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[540] J. W. Vance, 96th Ohio, and Lt.-Col. Webb, 77th Illinois, killed. Repeated attempts to reform our disheartened men, so as to present a fresh barrier to the enemy's victorious advance, proved of no avail. The Press (Philadelphia) had a correspondent watching the fight, who thus reports its melancholy finale:
The reader will understand that our forces were in an open space — a pine-wood clearing — that our line of advance was one single, narrow road; and that, having made the attack ourselves, we found the enemy superior, and were compelled to make a defensive fight. There were other troubles. The country was so formed that artillery was almost useless. We could not place a battery without exposing it in a manner that suggested madness; and yet we had the guns, and were compelled to fight them. A further disadvantage was to be found in the long trains that followed the different divisions. The cavalry had the advance; immediately behind, came the baggage-wagons, moving in a slow, cumbersome manner, and retarding the movements of the infantry. This made it impossible for us to have our divisions in supporting distance; and, when the time came for that support, it could not be rendered. Gen. Banks perceived this at once; but it was too late to remedy it, and lie was compelled to fight the battle in the best manner possible. Ransom's division had been engaged and routed. Cameron's division was in the thickest of the fight. Gen. Franklin had arrived on the field, and a division of his magnificent corps, under Gen. Emory, was pushing along rapidly. Gen. Banks personally directed the fight. Every thing that man could do he did. Occupying a position so exposed that nearly every horse ridden by his staff was wounded, and many killed, lie constantly disregarded the entreaties of those around, who begged that he would retire to some less exposed position. Gen. Stone, his chief of staff, with his sad, earnest face, that seemed to wear an unusual expression, was constantly at the front, and by his reckless bravery did much to encourage the men. And so the fight raged. The enemy were pushing a temporary advantage. Our army was merely forming into position to make a sure battle.

Then came one of those unaccountable events that no genius or courage can control. I find it impossible to describe a scene so sudden and bewildering, although I was present, partly an actor, partly a spectator, and saw plainly every thing that took place. The battle was progressing vigorously. The musketry firing was loud and continuous; and, having recovered from the danger experienced by Ransom's division, we felt secure of the position. I was slowly riding along the edge of a wood, conversing with a friend, who had just ridden up, about the events and prospects of the day. We had drawn into the side of the wood to allow an ammunition wagon to pass; and, although many were observed going to the rear, some on foot and some on horseback, we regarded it as an occurrence familiar to every battle, and it occasioned nothing but a passing remark.

I noticed that most of those thus wildly riding to the rear were negroes, hangers-on, and serving-men; for, now that we have gone so deeply into this slaveholding country, every non-commissioned officer has a servant, and every servant a mule. These people were the first to show any panic; but their scamper along the road only gave amusement to the soldiers, who pelted them with stones and whipped their flying animals with sticks to increase their speed. Suddenly, there was a rush, a shout, the crashing of trees, the breaking down of rails, the rush and scamper of men. It was as sudden as though a thunder-bolt had fallen among us and set the pines on fire. What caused it, or when it commenced, no one knew. I turned to my companion to inquire the reason of this extraordinary proceeding; but, before he had a chance to reply, we found ourselves swallowed up, as it were, in a hissing, seething, bubbling whirlpool of agitated men. We could not avoid the current; we could not stem it; and, if we hoped to live in that mad company, we must ride with the rest of them. Our line of battle had given way. Gen. Banks took off his hat and implored his men to remain; his staff-officers did the same: but it was of no avail. Then the General drew his saber and endeavored to rally his men; but they would not listen. Behind him, the Rebels were shouting and advancing. Their musket-balls filled the air with that strange, file-rasping sound that war has made familiar to our fighting men. The teams were abandoned by the drivers, the traces cut, and the animals ridden oft by the frightened men. Bareheaded riders rode with agony in their faces; and, for at least ten minutes, it seemed as if we were going to destruction together. It was my fortune to see the first battle of Bull Run, and to be among those who made that celebrated midnight retreat toward Washington. The retreat of the 4th division was as much a rout as that of the first Federal

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Nathaniel P. Banks (3)
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