previous next

[32] authority, and an utter disregard of all the defences carefully thrown by wise army rules about the rights of subordinates;1 an impetuous recklessness of statement and a lawyer's ingenuity in special pleading. If ever a man entered military service who needed the rigid preliminary repression of discipline, he was that man; instead of which he was taken and placed very nearly at the head of the volunteer service of the country, and had under his power the life, liberty and honor of many thousand men.

Ix. The battles of 1861.

The first regiment of Massachusetts to engage in battle in the war was the 4th Mass. Infantry (Colonel Packard), the occasion being that of Big Bethel, June 10, 1861, an aimless contest, of which it can only be said that the 4th Mass. behaved well. The real disaster was the first-fruit of that unfortunate jealousy of the regular army with which so many volunteer officers began their careers and which the wisest of them soon outgrew.2 General Butler, upon whom it devolved to select a commander for this night expedition, had at his command, in the colonel of the 1st Vermont, John W. Phelps, an officer of West Point training, Mexican war experience and proved courage; but, passing by him, he designated to command the night attack a militia brigadier from Massachusetts, Gen. (afterwards colonel) E. W. Peirce, who was doubtless personally brave but was utterly inexperienced. The whole plan of the expedition was so impracticable that Colonel (afterwards major-general) Phelps predicted in advance precisely what occurred,—that the troops, coming together by different routes in the darkness of the night, would fire on each other. Nothing was gained nor could anything important have been gained by the attempt;3 one member of the 4th Regiment was killed and two wounded, while two very valuable lives, those of Lieutenant Greble, U. S. A., and

1 See striking instances of this in Butler's Campaign on the Hudson, by Rev. H N. Hudson; in Gordon's War Diary, p. 411; in Eyland's Evolution of a Life, p. 231; and in Putnam's Co. A, 25th Mass., p. 232.

2 Generals Devens and Hincks, two of the most distinguished of the Massachusetts officers, both assured me that in their opinion this jealousy was wholly unfounded, and that they personally had always had the friendliest relations with regular army men.

3 ‘There never was any intention of maintaining it [the post], even if captured.’ (Report of Major-General Butler, Official War Records, II, 80.) See the references to this battle in De Leon's Four Years in Rebel Capitals, p. 113, and Walcott's 21st Mass., p. 264.

Creative Commons License
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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (2)
West Point (Virginia, United States) (1)
Mexico (Mexico) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
B. F. Butler (3)
John W. Phelps (2)
Charles F. Walcott (1)
William Lowell Putnam (1)
E. W. Peirce (1)
Packard (1)
N. Hudson (1)
Edward W. Hincks (1)
Greble (1)
George H. Gordon (1)
Charles Devens (1)
De Leon (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 10th, 1861 AD (1)
1861 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: