The ambuscade at Vienna
A correspondent of the N. Y. Tribune
, writing from the federal camp near Vienna
, the day after the surprise, says: In the case of our surprise near Vienna
, yesterday afternoon, there is another reason why a minute narrative should be received with interest.
The general plan and intention of the rebels, for the present, seem to have been indicated here, and it will be our own fault if, understanding thus early their indisposition to meet >us in an open way — until they shall have united their forces in some desperate stronghold — and their fondness for lurking slaughter and precipitate retreat, we do not take thorough precautions against such fatal consequences in future as those which yesterday unhappily befell us
It is probably known that no important movement in advance was intended by the Ohio
The railway from Alexandria
had just been restored, and the day before a number of troops had passed over the line, and returned, though not without molestation.
The shot which wounded the Connecticut
soldier should have served us as a warning that treachery flourished in all this region.
It was evident that the road would not remain safe without a proper protection, and the duty upon which the First Ohio regiment started was that of stationing efficient guards at all the bridges and other dangerous positions.
camp was situated about three miles outside of Alexandria
, in the direction of Vienna
, which is some thirteen miles distant. The expedition — if an affair with so comparatively peaceful a purpose requires to be called so — was under the direction of Brigadier-General Schenck
, who, I believe, arranged the details.
The immediate command of the regiment was in the hands of Col. McCook
The troops were embarked, and on their way early in the afternoon.
They proceeded leisurely, pausing at intervals, and detailing guards.
By this process, the regiment naturally grew thinner at every mile, until, when at the outskirts of Vienna
, only four companies were left.
However wise or necessary this plan of dropping squads behind might be in an ordinary advance, it certainly was of doubtful expediency in this case.
There were no villages or groups of houses along the route, among which the enemy's men could have established themselves in force, and the only point from which an attack could be seriously apprehended was Vienna
Had the entire regiment — and a larger body would have been better — been pushed rapidly down to Vienna
, we should have been more fully prepared to encounter and act against an ambush; and, had all proved quiet, nothing would have been lost, since we had the advantage of railroad speed, by stationing the guards on the return, instead of the advance.
It ia true that the entire course of the road is through a valley, and that the hills on either side, and the heavy thickets which screen them, appear to offer excellent situations for ambuscade; but the roads in the neighborhood are few, and those which exist are quite impracticable for the ready transportation of troops, not to speak of artillery.
Decidedly the suspicious spot was Vienna
and its vicinity.
A certain disposition to tardy caution was frustrated by the careless.
ness of the engine-driver.
le had been directed to stop at the distance of a mile from the town, whence skirmishers were to be thrown out, and proper reconnoissances to be made.
Instead of doing so, he shot ahead until within half a mile or less, so that this single chance of averting the impending danger was wasted.
The train was rounding a gentle curve, and the men were laughing, quite unconscious of peril, when the first round of shot fell among them, tearing five of them to pieces, and wounding many others.
The rebels' guns had been carefully planted in the curve, and were hidden until the worst part of their work was accomplished.
The first discharge was the most.
fatal. The four companies were disposed upon open platform cars, and were first of all exposed to the enemy's fire.
The engine was at the rear of the train.
It was fortunate that most of the men were sitting, for the shot flew high, and only those who stood erect were struck.
was among the foremost, but was unharmed.
and Col. McCook
were in a covered car behind the troops.
The Col. instantly sprang out, and gathered the best part of his men together.
The enemy's field-pieces had been stationed to command the line of the railroad and nothing else.
They were at the termination of the curve, to the left of the track, and elevated a few feet above the grade.
With the exception of that company which was the most exposed, and which suffered the most, the men promptly assembled near Col. McCook
, who proceeded to form them in line of battle, and to lead them into the protection of a little wood, or thicket, at the right of the track, apart from the range of the battery.
Meanwhile shot and shell continued to assail the train, and those who lingered near it. The engine-driver, in a panic, detached his locomotive and a single car, and dashed off at full speed.
The rebel artillerists then directed their range, so as to menace Col. McCook
's three companies, upon which the Col. quietly marched them over to the left of the track, into another clump of trees, where he collected all his little force, and arrayed them boldly in line.
The shot from the rebels now flew very wild,
cutting the trees overhead and around, and, in their hurry, they made the frequent blunder of discharging their shell without opening the fuze.
But, notwithstanding this, Col. McCook
's position was far from comfortable.
He saw that he was prodigiously outnumbered, and that if the enemy could only keep their wits for a few minutes, he must inevitably-be captured, or venture a struggle at fearful odds.
He had only about 180 men, while the rebel force exceeded 2,000.
Their field-pieces alone, decently managed, would have destroyed the little Ohio
band in a twinkling.
But the Ohio
men never flinched, and this was the reward of their bravery: The rebels observing such a mere handful bearing themselves undaunted before their superior host, were at first amazed, and then startled into the conviction that powerful reinforcements must be close at hand.
How else, it seemed to them, could this sprinkling of troops hold their ground.
It could be nothing but the confidence of overwhelming strength that sustained them.
And this is not conjecture.
The information since received from Vienna
proves it to have been their real belief.
Disheartened by this belief, they became irresolute, their fire slackened, they wavered, and, in a few minutes, broke up their lines and slowly retired.
At the same time Col. McCook
, having secured his wounded, also withdrew, his two thousand assailants making no attempt or motion to oppose his retreat.
Thus, by a manly defiance, our Ohio
men preserved themselves.
The first indication of weakness or trepidation would have undone them.
But now they can proudly and truly say that they stood before ten times their number of opponents, and saw those opponents, all men of South Carolina
, glide away from their sight, while they never for an instant swerved.
Their own retreat was in perfect order, and they would have carried away their dead, as well as wounded, had any been visible at the moment of their departure.
But the poor fellows were all lying out of sight upon the platform cars, and were for a short time overlooked.
When they were missed, their bodies were sought, and brought in. In most of the cases, death must have been instantaneous.
They were frightfully mangled.
One man's arm was torn and wrenched away by a round shot, and hung to the socket by a half-severed muscle.
The rush of blood through the ruptured arteries must have put him beyond all suffering at once.
Another's head was shot almost from the neck, and with another, the missile passed straight through his chest, beneath the shoulder.
Still another was literally cut into shreds, below the waist, and his musket was bent into a curve.
It was evident that all had been killed by heavy shot, and that the shell and smaller projectiles had inflicted only serious wounds, at the worst.
The bodies, folded in blankets, were all brought to the 1st Ohio regiment's camp this morning.
They were tenderly taken in charge by their former comrades, and in the afternoon, among the shadows of the woodland, the last offices were fulfilled, and they were buried together in the soil which their sacrifice makes truly sacred.
The rebels deserted Vienna
, but their brief opposition transformed our movement into a regular and important advance.
Many regiments have since changed places.
The 69th New York regiment moved on to Vienna
The two Ohio
regiments are encamped upon the way. The Connecticut
men are near at hand.
Cavalry and artillery support the 69th, so that, if an attack is made upon them, (which is not immediately apprehended,) they will be able to show the rebels, in whatever force they come, that retreating is a game of which we do not seek to share the glory.
men are fixed in their new position.
Last night they slept upon the grass, without shelter, in the rain.
But no one thought of the exposure.
They were looking forward, and you may feel sure that when these men and the men of South Carolina
meet, the reckoning will be no light one.
A rebel account.
A gentleman who arrived in Richmond
, direct from the scene of action, furnishes the following account of the Vienna
On Sunday morning, Col. Gregg
received orders to go out on a reconnoitring expedition.
He took with him 600 South Carolinians, a company of Kemper
's artillery, and two companies of cavalry, including 45 of Capt. Ball
's Chester company and Capt. Terry
's company, of Bedford
He started at 8 o'clock A. M. They remained Sunday night at a place called Dranesville
On Monday morning, Col. Gregg
, with a detachment of cavalry, went forty-five miles down to the Potomac River
to make observations.
They remained in the vicinity about an hour, and distinctly saw tents and men on the Maryland
They judged they were about 300 men encamped at that point.
afterwards returned to Dranesville
, formed his command into column and marched down the road to a place.
Here they remained only long enough to tear up the track of the Alexandria, Loudon and Hampshire railroad, and destroy a water tank — probably about an hour — after which they started to return to Dranesville
The troops had proceeded about half a mile when the whistle of the locomotive was heard in the distance, whereupon Col. Gregg
ordered a halt, wheeled his column, and marched rapidly back to Vienna
They had scarcely time to place two cannon in position, when a train of cars, consisting of six flats and a baggage car, came slowly around the curve, pushed by a locomotive.
Each flat was crowded with armed men, whose bayonets glistened in the evening sun, and gave our men an impression that a severe contest was at hand.
This, however, was not realized, as the result will show.
Just as the train was about to stop, the artillery fired a well-directed shot from one of their guns, which raked the Hessians fore and aft. Consternation and dismay were distinctly visible, and, after another fire, the enemy were seen hastily leaving the cars and taking to the woods.
The engineer of the train was smart enough to uncouple the locomotive and take the back track for Alexandria
, leaving the entire train to be captured by our troops.
's infantry and the cavalry pursued the fugitives a short distance through the woods, but were unable to overtake them.
A few of the party exhibited some bravery, and endeavored by shouts to rally their flying comrades, but it was impossible.
They then turned and discharged their pieces at our men without effect.
Six of the enemy were left dead upon the ground.
It is believed that this invading party consisted of regulars and Michigan volunteers. Col. Gregg
has received information that a detachment of Federalists came to Vienna
on Sunday evening, and brought timber to repair the bridge; and that they stated, while there, that they would come on Monday with men enough to whip and hang every d — d secessionist in the neighborhood.
They made a slight mistake in their calculations.
About twelve rounds were fired by our artillery, but the enemy scattered after the second.
Neither the infantry nor cavalry fired a shot.
Our troops burnt the cars and captured a considerable quantity of carpenters' tools, blankets, and other baggage, together with about twenty muskets and a number of pistols.
brings with him as trophies a U. S. soldier's cap, a havelock thoroughly saturated with blood, and a bayonet.
The fire of our artillerists was most effective.
One man was found with his hand shot completely off, another with his arm shot off at the shoulder, and other ghastly objects proved the destructive effect of the shots.
It is thought by some that one of the balls broke the couplings of the locomotive; at all events, the engine was taken away from the scene of action with all possible speed.
After the engagement, Colonel Gregg
retired with his command to Fairfax Court House.--Louisville Courier
, June 29.