Gen. Roberts, chief of cavalry on General Pope's staff, who was on the ground and all over it during the battle, puts the enemy at thirty thousand. He is an experienced officer and his judgment entitled to confidence. Gen. Augur, who was severely wounded, also an old officer, estimates at forty thousand. Whatever their strength it was carefully concealed till the close of the day; then, when General Banks advanced and the infantry fight began, it was suddenly developed in overwhelming numbers. Against these unexpected masses of the enemy our troops fought with the most determined courage. I hear from all quarters only the most enthusiastic praises of their behavior during most of the battle. Regiments advanced across open fields to attack an enemy of unknown strength concealed in the woods, and when met by the most terrible fire, still persisted in the effort till they were almost destroyed. The Second Massachusetts left the field with eighty men. The Fifth Connecticut, the Twenty-seventh Indiana, the Forty-sixth Pennsylvania were so severely cut up that they could no longer be called regiments. The One Hundred and Second Pennsylvania lost nearly all its officers. In Gen. Crawford's brigade every regimental field-officer is said to be killed, wounded, or prisoner. Gen. Geary is badly wounded in the arm, but may save it. General Augur is severely wounded. Gen. Prince is missing. The whole of the right wing, under General Williams, was very severely handled. Major Pelouze, Gen. Banks's Adjutant-General, a regular army officer, took command of a regiment which was ordered forward in support of another hardly pressed, but which was hesitating, and the Colonel of which refused to lead his men into such a galling fire as awaited them. It was only a leader they wanted, for they followed Major Pelouze gallantly till he was wounded. Two bullets struck him--one on the belt-plate, the other entering his side and severely wounding him. He still kept his seat, and went on; but was obliged to give up from loss of blood and weakness. General Banks was in command all day, and during the battle was almost constantly under fire. I hear nothing but praise of his skill and courage; that he did all that with his force was possible; showed himself a capable general in the field, as he has for the broader manoeuvres of a campaign. I have no time even to mention the many incidents of the fight which I have heard. I meant only to state briefly the general course and result of the fight, as it is here understood. The substance of it is this. The rebels under Jackson, aware of the advance beyond Culpeper, suddenly threw a strong column across the Rapidan, hoping by swift attack to fall upon and crush an isolated corps beyond the reach of immediate reenforcements. General Bayard with his cavalry checked their advance during the day. General Banks, pushing forward his artillery and following with infantry, finally, about six o'clock, came upon the whole strength of the rebels, hidden and strongly posted, and fought them for an hour and a half with only a fraction of their numbers, and when he found them too strong to be driven from their position, withdrew his troops and re-formed them on his original ground. Some regiments, not those I think that suffered most severely, left the field in disorder, but when General Pope arrived he found General Williams still holding his wing firmly, though his was the division which had fought hardest and longest and had lost most heavily. The enemy's losses, especially by our artillery fire, are immense. Their effort and confident expectation to overpower General Banks by weight of numbers failed entirely. He held his ground, and inflicted as much loss as he suffered. If aware of the rebel strength he would not, I suppose, have attacked when he did. Their strategy seems to have been meant to draw him upon an impregnable position, then destroy him at a blow. Good generalship on his part, and the fortitude of his troops saved the fortunes of the day, so that when reenforcements came up the battle was without decisive issue. The rebels were reenforced at almost the same instant by the arrival of General Hill with seventeen thousand troops, but they made no serious attack afterward. McDowell's troops came on the field with loud cheers, and were rapidly thrown into position, taking the ground held by General Williams's exhausted men. Jackson soon saw that his effort was a failure, and abandoned the game. For some hours in the early night there was more or less cannonading on both sides. The moon was full, the sky cloudless, and there was light enough for a General familiar with the ground, as Jackson was, to manoeuvre as he pleased. My first impressions of the condition of affairs were not very favorable, for as we approached the woods beyond which were General Banks's troops, a regiment came to the rear on the run. The cause of their panic was unknown, for there was only a scattering fire at the time. General Pope sent his staff right and left with orders to stop the fugitives by all means, and some men, who were frightened enough to defy all other dangers than that from which they ran, were ridden down and over. Later in the evening, General Pope and General Banks had a narrow escape. They, with their staffs and body-guards, were gathered on a hill which gave a good view of the ground, and, although it was in front of their lines, retained the position after the lines were formed. As the troops passed, they cheered loudly and repeatedly, and probably drew the rebels' attention to the spot, and led them to suspect the General's presence. A battery in the woods near by opened suddenly upon the hill, and kept up a rapid but inaccurate fire for perhaps twenty minutes. As the shell all went over and exploded in the field beyond, General Pope did not change his position. The battery ceased its fire presently, and the rebel guns elsewhere were also silent. On the left of the hill was an open valley, ascending
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.