounded there to be removed-established a patrol on the tow path opposite the island to the line of pickets near Monocacy; then returned to the left, to secure the troops there from disaster, preparing means of removing them as rapidly as pos sible.

Orders arrived from headquarters of the army of the Potomac to hold the island and Virginia shore at Edwards' Ferry at all haz

"While these scenes were being enacted on the right, General Stone was preparing for a rapid push forward to the road by which the enemy would re-ards, and promising reenforcements. Stone treat if driven, and entirely unsuspicious of the perilous condition of the troops on the right. The additional artillery had already been sent in anticipation, and General Stone was told by a messenger from Baker's position, that the Colonel could, with

out doubt, hold his own in case he did not advance. Half an hour later-say at half-past three P. M.-a similar statement was made by another messenger from Colonel Baker, and it was the expectation of

General Stone that an advance on the right would be made, so that he could push forward General Gorman. It was, as had been explained to Colonel Baker, impracticable to throw Gorman's brigade directly to the right, by reason of the battery in the wood, between which we had never been able to


This confidence in Baker's success is confirmed by the collateral evidence of Stone having telegraphed to General Banks a request for a brigade with which to occupy the Virginia side of the river, opposite Harrison's Island.

It was not, it would appear from official statements, until five P. M., that a messenger arrived from the field announcing to Stone the news of Colonel Baker's death. The messenger (Captain Canby) did not even then report a reverse, but complained that reenforcements were slow. Stone telegraphed word of Baker's loss to General Banks, and then hastened to the right to assume command. Before he reached the point opposite the island, evidences of disaster began to be met, in men who had crossed the river by swimming. Reaching the landing, the fact was asserted in a manner leaving no possible doubt. It was reported to the General that the enemy's force was ten thousand, that they were carrying all before them and would doubtless secure the island. His efforts were at once directed to the island's safety. He

forwarded additional intrenching tools to General Gorman, with instructions to intrench and hold out against any force that might appear. That evening General Stone learned by telegraph that General Banks was on the way to reenforce him, and at about three A. M., that officer arrived and assumed command.

One on the ground wrote; "After Colonel Devens' second advance, Colonel Baker seems to have gone to the field in person, but he has left no record of what officers and men he charged with the care of the boats, and insuring the regular passage of the troops. If any one was charged with this duty, it was not performed, for it appears that the reenforcements, as they arrived, found no system enforced, and the boats were delayed most unnecessarily in transporting back, a few at a time, the wounded that happened to arrive with attendants. Had an efficient officer been in charge at each landing, with one company guarding the boats, their full capacity would have been made serviceable, and sufficient men would have passed on to secure the success of his operation. The forwarding of artillery (necessarily a slow process) before its supporting force of infantry, also impeded the rapid assembling of an imposing force on the Virginia shore. The infantry which was waiting with impatience should have been first transported, and this alone would have made a difference in the infantry line at the time of attack of at least one thousand men---enough to have turned the scale in our favor."

The losses of the Federals, in this affair, never were accurately ascertained. About seventy were killed; as many were drowned and shot in the water; over one hundred and fifty were wounded; and about four hun

The Ball's Bluff Disaster.


dred were taken prisoners.* The rebel General in command, Evans, in his report of the conflict. stated his forces to have been twenty-five hundred, and his loss to have been three hundred killed and wounded. The Federal force, all told, was nineteen hundred, as follows: California, 570; Tammany, 360; Massachusetts Fifteenth, 653; Massachusetts Twentieth, 318.

It is painful to contemplate the full extent of this disaster. It was a defeat, but that was not the worst result: the slaughter which followed the defeat-the bravery and devotion which drove men into the swollen torrent, to perish by drowning and by being shot in the water-the swamping in mid stream of the flat-boat heavily ladened with the wounded, by which the agonies of two deaths were meted out to the doomed heroes --the dispersion of the army into small squads up and down the stream to be hunted like wild beasts-all form a picture over which men may be excused for weeping. It was one of the most distressing events of a distressing war.

As to the responsibility of the movement made, and of the surprise, the following orders will afford due light; they were found in the Colonel's hat, underneath the lining. Both were deeply stained with his blood. One of the bullets, which went through his head, carried away a corner of the first:

"EDWARDS' FERRY, Oct. 21st, 1861. "Colonel E. D. Baker, Commander of Brigade: "Colonel: In case of heavy firing in front of Harrison's Island, you will advance the California regiment of your brigade, or retire the regiments under Colonels Lee and Devens, now on the (almost rendered illegible by blood) Virginia side of the river, at your discretion-assuming command on arrival.

* The N. Y. Herald stated the losses as follows: Killed..


Wounded among prisoners.. Prisoners not wounded



166 100



"To the above must be added the killed and wound

ed of the Third Rhode Island battery, the First United States artillery, and the United States cavalry, which will probably swell the number to nine hundred and thirty, or nearly fifty per cent. of the whole force engaged."


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'HEADQUARTERS Corps of OBSERVATION, EDWARDS' FERRY, Oct. 22d-11:50. "E. D. Baker, Commanding Brigade:

"Colonel: I am informed that the force of the enemy is about four thousand, all told. If you can push them, you may do so as far as to have a strong position near Leesburg, if you can keep them before you, avoiding their batteries. If they pass Leesburg and take the Gum Spring road, you will not follow far, but sieze the first good position to cover

that road.

"Their desire is to draw us on, if they are obliged to retreat, as far as Goose Creek, where they can be reenforced from Manassas, and have a strong position.

"Report frequently, so that, when they are pushed, Gorman can come up on their flank.

"Yours, respectfully and truly, "CHARLES P. STONE, "Brigadier-General Commanding," The surprise was owing principally to the unusual sagacity exercised by the rebel General. His secresy of movement and of disposition-his effective arrangements for luring the Federal forces into danger-were such as to accomplish his ends despite the very careful and suspicious advances of his adversary. It was owing, secondarily, to Baker's neglect to read the second dispatch. The answer of Colonel Cogswell: "All right-go ahead!" served to reassure the commanding Colonel, and induced him to advance where advance was ruin. But, that does not relieve him from the responsibility incurred: it was his duty to have read the dispatch of his superior and directing officer, even in the midst of battle.

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The Enemy's Advance to the River.

uttered, after the disaster, against the Gene- | land as they gave way in ral. His arrest and long imprisonment in front of Washington. The Fort Lafayette followed; but, the War De- advance of the Federal partment will not fail to suffer for its course corps of Banks towards Edwards' Ferry and in his case when so many greater blunderers, Harrison's Island, on the 22d, was accompa in more responsible commands, were allowed nied by a corresponding gathering of the to repeat their errors, even to the loss of enemy in the vicinity of Leesburg, between great campaigns. which place and the river they erected batMcClellan, when inform-teries preparatory to disputing the Federal occupation. This position of matters, added to the fact that McClellan did not regard Leesburg as worth a struggle, induced him to order Banks back to Darnestown; where his army remained, with strong pickets thrown along the river. It was a double watch; for the Confederates, on the Virginia side, were ever on the alert, occasionally using light artillery on the detachments of Federal cavalry and scouts which dashed up and down the river, and not unfrequently crossed, to spread alarm in the rebel camps. The histo

The Drainesville Move- ed of the defeat, hastened to the vicinity. It somewhat disarranged his projected advance. Having determined and announced that there must be "no defeats in his command," it was as unwelcome as unexpected, and for a moment delayed his then inaugurated" pressure" of the enemy on his front. Leesburg was his by virtue of the retirement of the Confederate forces from Vienna and Harper's Ferry. The reconnoissance in force made by McCall, was simply a demonstration to compel the abandonment of the region around. Draines-ry of that guard-mounting and reconnoiterville was not held-McCall retiring from it after a two days' occupation, on Monday, October 21st, the day of the disaster at Edwards' Ferry. When McClellan received word of the movement over the Potomac, by Stone, he countermanded his order to McCall for evacuating Drainesville; but the word came too late-McCall already having retired to Langley's.

Stone's Advance in

McClellan at once proceeded to the vicinity of Edwards' Ferry. In company with Generals Banks and Stone, he spent the 22d on the Virginia side, reconnoitering and examining into the state of the command.

ing, up to Banks' final occupation of Harper's Ferry, is one that will afford the future romance writers much novel incident and exciting adventure.

The Retirement of
General Scott

On the 31st of October Lieutenant - General Winfield Scott retired from his position as General-in-Chief of the United States Army. The causes of his retirement were stated in his letter to the Secretary of War. It read:


"HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, WASHINGTON, Oct. 31st, 1861. "The Hon. SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War: "Sir: For more than three years I have been

unable, from a hurt, to mount a horse or to walk

Pickets were thrown forward about one mile more than a few paces at a time, and that with inland from Conrad's Ferry, and the same much pain. Other and new infirmities-dropsy and distance up Goose Creek. General Banks as- vertigo-admonish me that repose of mind and body, sumed full command. Stone threw his en- with the appliances of surgery and medicine, are tire division over the river on the 22d, only necessary to add a little more to a life already proto withdraw again on the night of the 23d, tracted much beyond the usual span of man. It is owing to the heavy concentration of Confed- under such circumstances, made doubly painful by erates on his front. After the affair at Bolivar the unnatural and unjust rebellion now raging in the Southern States of our so lately prosperous and Heights, on the 16th-in which the enemy experienced a severe repulse at the hands of happy Union, that I am compelled to request that Colonel Geary's brigade the rebel forces tired from active service. As this request is foundmy name be placed on the list of army officers repressed forward from Winchester, compelling ed on an absolute right, granted by a recent act of Geary to withdraw to the Maryland side. Congress, I am entirely at liberty to say it is with These forces were augmented rapidly-the deep regret that I withdraw myself, in these moenemy seeming ready for a push into Mary-mentous times, from the orders of a President who

The Retirement of General Scott.



The Retirement of General Scott.

has treated me with much dis- "On the first day of Novemtinguished kindness and cour-ber, A. D. 1861, upon his own tesy, whem I know, upon much application to the President of personal intercourse, to be patriotic, without sec- the United States, Brevet Lieutenant-General Wintional partialities or prejudices, to be highly consci-field Scott is ordered to be placed, and hereby is entious in the performance of every duty, and of un-placed, upon the list of retired officers of the army rivalled activity and perseverance. And to you, of the United States, without reduction in his current Mr. Secretary, whom I now officially address for the pay, subsistance or allowance. last time, I beg to acknowledge my many obligations for the uniform high consideration I have received at your hands, and have the honor to remain, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant.


This resignation, though it had long been apprehended owing to the inability of the veteran to sustain the extraordinary pressure of duty devolving upon him, [see page 465,] was received with surprise by the people if not by the Administration. So long had Scott been the responsible and acting head of the army-so able had been his conduct of his office-so thoroughly had he won the confidence and love of the great mass of his countrymen, that his withdrawal from duty was, for the time-being, regarded as a calamity. Weighed down with age, longing for repose, still the nation, in its hour of peril, could not forego the wish that he might serve a little longer, adding the force of his great influence, the charm of his noble fame, to the cause of the Union. But, it could not be. Either the cares of office must be laid aside or life itself—so long had the Generalin-Chief labored at his post.

A special Cabinet meeting assembled on the morning of Nov. 1st, to take into consideration the subject of the resignation, when it was decided to grant the request, in view of the General's evident inability to discharge the important duties of his office. The question of his successor was discussed, and it was decided to advance General McClellan to the position of General-in-Chief.

"The American people will hear with sadness and deep emotion that General Scott has withdrawn from the active control of the army, while the President and unanimous Cabinet express their own and the nation's sympathy in his personal affliction, and their profound sense of the important public services rendered by him to his country during his long and brilliant career, among which will ever be

gratefully distinguished his faithful devotion to the

constitution, the Union and the flag, when assailed by parricidal rebellion.


General Scott thereupon rose and addressed the President and Cabinet, who had also risen, as follows:

"PRESIDENT: This honor overwhelms me. It overpays all services I have attempted to render to my country. If I had any claims before, they are all obliterated by this expression of approval by the President, with the remaining support of his Cabinet. I know the President and this Cabinet well. I know that the country has placed its interests in this trying crisis in safe keeping. Their counsels are wise, their labors are as untiring as they are loyal, and their course is the right one.

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President, you must excuse me. I am unable to stand longer to give utterance to the feelings of gratitude which oppress me. In my retirement I shall offer up prayers to God for this administration and for my country. I shall pray for it with confi. dence in its success over all enemies, and that speedily."

In official answer to his request, to be placed upon the retired list, the Secretary of War addressed Scott the following response: "WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, Nov. 1st, 1861. "GENERAL: It was my duty to lay before the The incidents connected with Scott's rePresident your letter of yesterday, asking to be retirement are so interwoven with the history lieved under the recent act of Congress. In sepaof the time, that we make place for the ad-rating from you I cannot refrain from expressing dresses which passed between the Executive and the retiring Chief.

During the afternoon (Nov. 1st) the Cabinet again waited upon the President, and attended him to the residence of General Scott. Being seated, the President read to the General the following order:

my deep regret that your health, shattered by long

service and repeated wounds received in your country's defense, should render it necessary for you to retire from your high position at this momentous period of your history. Although you are not to remain in active service, yet I hope that while I continue in charge of the department over which I now preside, I shall at times be permitted to avail myself

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