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EXPEDITION AGAINST BETHEL.
Origin of the term traband of war." The government subse"contrabands." quently approving of his course, fugitive slaves thereafter passed in the army under the designation of contrabands.
The main body of the ConMagruder's force at federates under Yorktown. Magruder lay at Yorktown, but they had outposts at Big Bethel and Little Bethel. With a view of expelling them from these positions and rendering secure some works which he had constructed at Hampton and Newport News, Butler directed (June 10th) Duryea's Zou
His outposts at
aves and Townsend's Third New York to gain the rear of Little Bethel, while a Vermont battalion and Bendix's New York regiment were to attack it in front. The expedition was under the command of General Pierce, and had with it only three guns. Townsend's troops moved along the road from Hampton, Bendix's along that from Newport News. They simultaneously reached the junction of the roads before daybreak, when Bendix, mistaking Townsend for the enemy, opened fire upon him, which was instantly returned by Townsend, who supposed he had fallen into an ambush. Expedition against That portion of the expedition which had already passed beyond the junction of the roads toward Little Bethel, hearing the firing, supposed that an attack was being made on its rear. Every thing was for the moment in confusion, and the Confederates in Little Bethel, taking alarm, at once fell back on Big Bethel, where Magruder, with 1800 men, was posted.
Thither, after destroying the abandoned camp, Pierce
They fall back to
advanced. The position occupied by the Confederates was strong. It had in front a branch of the Back River, crossed by a bridge, the stream above and below the place of crossing widening, so as to form a difficult morass. On each side of the road from the bridge was an earthwork, and on their right, facing the stream, the Confederates had a line of intrenchments. Their works were defended by twenty guns.
Attack by the national troops.
Its failure. Death of Winthrop and Greble.
The national troops advanced at once under a heavy fire, intending to rush across the stream and storm the works. In this, however, they were checked. After a pause of two hours the attempt was renewed, the troops on the left crossed the morass, the enemy was driven out of the battery nearest the bridge, but the fire became too hot, and the assailants were again repulsed. In this affair the loss of the Confederates was insignifi cant; that of the national troops was fifty-five, of whom sixteen were killed. Among the latter, deeply regretted, was Major Theodore Winthrop. He had already distinguished himself in literary life, and when leading his men to the attack, within thirty or forty yards of one of the batteries, was shot through the head by a North Carolina drummer-boy. Lieutenant Greble, who had been in command of the three guns, was killed in attempting to withdraw them. He was the first officer of the regular army who fell in the Civil War.
"This is an ill advised and badly arranged movement. I am afraid no good will come of it; and as for myself, I do not think I shall come off the field alive"-so Greble had said to one of his friends before starting. In this condemnation of the expedition the nation universally joined.
The national and Confederate forces were confronting
The tragedy at
each other on opposite sides of the Potomac, between Washington and Harper's Ferry. General McClellan, about the middle of October, considered it desirable to ascertain the strength of his antagonists in the vicinity of Dranesville, and accordingly caused a reconnoissance to be made by General McCall, on the 19th of that month. He likewise desired General Stone, who was at Poolesville, to keep a look-out upon Leesburg, and suggested that a "slight demonstration" on his part might have the effect of moving the enemy. He did not, however, contemplate making an attack upon them, or the crossing of the river in force by any portion of Stone's command.
Hereupon Colonel Devins was ordered by Stone to Devins's reconnois- bring two flat-boats from the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal into the river opposite Harrison's Island, and ferry some troops over to it. This done, Devins sent a detachment to the Virginia shore to make an exploration toward Leesburg, which had been reported to be evacuated. They discovered, as they sup posed, a small camp about a mile from the town. Stone thereupon ordered Devins to land on Ball's Bluff, opposite the island. It is an eminence from 50 to 150 feet high. He was to surprise the discovered camp, destroy it, examine the country, and return, unless he should find a good place on which to establish himself, in which case re-enforcements would be sent him. He set out about midnight; the clayey bluff was very wet and slippery; he reached the top of it by daylight (October 22d). Advancing within a mile of Leesburg, he could find no enemy; the reported camp proved to be an illusion due to openings among the trees. He therefore halted and sent to Stone for further orders. At seven o'clock, perceiving that the enemy's cavalry were gathering around him, he fell back toward the bluff, and
An expedition sets
It is enveloped by
stood in an open field surrounded by woods. Here he received orders to remain. He had about the Confederates. 650 men, and a re-enforcement was prom ised. About noon, the Confederates, having occupied the woods on three sides of him, began to attack him, compelling him to fall back toward the edge of the bluff. At length re-enforcements under Colonel Baker arrived. They had orders either to support Devins or to withdraw, as Baker, who outranked Devins, might judge best. But at once it was plain that there was no option. Devins was in the act of being assaulted, and there was nothing to do but to support him. Baker accordingly took that course. The entire national force was now about 1900 men. They were in an open field; their assailants in the surrounding woods; the bluff down which they must retreat was steep and slippery, and only two wretched scows were there to carry them across to Harrison's Island. Colonel Baker, while bravely holding his ground at the head of his troops, was killed. The fire was becoming momentarily more and more severe, and the enemy receiving re-enforcements. The national troops were forced over the edge of the bluff, The national troops and the Confederates getting possession of it, a massacre ensued among the struggling men below. Of the boats, one had disappeared; the other was quickly swamped. Some tried to reach the island by swimming, some by floating on logs; they were deA massacre of them liberately shot by their antagonists above. Colonel Coggswell, who had succeeded to the command, tried to force his way to Edwards's Ferry, but was driven back by a Mississippi regiment. The loss was in killed, either by shooting or drowning, 300; in wounded and prisoners, more than 700.
Colonel Baker is killed.
forced over the
Stone had thrown a small force across the river at Ed. wards's Ferry. They advanced about three miles toward