them. Had Steedman been on horseback, he would assuredly have been riddled by a dozen bullets. But on foot, directing the movements of his men, the bullets went hissing like venomous serpents directly over his head. The enemy's artillery came crashing into action almost with their first volley of musketry, and the fire would have been murderous, had not they also aimed too high, as very likely to be the case when shooting down from an eminence, unless the gunners are thorough masters of their business. The shells passed about two feet over the heads of the Fourteenth, cutting off trees at that height, and bursting some distance beyond our lines. No praise can do justice to the gallant conduct of that glorious Fourteenth. From the first curdling surprise by the clash of musketry and artillery, when the whole hill above them seemed belching out fire and lead, they stood firm as the soil they trod, instantly forming their line of battle and returning the fire with a precision to which we soon found many a mournful testimony on the height above. Instantly, Milroy's 9th Indiana came rushing up, and the gallant Colonel attempted to form them in line of battle on Steedman's left. The ranks next to the Fourteenth were thirty deep. Every man wanted to be at the point of danger, and was crowding forward to be in front, till it was by the most energetic measures that the “Swamp devils” could be driven further from the scene of action in order to get them into line. Meantime what ought to have been the crowning manoeuvre of the engagement was going on. Capt. Benham had observed a point some distance up the river, where he thought the bluff on the right could be scaled, and a flank movement thus be made to turn the enemy's left. Old Dumont was instantly ordered to ford the river and lead the Seventh Indiana up the bluff. The ascent was terrible, and the thicket of laurel added fresh difficulties. But the Colonel had already reached the summit; Capt. Lord's company and another had followed him, and the rest were ready to ascend, when some one bore the word to Capt. Benham, who was on another part of the field, the statement that the ascent was impracticable. In five minutes more the enemy's flank could have been turned and the engagement ended, but Benham, acting on the information he had received, ordered Colonel Dumont then to proceed down the river and turn the other flank. When the order was delivered the Colonel was mystified. There he stood, the ascent made, his regiment partially up and the rest following, and now, having marched up the hill, instead of engaging the enemy before him, (and who had not yet, owing to the intervening thickets of laurel, discovered his presence,) he was ordered to march down again. But a soldier's duty is to obey, and down the bluff went the Colonel. Taking the middle of the channel, they then marched right down the river between two fires, with the bullets and cannon balls of both armies pouring across just above their heads, till they passed the wagon train standing in the ford. Then turning to the right, they forced their way through an almost impenetrable thicket of laurel, on the river's brink, and appeared on the right flank of the enemy. That decided the contest. The enemy had been wholly engaged with the Fourteenth Ohio, right in front of them, while, meantime, the Ninth Indiana had been pouring in its fire at a “left oblique.” The instant Dumont appeared on their flank, they fled in wild disorder, the Seventh forcing its way out of the laurel and starting in after them on an emphatic double quick. About a quarter of a mile ahead the ford was reached. The enemy had just crossed this when the Seventh came rushing up. They were four thousand; Dumont had perhaps six hundred. Yet the first volley drove them, and Garnett found it impossible to rally the main body of his army at all. The few around him continued to reply with a galling fire, when Major Gordon (who was acting as aide to Gen. Morris) rushed around a little thicket and came up to the river's brink at a point near which Garnett was standing on the opposite side. The remainder of the rebels fired one volley and incontinently fled. Garnett turned on his heel to wave back his men, when Sergeant Burlingame, of Capt. Ferry's company, raised his musket, took deliberate aim, and fired. Garnett fell instantly on his back, his head lying towards our forces, and his mouth opening wide, as if gasping for breath. He uttered not a single groan, and when Major Gordon reached him, scarcely a moment after he fell, his muscles were just making their last convulsive twitch. The Major stooped down, tenderly closed his eyes, bound up his face, disposed his limbs, and left him lying on the river bank, with a guard of patriot soldiers around to protect his corpse from any possibility of indignity. Not a Virginian stood by him when he fell. The whole cowardly crew had fled; and of all the army of four thousand, but one was with his General — a slight, boyish figure, with scarcely the dawn of approaching manhood on his face, and wearing the Georgian uniform and button. Bravely he had stood by his General to the last, and when Garnett fell, he fell too. There they lay, in that wild region, on the banks of the Cheat, with “back to the field and face to the foe.” The one was the representative of Virginia aristocracy and Virginia treason, educated, honored, accomplished, and now fighting against the flag under which he had been reared, and which he had followed to many a field of glory; the other, his deluded follower from another State, evidently from the lower walks of life, and with only a brave heart and stern determination to stand by the cause he had espoused to the bitter end. And there, on that
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Battle of Bull Run .
Doc . 4 .- N. Y. Tribune narrative.
Doc . 59 : a Virginian who is not a traitor: response of Lieut. Mayo , U. S. N. , to the proclamation of Gov. Letcher .
Doc . 65 -speech of Galusha A. Grow , on taking the Chair of the House of Representatives of the United States , July 4 .
Doc . 135 .- Virginia ordinance, prohibiting citizens of Virginia from holding office under the United States , passed July , 1861 .
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.