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[616] post, to watch that flank, and guard the lower fords with such detachments as he could spare.

On the western bank of the river, Captain Brown's detachment, of the First regiment Potomac Home Brigade, was deployed as skirmishers, in aline three quarters of a mile to the front.

A twenty-four-pound howitzer was left in a rude earthwork near the blockhouse by the railroad, where it could be used to defend the two bridges, and cover the retirement and crossing of the skirmishers.

While this disposition was going on, the railroad agent informed me that two more troop trains were on the road, and would arrive by one o'clock. These were the residue of General Ricketts' division, three regiments-making a very important reinforcement.

About eight o'clock A. M., the enemy marched by the pike from Frederick, and threw out skirmishers, behind whom he put his guns in position, and began the engagement. His columns followed a little after nine o'clock. Passing through the fields, just out of range of my pieces, without attempting to drive in my skirmishers, they moved rapidly around to the left, and forced a passage of the river at a ford about one mile below Ricketts. From nine o'clock to half-past 10 the action was little more than a warm skirmish and experimental cannonading, in which, however, the enemy's superiority in the number and calibre of his guns was fully shown. Against my six three-inch rifles he opposed not less than sixteen Napoleons. In this time, also, the fighting at the stone bridge assumed serious proportions.

Colonel Brown held his position with great difficulty.

About half-past 10 o'clock the enemy's first line of battle made its appearance, and moved against Ricketts, who, meantime, had changed front to the left, so that his right rested upon the river bank. This change unavoidably subjected his regiments to an unintermitted enfilading fire from the batteries across the stream, So great was the rebel front, also, that I was compelled to order the whole division into one line, thus leaving it without reserves. Still the enemy's front was greatest. Two more guns were sent to Ricketts. Finally, by burning the wooden bridge and the blockhouse at its further end, thus releasing the force left to defend them, I put into the engagement every available man, except Tyler's reserves, which, from the messages arriving, I expected momentarily to have to despatch to Colonel Brown's assistance.

The enemy's first line was badly defeated. His second line then advanced and was repulsed, but after a fierce and continuous struggle. In the time this occupied I could probably have retired without much trouble, as the rebels were badly punished; the main objects of the battle, however, were unaccomplished — the rebel strength was not yet developed. At one o'clock the three reinforcing regiments of veterans would be on the ground; and then the splendid behavior of Ricketts and his men inspired me with confidence. One o'clock came, but not the reinforcements; and it was impossible to get an order to them — my telegraph operator, and the railroad agent, with both his trains, had run away. An hour and a half later I saw the third line of rebels move out of the woods, and down the hill behind which they made their formation; right after it came the fourth. It was time to get away. Accordingly, I ordered General Ricketts to make preparation, and retire to the Baltimore pike. About four o'clock lie began the execution of the order.

The stone bridge held by Colonel Brown now became all-important; its loss was the loss of my line of retreat; and I had reason to believe that the enemy, successful on my left, would redouble his efforts against the right. General Tyler had already marched with his reserves to Brown's assistance; but on receipt of notice of my intention, without waiting for Gilpin and Landstreet, he galloped to the bridge, and took the command in person. After the disengagement of Ricketts' line, when the head of the retreating column reached the pike, I rode to the bridge, and ordered it to be held at all hazards by the force then there, until the enemy should be found in its rear — at least, until the last regiment had cleared the country road by which the retreat was being effected. This order General Tyler obeyed. A little after five o'clock, when my column was well on the march toward New Market, an attack on his rear convinced him of the impracticability of longer maintaining his post. Many of his men then took to the woods, but, by his direction, the greater part kept their ranks, and manfully fought their way through. In this way Colonel Brown escaped. General Tyler, finding himself cut off, dashed into the woods, with the officers of his staff, and was happily saved. His gallantry and self-sacrificing devotion are above all commendation of words.

The enemy seems to have stopped pursuit at the stone bridge. A few cavalry followed my rear guard to within a couple of miles of New Market, where they established a picket post. The explanation of their failure to harass my column lies in facts that have since come to my knowledge, viz.: Johnson's cavalry was marching, at the time of the battle, toward Baltimore, via the Liberty road, while McCausland's was too badly cut up in the fight for anything like immediate and vigorous action after it.

To have cut my column off at New Market the rebels had only to move their cavalry round my right by way of Urbana and Monrovia; suspecting such was his plan, I used the utmost expedition to pass the command beyond that point. The danger proved imaginary. The reinforcements, for which I waited so anxiously the last two hours of the engagement reaching Monrovia in good time to have joined me, halted there — a singular proceeding, for which no explanation has as yet been furnished me. Monrovia is but eight miles from the battle-ground. The commanding officer at that place

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James B. Ricketts (6)
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