“  held in reserve, or the future movements of our armies.” So I shall not be hanged for saying that Gen. Franklin's division — the best, in several important particulars, to be found in the army — had been at Ship Point quite a long time, when, on Sunday last, the rebel army evaporated, waiting, apparently, for something to turn up — for something pretty important, too, it should seem, from the commotion which was caused in the Cabinet when the President interfered to say that Gen. McClellan must have his way; that Franklin's division must go with the army of the Potomac. The division was quite ready for a move when the order was received at inspection on Sunday last. On Tuesday its infantry was landed without opposition, gunboats having preceded the transport vessels. Tuesday night there were some picket murders. One, a sergeant in the Goslin Zouaves, of Philadelphia, was killed by a Texan Ranger. Another picket instantly fired upon the Texan, and in the morning the bodies of the two were found near together in the wood — the Texan dressed in unmilitary attire; in his pocket was a general pass permitting him to go anywhere within or through the lines of the confederate army, from which it is inferred that he was employed as a scout. Skirmishing was kept up to some extent all night. In the morning the fight began in earnest, and in the new style which the rebels appear to have adopted. The artillery had been landed during the night, or much of it rather, for the disembarkation was not complete until about ten o'clock in the morning. The rebels had a work of considerable development on the heights, with rifled field-pieces and a field-battery, behind hastily thrown up intrenchments, in a small clearing marked C in the plan above. Shortly after nine o'clock the main body of the infantry — all of Franklin's division — advanced into the woods in front and on the flanks of the battery at C, meeting a very large body of the enemy, a portion of which was the famous Hampton Legion of South-Carolina. It was not a fair stand — up meeting; but the enemy, familiar with the ground, and skilfully managed, found it very easy to get into ambuscades. The Thirty-first New-York advancing, finds itself at once encountering, at a distance of a few yards, three regiments of the enemy, and so all through the battle, sharp-shooting, guerrilla fighting altogether on the part of the enemy. Other troops were landed meanwhile, and were held in reserve. The fighting commenced on the right and left of our line, and on the skirt of the woods. But the troops advanced steadily and under the severest fire. It was about one hour that this bushwhacking business continued when our troops were obliged to fall back, the enemy following close as long as they were protected by the forest. There was nothing like panic or fear. No bad conduct is reported on the part of any corps — on the contrary, every soldier was on his best behavior. The artillery had by this time got in position. Porter's First Massachusetts on the left, with Lieut. Sleeper's section facing the works on the heights, Capt. Platt's battery, (Co. D, Second artillery, regulars,) on the right, and Hexamer's New-Jersey in the centre. Other artillery in the reserve. The batteries were supported by the Twentieth Massachusetts, and portions of the Nineteenth Massachusetts and Sixteenth New-York. Positions as noted above. Now when the troops first fell back, and bullets were whizzing over the field, there was a pretty nice question of generalship to be decided. The artillery, by moving forward, could clear the woods very quickly, undoubtedly, But what would be the effect upon our own infantry? If it had been permitted to give up then, and another one had been substituted, it is not unlikely that peaceable possession of the field could have been obtained with a less loss of life than we actually suffered. But there would have been an end, for a time, of the usefulness of the division. The infantry having undertaken the task, must fight its way through or be utterly demoralized. So the infantry advanced again, promptly and willingly, quite as though it were a matter of course, to meet a second time the same reception. A second time they were driven back, and yet a third time the enemy succeeded in coming down to the skirt of the woods. The artillery had not been idle; whenever opportunity was offered, sending shells from the Parrott ten-pounder over the woods and into the clearing where the enemy was posted, the enemy's battery at that point pouring in grape whenever one man came within its range upon advancing. The battery on the heights at our left opened too upon the shipping in the river, and presently upon the camp, being responded to promptly and regularly by the left section of Porter's battery. The gunboats fired a few shells in that direction, and also toward the centre. At about half-past 3 the infantry rallied for the last time. The artillery had damaged the rebels considerably, and the time had come for settling the question of possession. The whole division advanced, the First New-Jersey charging at the double-quick upon the rebel work at the centre, the artillery the while keeping up a brisk fire of shell upon the point. Two shells from Porter's battery fell in the work as the regiment advanced, and the rebels ran away with their little howitzers, leaving the Jersey men a free entry. Their cheers announced to the artillerists in the field below the success of our troops, and the firing ceased. An hour later a corps of infantry was seen marching by the house near the battery on the left, and Lieut. Sleeper sent two shells after them by way of a parting salute, the last going through the building. The battle was over and the field was ours. But it was not supposed that we were to be left in quiet repose, and therefore the battery horses were in harness all night. But no enemy appeared to disturb us, and to-day we have the satisfaction of knowing that they are as far
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.