ever anxious to shun battle.
, where we approached the river again, a large force of regular troops appeared; but, although our passage by the place was one sharp, continuous skirmish, we prevented them from gaining a position that would have forced us into a decisive combat.
On the night of the 18th, we encamped again on the banks of the Ohio
, at the little village of Portland
, not far from Buffington Island
This was the point where Morgan
had planned to recross the river (when he first contemplated the raid), in the event he could not join General Lee
; and here was the scene of the disaster which closed the expedition, and virtually terminated his own career of almost unparalleled success.
An important element in his calculations, when he was planning this enterprise, was the fact that, after what is known as the “June rise” in the Ohio
, the river generally runs down, and becomes fordable, at certain points, in the latter part of July.
But this “rise,” produced by the melting of the snow in the mountains, came, this year, not in June, but in July, so that the ford at Buffington
, usually quite shallow and practicable in the latter month, was, in 1863, deep and difficult.
We were unfortunate, also, in arriving at Portland
after nightfall, and feared to attempt, in the solid gloom, and without guides, the passage of the stream.
Men and horses were alike exhausted; a train of vehicles of every description, filled with wounded men, and the artillery, had to be crossed.
If we missed the ford, as we might easily do in the darkness, many lives would be lost.
knew that he would probably be attacked on the following day. He at once, and correctly, conjectured that the troops we had seen at Pomeroy
were a portion of the infantry which had been sent from Kentucky
to intercept us, and that they had been brought by the river from Cincinnati
He knew that if the boats could pass that place, they could run up as far as Buffington's Island
The transports would certainly be accompanied by small gunboats.
Against these, small-arms would be useless, and our artillery ammunition was nearly exhausted.
Moreover, an attack from the forces under Hobson
was to be apprehended, for our recent delays had enabled him to gain rapidly upon us.
It is needless to dwell upon the anxiety of the commander in such a situation, and impossible to describe the despondency which now assailed the subaltern officers and the men. The latter, demoralized by tremendous and constant toil, and forced and long-continued abstinence from sleep, for the first time doubting a successful issue of their efforts, lay down along the river shore in dogged despair.