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[528]

XXXIII. East VirginiaBull Run.


if the North had been, or at least had seemed, obstinately apathetic, because skeptical as to the probability or the imminence of Civil War, it was fully and suddenly undeceived by the developments that swiftly followed the bombardment of Fort Sumter, but especially by the occurrences in Baltimore and the attitude of Maryland. For a few weeks, all petty differences seemed effaced, all partisan jealousies and hatreds forgotten. A few “ conservative” presses sought to stem the rushing tide; a few old Democratic leaders struggled to keep the party lines distinct and rigid; but to little purpose. Twelve States, whose Legislatures happened to be sitting in some part of April or May, 1861, tendered pecuniary aid to the Government, amounting, in the aggregate, to nearly Nineteen Millions of Dollars; while some Five Millions were as promptly contributed, in the cities and chief towns of the North, to clothe and equip volunteers. Railroads and steamboats were mainly employed in transporting men and munitions to the line of the Potomac or that of the Ohio. Never before had any Twenty Millions of people evinced such absorbing and general enthusiasm. But for the deplorable lack of arms, Half a Million volunteers might have been sent into camp before the ensuing Fourth of July.

President Lincoln issued, on the 27th of April, a proclamation announcing the blockade of the coast of Virginia and North Carolina; due evidence having been afforded that Virginia had formally and North Carolina practically adhered to the Rebellion. Some weeks were required to collect and fit out the vessels necessary for the blockade of even the chief ports of the Rebel States; but the month of May1 saw this undertaking so far completed as to make an entrance into either of those ports dangerous to the blockade-runner. On the 3d, the President made a further call for troops — this time requiring 42,000 additional volunteers for three years; beside adding ten regiments to the regular army — about doubling its nominal strength. A large force of volunteers, mainly Pennsylvanians, was organized at Chambersburg, Pa., under the command of Major-Gen. Robert Patterson, of the Pennsylvania militia; while Gen. Butler, having completed the taming of Baltimore, by planting batteries on the highest points and sending a few of her more audacious traitors to Fort McHenry, was made2 a Major-General, and placed in command of a Department composed of tide-water Virginia with North Carolina. George B. McClellan, John C. Fremont (then in Europe), and John A. Dix had already3 been appointed Major-Generals in the regular army--Gen. [529] Dix commanding in New-York. Lieut. Gen. Winfield Scott, at Washington, was commander-in-chief, as well as in immediate charge of the large force rapidly pouring into the capital and its environs — in part, by steamboat up the Potomac; in part, by way of the Railroad through Baltimore. There were cities that hailed the Union soldiers with greater enthusiasm, but none that treated them with more civility and deference, than Baltimore, from and after Butler's arrival in that city; though he somewhat embarrassed the trade of that hitherto thriving mart by searching for and seizing large quantities of arms, secreted in her cellars or snugly stowed away in the holds of her vessels, awaiting transportation to lower Virginia. One of his last and most important seizures was that of the person of George P. Kane, Marshal of Police; who, making all possible opposition to captures of arms designed for the Rebels, was taken also to the Fort, that he might see that they were in safe hands. Unluckily, he, like other traitors, was not retained there so long as he should have been; but this was by no fault of Gen. Butler, who was ordered to take command at Fortress Monroe, whither he repaired on the 22d, and where he soon found himself at the head of some 15,000 raw but gallant soldiers.

It had been decided that no offensive movement should be made prior to the 24th (the day after the farce of voting to ratify the Ordinance of Secession)--the Government having apparently resolved that no Union soldier should, on that day, tread the soil of Virginia, save within the narrow limits, or immediately under the frowning walls, of Fortress Monroe. So Gen. Butler soon found some ten or twelve thousand Confederates in his front, under command of Gens. Huger and Magruder, (both recently of the regular army,) with earth-works and batteries facing him at every commanding point, well mounted with powerful guns from the spoils of the Norfolk Navy Yard. The white population in that slave-holding neighborhood was so generally disloyal that, of a thousand inhabitants of the little village of Hampton, lying just under the guns of the fort, but a hundred remained on the 1st of June.4

Gen. Butler found his position so cramped by the proximity and audacity of the Rebels, whose cavalry and scouts almost looked into the mouths of his guns, that he resolved on enlarging the circle of his Virginia acquaintance; to which end he seized and fortified the point known as Newport News, at the mouth of James river; and, on the 9th of June, ordered a reconnoissance in force for some eight or ten miles northward, with intent to surround, surprise, and capture, the Rebel position nearest him, known as Little Bethel. To this end, Col. Henry B. Duryea's Zouaves were dispatched from Hampton at 1 o'clock next morning, followed by Col. F. Townsend's 3d New-York, an hour later, with directions to gain the rear of Little Bethel, so as to cut off the retreat of the Rebels; while Col. Phelps, with a Vermont battalion, supported by Bendix's New-York [530] regiment, was to approach that post in front, ready to attack at daybreak. The whole expedition was under the command of Gen. E. W. Pierce, a militia Brigadier from Massachusetts.

Gen. Butler had given precise orders and directed the use of ample precautions to avoid collision in tile darkness between the several portions of our own forces. Yet, just before daybreak, at a junction of roads, some two miles from Little Bethel, the regiments of Col. Bendix and Col. Townsend neared each other;

Ten miles around Fortress Monroe.

and the former, mistaking the latter for enemies, opened fire with both artillery and musketry, whereby two of Col. Townsend's men were killed, and eight or ten seriously, besides a large number slightly wounded. The mistake was soon discovered; but not until the whole expedition had been thrown into confusion — those in advance, with reason, presuming that the Rebels were assaulting their rear, and preparing for defense on this presumption. The Rebels at Little Bethel were, of course, alarmed, a and made good their retreat. Gen. Pierce sent back to Gen. Butler for reenforcements; [531] and another regiment was ordered up to his support. Col. Duryea had already surprised and captured a picket-guard of the enemy, consisting of thirty persons, who were sent prisoners to the fort.

Gen. Pierce, finding only a hastily deserted camp at Little Bethel, pushed on to Big Bethel, several miles further. Here he found a substantial, though hastily constructed, breastwork, protected from assault by a deep creek, with 1,800 Confederates, under

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