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[88] dismay. Who ever saw a more shameful abandonment of munitions gathered at such vast expense? The teamsters, many of them, cut the traces of their horses, and galloped from the wagons. Others threw out their loads to accelerate their flight, and grain, picks, and shovels, and provisions of every kind lay trampled in the dust for leagues. Thousands of muskets strewed the route, and when some of us succeeded in rallying a body of fugitives, and forming them in a line across the road, hardly one but had thrown away his arms. If the enemy had brought up his artillery and served it upon the retreating train, or had intercepted our progress with five hundred of his cavalry, he might have captured enough supplies for a week's feast of thanksgiving. As it was, enough was left behind to tell the story of the panic. The rout of the Federal army seemed complete.

A Check to the Retreat.

The sight of Miles's reserve drawn up on the hills at Centreville, supporting a full battery of field-pieces, and the efforts of the few officers still faithful to their trust, encouraged many of the fugitive infantry to seek their old camps and go no farther. But the majority pushed on to a point near the late site of Germantown, where Lieut. Brisbane had formed a line of Hunt's artillerists across the road and repulsed all who attempted to break through. I particularly request attention to the service thus rendered by this loyal young officer.

While he was thus engaged, a courier arrived with the news that Col. Montgomery was advancing with a New Jersey brigade from Falls Church, and that the retreat must be stopped, only the wagons being allowed to pass through. Some thousands of the soldiery had already got far on their way to Washington. Poor fellows! who could blame them? Their own colonels had deserted them, only leaving orders for them to reach Arlington Heights as soon as they could. A few miles further I met Montgomery swiftly pressing to the rescue, and reported the success of Lieut. Brisbane's efforts. And so I rode along, as well as my weary horse could carry me, past groups of strangling fugitives, to Fairfax, where Col. Woodbury was expecting, and guarding against, a flank movement of the enemy, and on again to Long Bridge and the Potomac. But the van of the runaway soldiers had made such time that I found a host of them at the Jersey intrenchments begging the sentinels to allow them to cross the bridge. To-day we learn of the safe retreat of the main body of the army; that they were feebly followed by the rebels as far as Fairfax, but are now within the Arlington lines, and that McDowell, a stunned and vanquished general, is overlooking the wreck of his columns from his old quarters at the Custis mansion.

Our Losses.

The list of the killed and wounded in this wide-spread action will not be found proportionate to the numbers engaged on either side, and to the duration of the conflict. The nature of the ground, and the fact that the struggle was confined to attacks upon batteries and ambuscades, made the whole affair a series of fiery skirmishes, rather than a grand field encounter. Men fought with a kind of American individuality — each for himself — and the musketry firing was of the most irregular character. There were few such heavy volleys as those which made the hills echo last Thursday.

It would not be surprising if our entire loss in killed and wounded should prove to have been not over a thousand men. The rebels must have suffered twice as much from the terrific cannonading of our artillery in the forenoon, and from the desperate charges of the Zouaves, the Sixty-ninth, and the other corps which were especially distinguished in the engagement. The Zouaves captured two batteries, fought hand to hand with the Carolinians in a furious bowie-knife conflict, routed the famous Black Horse Cavalry, and only broke ranks when victory became hopeless.

Nine-tenths of our killed and wounded were perforce left on the field, and in the hospitals at either end; and as the enemy retains possession of the ground, we can get no accurate details of our losses. From prisoners taken by us we learned that the rebel leaders, determined to have no incumbrances on their hands, issued orders to give no quarter. It is positively known that many of our comrades were bayoneted where they fell. All the wounded Zouaves suffered this inhuman fate.

Rickett's, Carlisle's, and the West Point batteries remain in the enemy's possession. Twenty-three of our guns, including the thirty-two-pound siege pieces, were taken.1 But Sherman, who went into action with six cannon, came out with eight--two of them dragged from the rebel embrasures. Large numbers of sutlers' and train wagons are probably cut off, and abandoned arms and munitions have fallen into the enemy's hands. At the date of this letter, it is uncertain whether any of our regiments which were intercepted at the time of the panic have surrendered themselves to the rebels; but this must be the case with many of the infantry, who, ignorant of the country, starving and exhausted, dashed into the forests in their retreat. Every hour, however, is reducing our list of missing, as the stragglers reach their old camps along the Potomac.

Theory of the Defeat.

The disastrous result of the action was perhaps inevitable — even though no panic had occurred at the close — from the three causes against which the noblest soldiery can never successfully oppose their daring. First, the enemy's forces had been largely underrated,

1 Six of the twenty-three cannon were recovered the next day by Col. Einstein, the enemy having delayed removing them from the field.

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John B. Montgomery (2)
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