The troops I sent to Lexington will be there the day after to-morrow [18th], and consist of two full regiments of infantry, four pieces of artillery, and 150 irregular horse. These, with the two Ohio regiments, which will reach there on Thursday [19th], will make a reenforcement of 4,000 men and four pieces of artillery.Unhappily, all these calculations proved futile. No part of Gen. Pope's 4,000 men and four pieces of artillery reached the beleaguered and sorely pressed Mulligan; nor did any of the reenforcements ordered to his support from all quarters. On the 17th, he was cut off from the river by the enemy, and thus deprived of water — save such as was poured upon him from the skies, which his unsheltered soldiers caught in their blankets, and then wrung out into camp-dishes, to assuage their thirst. The ferry-boats were likewise seized by the Rebels, to prevent his escaping, as well as to preclude the receipt of reenforcements. Rations became short; and the Missouri Home Guard, who constituted a good part of our forces, were early dispirited, refused to fight, and clamored for a surrender. Our artillery had very little and very bad ammunition; while the Illinois cavalry, composing a sixth of our forces, had only their pistols to fight with. Great numbers of the horses that had been brought within our intrenchments had been killed by the Rebel cannon, creating a stench which was scarcely tolerable. The Rebels made four charges without success; but finally, at 2 P. M., Friday, the 20th, they pushed up a movable breastwork of hemp-bales, two deep, along a line of forty yards in length, to within ten rods of our works. Maj. Beckwith, of the Home Guards--8th Missouri, whose Colonel (White) had been killed during that day's fighting — raised a white flag, and the defense was over.1 The Rebels ceased firing;
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At 9 A. M., of the 18th, the drums beat to arms, and the terrible struggle commenced. The enemy's force had been increased te 28,000 men and 13 pieces of artillery. They came on as one dark, moving mass; men armed to the teeth, as far as the eye could reach — men, men, men were visible. They planted two batteries in front, one on the left, one on the right, and one in the rear, and opened with a terrible fire, which was answered with the utmost bravery and determination. Our spies had informed us that the Rebels intended to make one grand rout, and bury us in the trenches of Lexington. The batteries opened at 9 o'clock; and for three days they never ceased to pour deadly shot upon us. About noon, the hospital was taken. It was situated on the left, outside of the intrenchments. I had taken for granted, never thought it necessary to build fortifications around the sick man's couch. I had thought that, among civilized nations, the soldier sickened and wounded in the service of his country would, at least, be sacred. But I was inexperienced, and lead yet to learn that such was not the case with Rebels. They besieged the hospital, took it, and from the balcony and roof their sharpshooters poured a deadly fire within our intrenchments. It contained our chaplain and surgeon and 120 wounded men. It could not be allowed to remain in the possession of the enemy. A company of the Missouri 13th [Dutch] was ordered forward to retake the hospital. They started on their errand, but stopped at the breastworks, “going not out, because it was bad to go out.” A company of the Missouri 14th was sent forward; but it also shrank from the task, and refused to move outside the intrenchments. The Montgomery Guard, Capt. Gleason, of the Irish brigade, were then brought out. The Captain admonished them that the others had failed; and, with a brief exhortation to uphold the name they bore, gave the word to “charge.” The distance was eight hundred yards. They started out from the intrenchments, first quick, then double-quick, then on a run, then faster. The enemy poured a deadly shower of bullets upon them; but on they went. a wild line of steel, and, what is better than steel, human will. They stormed up the slope to the hospital door, and, with irresistible bravery, drove the enemy before them, hurling them far down the hill beyond. At the head of those brave fellows, pale as marble, but not pale from fear, stood that gallant officer, Capt. Gleason. He said, “Come on, my brave boys!” and in they rushed. But, when their brave captain returned, it was with a shot through the cheek and another through the arm, and with but fifty of the eighty he had led forth. The hospital was in their possession. This charge was one of the most brilliant and reckless in all history, and to Capt. Gleason belongs the glory.
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