the eastern bank of the Shenandoah, over which is the large bridge of the Manassas Gap Railroad, which has now again, for the third time, been destroyed by the rebels. Yesterday they were known to be in danger, and so much had our apprehension for them increased before night that the commanding officers were ordered to remain at their posts to await instructions, and at midnight word came to the different brigades that the “news from Front Royal was very unfavorable,” with orders to prepare to march immediately. Col. Kenly, the lamented officer of the Maryland First, received notice of the approach of the enemy only by the surprise and capture of some of his pickets. No intimation of their coming had been received, and it was, therefore, impossible to have supported him in season to have prevented the sad havoc which succeeded. But he defended himself through the entire day with an ability and energy which speak loud praises for him to the hearts of all his loyal countrymen. With scarcely a thousand men in his command, he was compelled to sustain himself against the three full brigades of Gen. Ewell, who had abandoned his camp, fifty miles above in the valley, for the purpose of making this descent upon a regiment of loyal Marylanders. The peculiar malignity which Southerners bear toward those whom they fancy should be of Southern sympathies in the Border States was, I think, the peculiar cause of the unscrupulous disregard of the ordinary humanities of war which was exhibited during the attack of Friday. A Southerner fighting against the independence of the South seems to excite all the worst passions of a human being in them. I can scarcely credit the statements made to me by trustworthy men, and confirmed by many others of those who experienced and witnessed them, in regard to the abandonment of all mercy and pity for a vanquished foe. During the whole forenoon, and until three o'clock P. M., the fighting was a slow intermittent struggle between the enemy, who were moving on gradually and cautiously, and Col. Kenly's command, which he endeavored to manage as carefully as possible, saving them from injury, and retreating the advance until reinforcements should come up to his assistance. Thus a continual fight, more of the nature of a skirmish than a battle, was kept up continuously during the forenoon and until the middle of the afternoon. Three o'clock, and a detachment of cavalry, one hundred men, companies B and D, of the Ira Harris Guard, commanded by Major Vought, arrived from Strasburgh and reported immediately to Col. Kenly, who ordered him at once to charge the enemy. The cavalry obeyed the order, charging upon them with great force, though greatly inferior in numbers. But the power of the enemy's superior force soon sent them backwards, and compelled them to retreat from the charge, severely repulsed. The superiority of their numbers could not be withstood by the excellent bravery which was shown by the Ira Harris Guard. Two o'clock, Wm. H. Mapes, commanding pioneer corps, arrived and reported to Col. Kenly, who gave orders immediately where they should be stationed, and they continued with the remainder of the little force, doing noble service, and holding in check successfully not less than six times their number. Seeing the danger of their position, the commander of the brigade gave the order to retreat, which they did in excellent order across the bridge of the south branch of the Shenandoah. Mapes was then ordered to burn the bridge, which was accordingly fired by placing upon it piles of fence-rails, but was not destroyed, for the rebels came on so closely and hotly that they were driven away, and did not succeed in the attempt. They soon arrived at and crossed the bridge on the north branch of the Shenandoah, which they succeeded in firing and destroying, but not, however, in detaining the rebels, who, cavalry and infantry, plunged in and forded it, and were soon upon the other side. Soon was received the unwelcome news that the enemy had surrounded them, flanking them with their superior numbers both by right and left. Our men, undaunted, dashed upon them with such vigor as to effect their escape, and cut their way out from the coils the rebels had thrown around them, not, however, without being again surrounded and so effectually beset on every side, behind and before, with the most insurmountable superiority both in the numbers and freshness of the rebel troops, that they were completely destroyed or captured, together with their noble Colonel and other field-officers. The severity of the fighting beggars all attempts at description. Not a private soldier, not an officer in the whole regiment, but fought with a desperation and determination not to surrender to rebels and foes of their country, which has placed them already upon the most heroic and brilliant pages of all history. The slaughter, which was commenced and continued until they were completely powerless, was terrific. The loyal Marylanders encountered them hand to hand, fighting when a crowd of rebels were upon a single opponent, and instances of individual bravery have been mentioned to me which seem almost fabulous. No man upon the field of battle ever managed his soldiers with more coolness, judgment, and bravery than did Col. Kenly. His cry to his men was not “go,” but “come with me,” and they did so, every man of them. When ordered to surrender, he shot the one who demanded it, and when overpowered and summoned to give up his sword, he broke the blade in halves, was shot, wounded, placed in an ambulance, and afterwards — I tell it not on the testimony of one but of many — while being carried away was killed by a pistol-shot fired at him as he lay wounded in the vehicle.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
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.