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of two companies to watch the move crossed to the Virginia shore. Of these ments of the enemy, who, evidently ex- the Massachusetts 15th lost 322, includpecting a renewed attack, retired during ing a Lieutenant-Colonel and fourteen the night, and recrossed the river at Ed- out of twenty-eight line officers ; the wards' Ferry. On Wednesday morning, Massachusetts 20th lost 159 ; the Tamfinding my brigade very much exhausted, many companies 163 ; the 1st California I left Colonel Barksdale with his regi- regiment 300.* ment, with two pieces of artillery and a To these general and military statecavalry force, as a grand guard, and I ments of the engagement we may add a ordered the other three regiments to fall portion of the interesting personal acback toward Carter's Mill, to rest and be count of the battle drawn up, especially collected in order. Colonel Hunton, with with reference to the part borne in it by his regiment and two pieces of artillery, Colonel Baker, by Mr. George Wilkes, was halted at a strong position on the from testimony collected immediately afsouth bank of the Sycolin, about three ter the event, from the survivors. We miles south of Leesburg. I would here take up this animated narrative with the state that, in an interview on Monday first dispositions made on the field by night with the commissioned officers of Colonel Baker. "He formed his arrivthe Federal army taken prisoners, I am ing troops on a field about 200 yards in convinced that they expected to be re- the rear where the Massachusetts men captured, either during the night or the held their line of battle ; but, when next day, and, as the captured officers Wistar arrived, he led them forward, refused their parole not to take up arms and made full dispositions for an extendagainst the Southern Confederacy until ed line of battle. To the Massachusetts duly exchanged, I ordered the whole men he gave the right ; to Coggswell number to be immediately marched to and the Tammany troops the centre, and Manassas. This parole was only offered to the Californians he awarded the bitter to give them the liberty of the town, as I position of the left, from which the headid not wish to confine them with the viest fusilade continued to pour. For a privates."
while the exchanges were made at a General Evans reported the total loss range of 200 and 300 yards, each party of the 8th Virginia and 13th, 17th and availing themselves of the cover of the 18th Mississippi volunteers engaged in woods, and the Californians, after firing, the action at 153 killed and 2 taken taking advantage of a small wave of prisoners. “I am pained,” he says, “to carth, which gave them a partial shelter report the fall of the gallant Colonel E. of some two or three feet. This, howR. Burt, of the 18th regiment, Mississip- ever, was in great part neutralised by pi Volunteers. He was mortally wound the sharpshooters of the enemy, many ed about four o'clock P. M, while gallantly of whom had climbed the trees, and were leading his regiment under a tremendous picking our men off at every point. fire. His loss is truly severe to his regi- Colonel Baker and Wistar stood boldly ment and to our common cause. The out in the hottest fire, and while discusbattle,” he adds, “on our side was sing some change in the arrangement, a fought entirely with the musket ; the rifle ball came whizzing directly between artillery was in position to do effective them. “That's pretty close, Wistar," service should the enemy have advanced said Colonel Baker, and then resumed from bis cover." The loss of the Union his conversation without further attenforces in this disastrous affair is stated tion to the incident. Presently. and in killed, wounded and missing, at 944, after a sufficient pause for the marksman more than half the entire number who
* Appleton's Annual Cyclopædia, 1861, art. Ball's Bluff
MR. WILKES' NARRATIVE.
to reload, there came another whizzing always by Beirel, hounded them to their visitor of the same sort, which this time jungles. By and by Lieutenant Bramsplit a twig which grew a few inches hall, of Vaughn's battery, arrived upon from their feet. “That fellow means the ground, with Colonel Coggswell of us !” said Colonel Baker, looking up in the Tammany regiment, bringing with the direction from which the shot had them a Rhode Island piece. No sooner, come, and then turning to Company G, however, was this piece brought into pohe exclaimed, “ Boys, do you see that sition, than the enemy concentrated on it fellow up there? Now try if some of such a deadly fire that two of the canyou can't get him !” and he and Wistar noniers were instantly killed, and others coolly changed their ground. As the being wounded, the whole were tempofire grew hotter, Colonel Baker, stand- rarily driven off. Colonel Baker pering before his men, kept cautioning them ceiving the disaster, rushed to the piece to lie down,” and to “lie close," after regardless of all danger to lend his aid in they had delivered their volleys, and serving it. This example was instantly while reloading. “You don't lie close, followed by Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar, General," said one of them, as he crouch- Adjutant Harvey, Colonel Coggswell, ed in obedience to the order. “No, my Colonel Lee, and Lord Tempest Vane son,” was the reply of the hero, as he (Captain Stewart), and these six gallant stood with one hand calmly in his breast men, with the help of Bramhall and (his favorite position,) “and when you Lieutenant French, both of whom had get to be a United States Senator you been wounded, loaded and fired the will not lie down either !!!
piece half a dozen times. Soon, how“About three o'clock the enemy, whose ever, members from Company G, of the strongest fire was on our left, gathered California regiment, and private Booth himself for a dash, and a column of them of Company L, bravely relieved these came whooping from a cow-path, rushing gentlemen, and they returned to their with the most unearthly yells, in the commands, Wistar reappearing in his hope to stampede our troops directly at place of duty wounded in the cheek. the California line. Solid and steady The cannon was then fired with great our boys raised their weapons to receive effect by Bramhall upon the rebels as them, but Wistar checked them with an they were making a new charge on the order to hold on until they got well for- left, and the ground of their advance ward, and then giving the word fire, was literally strewed with slain. The they fell in numbers, and those who did fire of the Confederates was now hot not strew the ground, precipitately took from every portion of the line, and back in flight. “Now, then, boys, let's where Colonel Baker stood, in front, give 'em three cheers on that,” said Cap- it seemed as if it would be as impossible tain Beirel, of the New York company, for a man even to put his hand up withand three times three were given at out being struck by a bullet, as to spread once with the heartiest good-will, before it untouched in a shower of rain. So they even stopped to load. This was the imminent was his peril, that Captain rebel tactics through the fight-shooting Beirel, whose men were then lying on froin cover, and occasional charges for- the ground, could not refrain from sudward with terrific yells. Their object in denly exclaiming, “General, won't you this was to stampede our troops, but they come out of the fire and stand behind failed to shake their resolution even once. my men ?" Captain Beirel," was thu Indeed, our men on each occasion fiercely stern but not unkind reply,“ do you atpressed to meet them, and as they turned tend to Company G. I will look out for from our approach, our cheers, led off myself !"
“At this moment, and as the smoke smoke, where many a common man grew raised from the discharge of the 12- to the stature of a knight. They all felt pounder, a mounted officer, riding a fine they had a General, and in this and that bay charger, appeared on the right, and the battle was different from Bull Run. telling our men not to fire in that direc- In the midst of it all, General Baker tion, waved them to follow him, pointing moved up and down, encouraging the for them at another portion of the woods. men, his grand appearance and his silIt was his object to trail them, so they very hair making him a signal mark, could be struck in flank, but of a sudden though the now pervading smoke was the Massachusetts men discovered the equalizing his chances somewhat with mistake, and General Baker noticing the the rest. But he saw the day was desmovement at the same moment, ordered perate ; nay, felt that it was lost, unhis men to fire, and horse and man rolled less one of those grand old shows of to the ground together. Turning on his prowess, that disdains the weight of heel, Baker observed Wistar by his side, odds, could retrieve it by a final effort. with his sword in his left hand. Per- The bayonet was his favorite weapon. ceiving his right arm dangling helpless He had drilled his regiment to that exby his side, he exclaimed : “What, Wis- ercise more than to any other, and had tar, hit again !" “Yes, General," an- always declared that it was the true reswered the wounded officer, “and I wish source of a commander when he felt that you would put my sword in the scabbard he had brave men. His proof of this for me, for I don't want those hounds was absolute in that dark hour, and getto get possession of it.” The General ting his men in line, he determined to sheathed the weapon, and bidding Wis- finish the day's record for the country tar retire to the rear and cross the river, within those woods, should he fail to resumed the conduct of the battle. clear them out. Just at this moment, he
" The whole field was now literally one caught sight of a white-haired officer, hell of fire. The rebels, knowing them- riding near the rebel front, and recogselves to be in superior force, raved at nizing him as he thought, he called for a the defeat of every attempt to drive our pistol, and at the same moment pointing staunch soldiers from the ground; while the distinguished rider out, he exclaimed: our men, desperate and enraged by the “ There is General Johnston--fire boys, bloody cost which they had paid for be- fire !" As he reached forward to reing short in numbers, and stimulated to ceive the weapon he had called for, a the highest point by the sublime courage very tall red-haired man emerged sudof their General, were rushing madly denly from the smoke, and, walking forward at every opportunity to engage quickly up to within five feet of Colonel the enemy hand to hand. That bloody Baker, presented a self-cocking revolver, circle, viewed from above, might have and, rapidly as he could crook his finger, been taken for an infernal cauldron, delivered all the bullets it contained into where the mad passions of mankind, his body. At the very same moment a seething and crackling in the roar of musket-ball sped through and through hate, sent up dense clouds repulsive with his skull behind the ear, and a terrific the stench of murder, and spluttering whirling slug from a Mississippi yager with breaking bubbles of passing human tore away one-half of the muscle of the life. On all sides, however, demons as right arm, and opened a hole into his they were, deeds of the most heroic side large enough to thrust in the handle bravery were performed, and, as the of a sword. All the death-dealing shots battle swayed, a series of small encoun- seemed to strike at once, and the noble ters whirled in circles, isolated in the leader and orator, matchless of the earth,
THE DEATH OF GENERAL BAKER.
fell mute, to speak no more. The trage- to the river. But this event, though it dy had paralyzed all beholders for the cast a resistless gloom over our men in moment; but Captain Beirel, recovering all parts of the field, did not unnerve his self-possession first, rushed at the them, nor make them sick of battle. It slayer as he bent to possess himself of inspired them with fresh rage-the Calithe General's sword, seized him by the fornian* battalion almost with frenzy. throat, and, placing his pistol at his tem- They rushed back, and with shrieks and ples, blew the ruffian's brain in red fume cheers, and such oaths as maddened over the murdered body. Beirel had courage consecrates" like prayers, they been followed in his onslaught by sev- poured again into the thickest of the eral members of his company, and num- fight. Coggswell took command. Brambers of the rebels on the other side had hall, though wounded, was yet at his pressed forward to protect their red- gun, aided still by Private Booth, and a haired comrade as they saw the avenger Massachusetts color-bearer, with one leg rush toward him, and a savage hand-to- shattered, stood resting himself bravely hand fight ensued over the corse. Sword- on the staff, while he undauntedly mainthrust, pistol-shot, and bayonet-stab in- tained his position in the front of battle termingled quickly in that ferocious epi- on the other. Here was a sight. The sode, and the body of the dead leader, North, which this day had leaders who though trampled in the melée, lay smil- stood by them, was proving its strain, ing in its new-found quiet, as if approv- and notwithstanding the enemy's excess ing of the scene.
of numbers, their killed and wounded at "The accession of the Confederates was, that time outnumbered ours two to one. however, the greatest at this point, and "But the battle could not last could the Californians swayed backward some not be kept up under our disadvantages. few feet from the corse. The rebels, in No heroism could compensate for our inturn, retired, and then a momentary feriority of force ; no generalship remepause ensued, during which tears might dy our dangers of position. We were have been seen coursing themselves down being pushed step by step toward the many a smoke-smeared cheek, on our bank, and in default of transportation, side, at the sight of their great loss. there was no prospect but surrender, or They did not in that moment, however, a watery grave. Surrender, however, forget that he had enjoined many of them was not once thought of by a single man, that if he fell in battle they were not to and no one murmured at the fight. Collet traitors get possession of his body. onel Coggswell, however, made an effort Adjutant Harney was the first to remind to retreat toward Edwards’ Ferry, in the them of this pledge, and, responding to hope that he might find the promised the appeal, Beirel, who, all through, had forces of Gorman's brigade advancing by been one of the main heroes of the fight, that route ; but the rebels swarmed too called to his men to follow him just as a thickly on the left, and he was forced to large number of the rebels started from retire backward upon the river. Foot the opposite woods, evidently after the by foot he and his heroes fought, the distinguished trophy. Before, however, rebels equaling them now in desperathe creatures could possess themselves of tion and driving the shattered remnants the noble spoil, Beirel and his men beat steadily back. Finally we were forced them back. The gallant fellow then raised to the shore, the boat which had been the corpse of his commander in his arms, and, bearing it, amid a shower of bullets, were all Pennsylvaniaus, except Company C, which was
* It is proper to say that the Californians, so called, within our lines, delivered it to Major from New York. This statement is due to Pennsylvanie bearing wounded all the afternoon was second meeting between the Confedershoving off with a mangled, moaning ates and the army of the Potomac. Our load, and the rebels in full strength ap- troops were a second time outnumbered ; peared on the bluff. Their unearthly and the sad result was a loss on our side yells then went up again, but our dis- of 930 captured, killed, and wounded, heartened men were silent; yet they contrasted with 300 killed and wounded stragglingly returned the concentrated of the rebels. Yes, there was one other and decimating fire that was now poured leading feature of the climax-for, in upon them. Amid their volleys, they contrast to the gloom and dejection of shouted to us to surrender ; but this was our camp, Leesburg was that night illuanswered with rough expressions of dis- minated !"* dain, and responses from our muskets. The loss of Colonel Baker was of course But hope had now quite abandoned our keenly felt by the country, which saw in side. Bramhall's gun, which bad been the disaster a calamity similar to that brought from the field, but which he had which the nation was called to mourn in failed to get to the river with the pur- the death of General Lyon. Every honpose of submerging it, had been tumbled or was paid to his memory in a public down the cliff and spiked, and all pow- funeral at Washington, and in civic honer for active retaliation was departed. ors as his remains were carried to New Yielding to a stern necessity, therefore, York on their way to their passage by Colonel Coggswell gave the order for the sea to a final resting place in his home men to cast their arms into the stream at California. The news of his death and save themselves as best they could. reached San Francisco a few days only The panic common to the climax of pro- after the battle in which he fell. The tracted suffering then set in, and the intelligence was among the first messages scene became one of route, carnage, and sent to California by the newly completed dismay. Hundreds plunged into the riv- telegraph line—this peaceful triumph of er, and a large number, regardless of the civilization and new bond of Union persafety of the wounded, swam after the fected in the midst of devastating war returning scow, and, swamping it with aimed at the destruction of the nation. their weight, the wounded, quick and The line was opened on the 25th of Ocdead went down together. Many able tober, when a message was transmitted swimmers were stifled in the fierce, un- from Sacramento by Chief Justice Field friendly current, and those who, through of California, in the temporary absenco lack of that accomplishment, or mistrust- of the Governor of the State, to Presiful of their strength, would not tempt dent Lincoln at Washington. At San the river, wandered wearily up and Francisco, on the 26th, whilst the citidown the hostile shore, and were event- zens were preparing to fire a salute and ually taken prisoners. Colonels Coggs- make other demonstrations in honor of well and Lee were among the latter num- the event, a dispatch from the East anber, in consequence of having yielded to nounced the death of Colonel Baker. the men the earliest opportunities of es- The rejoicings were suddenly changed cape ; and Captain Beirel, who remained to mourning, and the celebration deunder the bank while his men tried their ferred. fortune with the stream, was among the The following general order, in honor last to stem the current. He took his of Colonel Baker, was issued by Gensword with him, but when midway in the eral McClellan on the 22d October, the passage, was obliged to adopt the alter- day preceding the funeral ceremonies at Dative between the loss of it and life, and Washington : "The Major-General comdrop it on the way. Thus ended the
and New York, while they do honor to their Californiar Young, who at once conveyed it safely title.