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[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 Col. J. B. Magruder, behind it. Gen. Pierce, who, probably, had never before seen a shot fired in actual war, ordered an attack; planting his few small guns in the open field, half a mile from the well-sheltered Rebel batteries in his front. Our balls, of course, buried themselves harmlessly in the Rebel earthworks;1 while our men, though partially screened by woods and houses, were exposed to a deadly fire from the Rebels. For four hours, the action thus continued — necessarily with considerable loss on our side and very little on the other. Finally, a more determined assault was made by a part of our infantry, led by Major Theodore Winthrop, Aid to Gen. Butler, who was shot dead while standing on a log, cheering his men to the charge. His courage and conduct throughout the fight rendered him conspicuous to, and excited the admiration of; his enemies. Lieut. John T. Greble, of the 2d regular artillery, was likewise killed instantly by a ball through the head, while serving his gun in the face of the foe. Our total loss, in the advance and the attack, was hardly less than 100 men; while the Rebels reported theirs at 1 killed and 7 wounded. Gen. Pierce, whose inexperience and incapacity had largely contributed to our misfortune, finally ordered a retreat, which was made, and in good order; the Rebels following for some miles with cavalry, but at a respectful distance. And, so conscious were their leaders that they owed their advantage to accident, that they abandoned the position that night, and retreated so far as Yorktown, ten miles up the Peninsula.2 [No further collisions of moment occurred in this department that season. Gen. Butler was succeeded by Gen. Wool on the 16th of August.

Reports of a contemplated Rebel invasion of the North, through Maryland, were current throughout the month of May, countenanced by the fact that Maryland Hights, opposite Harper's Ferry, were held by Johnston through most of that month, while a considerable force appeared opposite Williamsport on the 19th, and seemed to meditate a crossing. A rising in Baltimore, and even a dash on Philadelphia, were among their rumored purposes. Surveys and reconnoissances had been made by them of Arlington Hights and other eminences on the Virginia side of the Potomac, as if with intent to plant batteries for the shelling of Washington. But the Union forces, in that State and Maryland, increased so rapidly, that any offensive movement

1 Pollard says: “The only injury received from their artillery was the loss of a mule.”

2 Col. (since, Major-Gen.) D. H. Hill, who commanded the 1st North Carolina in this affair, in his official report, after claiming a victory, says:

Fearing that heavy reinforcements would be sent up from Fortress Monroe, we fell back at nightfall upon our works at Yorktown.

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