previous next

[621] your part would have the effect to move them.

Gen. Stone at once ordered Col. Devens, of the 15th Massachusetts, to transfer two flat-boats from the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, opposite Harrison's Island, to the river at that point, and therewith to ferry over his regiment to the island; which was promptly done. About dark, in obedience to a verbal order, Devens sent Capt. Philbrick, with fifteen or twenty men, across to the Virginia shore, which he ascertained was not picketed by the enemy, and ascended the steep bank known as Ball's Bluff, which here rises about one hundred and fifty feet to the level of the adjacent country. Pushing out a small distance from the Bluff, Philbrick returned and reported that he had discovered a small camp of the enemy, which did not appear to be well guarded. This report was sent by Col. Devens to Gen. Stone, who thereupon issued the following order:

Headquarters Corps of observation, Poolesville, Oct. 20, 1861-10 1/2 P. M.
Special order no.--.
Col. Devens will land opposite Harrison's Island, with five companies of his regiment, and proceed to surprise the camp of the enemy discovered by Capt. Philbrick in the direction of Leesburg. The landing and march will be effected with silence and rapidity.

Col. Lee, 20th Massachusetts volunteers, will, immediately after Col. Devens's departure, occupy Harrison's Island with four companies of his regiment, and will cause the four-oared boat to be taken across the island to the point of departure of Col. Devens. One company will be thrown across to occupy the rights on the Virginia shore, after Col. Devens's departure, to cover his return.

Two mountain howitzers will be taken silently up the tow-path, and carried to the opposite side of the island, under the orders of Col. Lee.

Col. Devens will attack the camp of the enemy at daybreak, and, having routed, will pursue them as far as he deems prudent, and will destroy the camp, if practicable, before returning. He will make all the observations possible on the country; will, under all circumstances, keep his command well in hand, and not sacrifice them to any supposed advantage of rapid pursuit.

Having accomplished this duty, Col. Devens will return to his present position, unless he shall see one on the Virginia side, near the river, which he can undoubtedly hold until reenforced, and one which can be successfully held against largely superior numbers. In such case, he will hold on and report.

Chas. P. Stone, Brig.-General.
Great care will be used by Col. Devens to prevent any unnecessary injury of private property; and any officer or soldier straggling from the command, for curiosity or plunder, will be instantly shot.

Chas. P. Stone, Brig.-General.

Col. Devens accordingly commenced crossing his force a little after midnight, and had his five companies formed on the top of the bluff so soon as it was light enough to find his way thither. Col. Lee likewise crossed about a hundred men, and took position this side of him. Scouts, dispatched right and left, returned and reported that they could find no enemy. Advancing, so soon as it was light, to the supposed Rebel camp reported to him the night before, Col. D. found it no camp at all, but an optical illusion, created by moonlight glimmering through a row of trees and presenting the appearance of a row of tents. Having advanced to within a mile of Leesburg without discovering a trace of an enemy, Col. D. halted in a wood, unperceived, as he supposed, by any foe, sent a messenger to Gen. Stone, and awaited further orders.

At 7 A. M., a body of riflemen appeared on his right, but fell back when approached; when Rebel cavalry became visible on the road to Leesburg. Col. Devens hereupon,

Creative Commons License
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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Devens (12)
Charles P. Stone (6)
Philbrick (3)
Robert E. Lee (3)
A. V. Colburn (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October 20th, 1861 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: