thought, the men were convinced by this time, of two things — namely, that we were surrounded, and that the force was overwhelming. Before this, every one said, “It was only Jenkins or Imboden;” but when we considered all these things, and had the additional evidence of the regiments which skirmished with the enemy Sunday forenoon, we had no doubt that the brave desperate legions of Stonewall Jackson were again in the valley. Deserters had come in as early as Friday, and reported that even then we were skirmishing with the advance-guard of a rebel corps numbering over thirty thousand. General Milroy ought to have known this. Who can say that he had any right to rest satisfied with partial information concerning a force sufficient to overwhelm and destroy him? I care not what others say; I know our effective force was less than eight thousand. Why, we had only ten regiments of infantry, and some of these the merest fragments. Of the cavalry, here or elsewhere, I have nothing to say. That some of them, especially the First New-York, did their duty, I will not deny, but that they deserve the fulsome praise that has been so copiously lavished upon them, I most emphatically deny. On Sunday, it will be remembered that the enemy never fired a single cannon during the forenoon, and not even till late in the afternoon. Every one was in suspense all day. That this dread silence meant something, all deeply felt, but what was the strategy progressing none seemed able to discover. One sharp, discerning glance then would have done more harm to the enemy than the fire of a whole brigade. One sharp eye then would have been of more value than a battery. But alas for us I no such eye was there so to glance for us. The Ohio regiments have hardly been mentioned in connection with the skirmishing in front. The One Hundred and Twenty-second, One Hundred and Twenty-third, and One Hundred and Tenth, all took a large share, indeed, the principal part in the fighting of Saturday and Sunday. These noble regiments manoeuvred from morning till night, during two successive days, driving the enemy at the point of the bayonet out of their rifle-pits, and from behind stone-fences. It was as close hand-to-hand work as could be, sometimes skirmisher to skirmisher, and at others two whole brigades driving like two mad streams together. Ohio lost severely in men in all the fights in front, but she gained new lustre and renown for her already glorious history. Sunday evening, at half-past 4 o'clock, the “main fort” had four heavy siege-guns working effectually upon the enemy wherever he dared to show himself. The “star fort” had a battery of smaller but well-managed guns; while away over to the right and west the “regular battery” was stationed, firing occasionally as opportunity was afforded. This fort was supported by company C, <*> the One Hundred and Sixteenth O. V. I., and the One Hundred and Tenth O. V. I. Below the fort, west, and beyond a ravine, was a wood, and in that lurked a secret danger of which no one yet even dreamed. The flag was floating proudly above the “main fort;” the brave and dauntless form of Milroy could now be seen resting fifty feet up on the flag-pole — an exhibition of coolness and courage unsurpassed in the annals of all history. There, too, had he been for two days. Away down the valley in front heavy skirmishing was going on. Every eye was turned that way, when on a sudden came a boom of cannon, and a rush of shell, as if hell itself had burst its bolts and bars and was bringing fire and tempests on the world. Every eye was turned west. Twenty rebel cannon were throwing shot and shell into the regular battery. In less than five minutes the roar of cannon was exchanged for the sharp rattle of musketry, as we saw the fort stormed, taken, and the rebel flag floating over it! If an angel had descended from heaven, and told us of this five minutes before, we would not have believed it. As quick as thought the new position was bristling with cannon, and then commenced a fire of artillery, such as your correspondent never beheld before. Now came an order from General Milroy for the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio volunteer infantry and Eighth Pennsylvania to go to the support of our battery, (meaning the one just taken,) and when Colonel Washburn told the officer who brought the order that the fort was taken, “Go anyhow!” was the answer, and we started, right across the fields, in the face of the enemy's guns, for half a mile, the two regiments proceeded, and the order to charge the batteries had been given, when, to the surprise of every one, General Milroy ordered us to march back, and up into the main fort. Railroad iron, shells, and musketry followed us thickly, clear across the field, but, mirabcile dictu, not a man was hurt. All the force was now gathered into the main fort, except small detachments left to guard the star fort, and battery D, First Virginia artillery. The whole fire of the enemy was now directed, with very little interruption, toward our main fort. There still sat the intrepid but unfortunate General upon his elevated seat, the shells shrieking and whistling around him, and yet as calm and unmoved as if he were quietly taking his siesta at home. The firing all the evening was like the mingled. roar of ten thousand thunders, and only closed when night set in. Every one knows now what followed — the retreat, in the darkness of night, with every thing left behind except men and animals; hundreds of wagons, immense commissary and government stores, some dozen large sutler stores, all the private baggage, books and papers of both officers and men; in a word, provisions enough to feed ten thousand men for two months, and clothing enough for the same number for six months. I feel confident that the above estimates are correct. The attack on the Martinsburgh road, our defeat and retreat, have been so variously reported, that at this late day I feel no disposition to contradict any of them. Gross injustice has been done the Ohio regiments which were engaged in
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.