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and the action became general along the whole line of the Confederates, and was hot and brisk for more than two hours
The Confederates engaged in the action numbered less than eighteen hundred men; the 13th Mississippi, with six pieces of artillery, being held in reserve. The troops engaged on our side fought with almost savage desperation. The firing was irregular. Our troops gave a yell and volley; then loaded and fired at will for a few minutes; then gave another yell and volley. For two hours, the enemy was steadily driven near the banks of the Potomac. The Federal commander, Col. Baker, had fallen at the head of his column, and his body was with difficulty recovered by his command. As the enemy continued to fall back, Gen. Evans ordered his entire force to charge and drive him into the river.
The rout of the enemy near the bluffs of the river was appalling. The crossing of the river had gone on until seven thousand five hundred men, according to the report of Gen. Stone, were thrown across it. Some of these never saw the field of battle. They had to climb the mud of the bluff, dragging their dismounted arms after them, before they could reach the field, expecting to find there a scene of victory. The difficult ascent led them to a horrible Golgotha. The forces that had been engaged in front were already in retreat; behind them rolled the river, deep and broad, which many of them were never to repass; before them glared the foe.
The spectacle was that of a whole army retreating, tumbling, rolling, leaping down the steep heights—the enemy following them, killing and taking prisoners. Col. Devins, of
, the 15th Massachusetts regiment, left his command, and swam the river on horseback. The one boat in the channel between the Virginia shore and the island was speedily filled with the fugitives. A thousand men thronged the banks. Muskets, coats, and every thing were thrown aside, and all were desperately trying to escape. Hundreds plunged into the rapid current, and the shrieks of the drowning added to the horror of sounds and sights. The Confederates kept up their fire from the cliff above. All was terror, confusion, and dismay One of the Federal officers, at the head of some companies, charged up the hill. A moment later, and the same officer, perceiving the hopelessness of the situation, waved a white handkerchief and surrendered the main body of his regiment Other portions of the column surrendered, but the Confed erates kept up their fire upon those who tried to cross, and many, not drowned in the river, were shot in the act of swimming.
The last act of the tragedy was the most sickening and ap palling of them all. A flat-boat, on returning to the island, was laden with the mangled, the weary, and the dying. The quick and the dead were huddled together in one struggling, mangled mass, and all went down together in that doleful river, never again to rise.
The Northern newspapers, with characteristic and persistent falsehood, pretended that the Leesburg affair was nothinga mere reconnoissance, in which the Federals accomplished their object—a skirmish, in which they severely punished the “ rebels"-an affair of outposts, in which they lost a few men, nothing like so many as the “rebels,” &c. But the truth at last came out, stark and horrible. The defeat of Leesburg was named in the Federal Congress as “most humiliating," “a great national calamity," and as another laurel added to the chaplet of the “rebellion.”
The Federal soldiers who had suffered most severely in this action were from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, They had given an exhibition of cowardice, quite equal, in degree at least, to its display at Manassas. There were no instances among them of desperate stubbornness, of calm front, of heroic courage. There was but one tint of glory to gild the bloody picture, and that was in the circumstance of the fall of their gallant commander, Col. Baker, who had been shot several times through the body, and, at last, through the head, in his desperate and conspicuous effort to rally his broken forces.
Col. Baker was United States senator from Oregon. He had served with distinction in the Mexican war; was since a member of Congress from Missouri ; emigrated to California, where he long held a leading position at the bar, and, being disappointed in an election to Congress from that State, removed to Oregon, where he was returned United States selator to Washington. In the opening of the war, he raised what was called a “ California” regiment, recruited in New York aid New Jersey, and at the last session of the Federal Con gress had distinguished himself by his extrenie views of the subjugation of the South, and its reduction to a “territorial ' condition. He was a man of many accomplishments, of more than ordinary gifts of eloquence, and, outside of his political associations, was respected for his bravery, chivalry, and ad dress.
Our loss in the action of Leesburg, out of a force of 1,709 men, was 153 in killed and wounded. The loss of the enemy was 1,300 killed, wounded, and drowned; 710 prisoners captured, among them twenty-two commissioned officers; besides 1,500 stand of arms and three pieces of cannon taken. This brilliant victory was achieved on our side by the musket alone, over an enemy who never ventured to emerge from the cover, or to expose himself to an artillery fire.
The battle of Leesburg was followed by no important consequences on the Potomac. It was a brilliant and dramatic incident; it adorned our arms; and it showed a valor, a demonstration of which, on a grander scale and in larger num- . bers, might easily have rv-enacted on a new field the scenes of Manassas. But, like the Manassas victory, that of Leesburg bore no fruits but those of a confidence on the part of the South, which was pernici, us, because it was overweening and inactive, and a contempt for its enemy, which was injurious, in proportion as it exceeded the limits of truth and justice, and reflected the self-conceits of fortune.
The Position and Policy of Kentucky in the War.—Kentucky Chivalry.--- Reminiscences of the “Dark and Bloody Ground.”—Protection of the Northwest by Kentucky.-How the Debt of Gratitude has been repaid.--A Glance at the Hartford Convention.—The Gubernatorial Canvass of 1839 in Kentucky.--Division of Parties.Other Causes for the Disloyalty of Kentucky.-The “Pro-Slavery and Union” Resolutions.—The “State Guard."-General Buckner.– The Pretext of "Neutrality," and what it meant.-The Kentucky Refugees.-A Reign of Terror.-Judge Monroe in Nashville.--Ģeneral Breckinridge.-Occupation of Columbus by General Polk.-The Neutrality of Kentucky first broken by the North.-General Buckner at Bowling Green.-Camp “ Dick Robinson.”—The “ Home Guard.”—The Occupation of Columbus by the Confeilerates explained.--Cumberland Gap.-General Zollicoffur’s Proclamation.—The Affair of Barboursville.—“ The Wild-Cat Stampede.”—The Virginia and Kentucky Border.—The Affair of Piketon.-Suffering of our Troops at Pound Gap.—The “Union Party" in East Tennessee.-Keelan, the Hero of Strawberry Plains.--The Situation on the waters of the Ohio and Tennessec.---THE BATTLE OF BELMONT.-Wcakness of our Forces in Kentucky.-General Albert Sidney Johnston.Inadequacy of his Forces at Bowling Green.- Neglect and Indifference of the Con. federate Authorities.--- A Crisis imminent.-Admission of Kentucky into the Southerr. Confederacy.
IF, a few mionths back, any one had predicted that in an armed contest between the North and the South, the State of Kentucky would be found acting with the former, and abetting and assisting a war upon States united with her by communi'y of institutions, of interests, and of blood, he would, most probably, in any Southern company in which such a speech was adventured, have been hooted at as a fool, or chastised as a elanderer. The name of Kentucky had been synonymous with the highest types of Southern chivalry; her historical record was adorned by the knightly deeds, the hardy adventures, the romantic courage of her sons; and Virginia had seen the State which she had peopled with the flower of her youth grow up, not only to the full measure of filial virtue, but with the ornament, it was thought, of even a prouder and bolder spirit than flowed in the blood of the Old Dominion.
War discovers truths in the condition of society which would never otherwise have been known. It often shows a spirit of devotion where it has been least expected; it decides the claime of superior patriotism and superior courage often in favor of communities which have laid less claim to these qualities than others; and it not infrequently exposes disloyalty, rottenness, or apathy on the part of those who had formerly superior reputation for attachment to the cause which they are found to desert or to assail.
It is not to be supposed for a moment, that while the positio of Kentucky, like that of Maryland, was one of reproach, it is to mar the credit due to that portion of the people of each, who, in the face of instant difficulties, and at the expense of extraordinary sacrifices, repudiated the decision of their States to remain under the Federal government, and expatriated themselves, that they might espouse the cause of liberty in the South. The honor due such men is in fact increased by the consideration that their States remained in the Union, and compelled them to fly their homes, that they might testify their devotion to the South and her cause of independence. Still, the justice of history must be maintained. The demonstrations of sympathy with the South on the part of the States referred to—Maryland and Kentucky-considered either in proportion to what was offered the Lincoln government by these States, or with respect to the numbers of their population, were sparing and exceptional; and although these demonstrations on the part of Kentucky, from the great and brilliant names associated with them, were perhaps even more honorable and more useful than the examples of Southern spirit offered by Maryland, it is unquestionably, though painfully true, that the great body of the people of Kentucky were the active allies of Lincoln, and the unnatural enemies of those united to them by lineage, blood, and common institutions.
A brief review of some of the most remarkable circumstances in the history of Kentucky is not inappropriate to the subject of the existing war.
Kentucky has been denominated “the Dark and Bloody Ground" of the savage aborigines. It never was the habitation of any nation or tribe of Indians ; but from the period of the earliest aboriginal traditions to the appearance of the white man on its soil, Kentucky was the field of deadly conflict be tween the Northern and Southern warriors of the forest.
When, shortly after the secession of the American colonies