Retreat of the first Georgia Regiment from Carrick's Ford — a Thrilling Narrative.
The Virginia correspondent of the Charleston Mercury writes a deeply interesting letter descriptive of the engagement between Garnett
's and McClellan
's a forces at Carrick's Ford, and subsequent events: The concluding portion relates to the perilous retreat of a portion of the First Georgia Regiment across to Monterey
It is a graphic picture, and we transfer it to our columns.
The writer says:
The foe was baffled of his prey ! But seven companies of the 1st Georgia Regiment, outflanked by them, had been cut off by the rapid advance of the Indiana
line, and were driven from the road and up the mountain into a wilderness where human foot had never trod before.
Without food, with scarcely a blanket to cover them, and no shelter from rain or wind or cold but the dark foliage overhead and around on an untrodden mountain range, without maps or guide, these brave Georgians took up the line of march in such direction as their slight knowledge of the country and the aid of a pocket compass advised.
Over the rugged rocks, and through the dense under wood, often so thick that they had to hew a passage with their bowie-knives
, the straggling line toiled up the mountain until darkness closed around them and they lay down and slept.
The sun rose on the Sabbath morning and flooded their happy homes with light, and glided the spires of the village churches, whither their mothers, and wives, and sisters were going up to pray for the dear ones at war, and to beg Heaven to spare their lives; but he could not pierce the thicket to get a glimpse of that wan and famished band who, with falling limbs but stout hearts, were panting upwards for the day. On and on through the weary hours, and the laugh had hushed, and their voices seldom broke the deadly stillness, and the face of youth grew sad and the face of age anxious, but still not a murmur, not a thought of yielding; and the second night came down and the cheerless halt was made.
Again the sun went up, and the steaming mists curled away over the mountain tops, and these lost and now famished men, with chilled limbs and swollen feet, and railing hearts, went forward once more, But the pangs of hunger gnawed at their vitals, and the Vine
grew more and more strangling, and the Malts were frequent and prolonged, and the anxious ‘"Close up I Close up, boys"’ of the cheerful-tended officers, was no longer responded to by quickened steps.
They tore off the inner bark of the birch and spruce pine, and found some comfort and support in swallowing the juice.
Five dollars was offered the fortunate possessor of a bit of biscuit, two inches square, discovered in an odd corner of his knapsack, and refused.--One of the Captains
of the Washington Rifles--had a son in his ranks — a lad of 18 years, and tenderly reared.
He came up to his father and begged for food.
‘"Take this, my dear boy,"’ he replied, shaking out a few crumbs of biscuit from his haversack, ‘"eat it slowly; and may God save your life."’--Strong men sat down and cried, the weak dragged on unrepining.
Some of the feeblest, pale striplings, whom the lightest blow might fell, showed hearts of oak in that awin extremity.
Still the ‘"Close up"’ was urged on the laggard rear, and the slow hours seemed lengthened into years, and the day sped on, and the mountains closed before them, and the third sun set and they were not saved.
Tuesday came, and their strength and courage was gone; and despair had seized them.--Now the men became muttons.
The officers urged, and entreated, and commanded them to make one more effort to save their lives; but the latter had lost all value, and famine and fatigue was fast exhausting its remaining store.
Still the habit of obedience, and old affection, and well-tested confidence prevailed, and again they went forward, though with little hope of success, in their desperate effort to reach on human habitation.
And they would have failed, in all reasonable probability, and their bones would have whitened on that mountain ridge, and the accidents of their fate would have been as fearfully unknown as of those who have gone down at sea and left no trace or sign of shipwreck.
Suddenly, at mid-day, a stranger appeared among them.
‘"Who are you, and where did you come from?"’ are the eager questions.
‘"I am a Virginian — a friends have followed your track, and have come to save you !"’ was the welcome reply.
But, though the face was as of an angel, these men misunderstood it.--They were on the very verge of destruction.
An awful death awaited them if they did not follow his guidance, and yet they preferred famine, death, anything before captivity; and how could they tell whether he was to be trusted?
They were in a hostile country and the man was utterly unknown to them.
‘"Go on,"’ said the leader,‘"take us out of this wilderness, and we will reward you receive, betray us, and I will blow your brains out with my on hand at the first sight of the enemy."’
He carried them by a change of direction down the mountain striking a shallow stream at its bass, they followed its bed, leaping from rock to rock and sometimes wading through the water, for miles; them over a field and out into a road, and a wild cheer rung out their joy at the unexpected deliverance.
Attended by a guard the guide went to a neighboring farm-house, and returned by nightfall with a wagon load of provisions.--His name is Parsons
, and the Confederate States
Government should bestow on him their first gold medal.
‘"How much did you eat that night ?"’ I asked my narrator, a son of the late General Irwin
, of South Carolina
. ‘"Why, nothing at all, scarcely; the fellows nibbled a little all through the night: but the next morning, after such a breakfast as would have killed a wolf, we stopped twice and cooked our haver sacks full of provision, and by nightfall there was not a crumb in them."’ One of the Lieutenants
who shared the horrors of that retreat was on the cars, going home to recruit his shattered health.
Typhoid fever had followed the exposure and exhaustion — he looked like the genius of families. J. D. B.