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Battle of ball's Bluff, Va.1
fought October 21, 1861.

General Stone's report.

Headquarters Corps of observation, October 28, 1861.
General: On the 20th inst., being advised from Headquarters of Gen. McCall's movements to Drainesville to reconnoitre and draw out the intentions of the enemy at Leesburg, I went to Edwards' Ferry, at one o'clock P. M., with Gen. Gorman's brigade, Seventh Michigan, two troops of the Van Alen Cavalry, and the Putnam Rangers, while four companies of the Fifteenth Massachusetts Volunteers were sent to Harrison's Island, under Col. Devens, who then had one company on the island, and Col. Lee, with a battalion of the Massachusetts Twentieth, a section of the Rhode Island battery and Tammany regiment, was sent to Conrad's Ferry. A section of Bunting's New York battery and Rickett's battery was already on duty, respectively at Edwards' and Conrad's Ferries.

Gen. McCall's movements had evidently attracted the attention of the enemy, a regiment of infantry having appeared from the direction of Leesburg, and taken shelter behind a hill about a mile and a half from our position at the ferry.

General Gorman was ordered to deploy his forces in view of the enemy, and in so doing no movement of the enemy was excited. Three flat boats were ordered, and at the same time, shell and spherical-case shot were thrown into the place of the enemy's concealment. This was done to produce an impression that a crossing was to be made. The shelling at Edwards' Ferry, and launching of the boats, induced the quick retirement of the enemy's force seen there, and three boat loads of thirty-five men each, from the First Minnesota, crossed and recrossed the river, each trip occupying about six or seven minutes.

While this was going on, the men evinced by their cheering that they were all ready and determined to fight gallantly when the opportunity was presented. At dusk, Gen. Gorman's brigade and the Seventh Michigan returned to camp, leaving the Tammany regiment, and the companies of the Fifteenth Massachusetts and artillery at Conrad's Ferry in position, awaiting the return of scouts. Meanwhile, Gen. Stone remained at Edwards' Ferry. At ten o'clock P. M., Lieutenant Howe, Quartermaster of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, reported that scouts, under Capt. Philbrick, had returned to the island, having been within one mile of Leesburg, and there discovering in the edge of a wood an encampment of thirty tents. No pickets were out any distance, and he approached to within twenty-five rods without being even challenged.

Orders were then instantly sent to Col. Devens to cross four companies to the Virginia shore, and march silently under cover of the night to the position of the camp referred to, to attack and destroy it at daybreak, pursue the enemy lodged there, as far as would be prudent, and return immediately to the island, his return to be covered by a company of the Massachusetts Twentieth, to be posted over the landing place. Col. Devens was ordered to make close observation of the position, strength, and movements of the enemy, and in the event of there being no enemy there visible, to hold on in a secure position, until he could be strengthened sufficiently to make a valuable reconnoissance.

At this time orders were sent to Col. Baker to send the First California regiment to Conrad's Ferry, to arrive there at sunrise, and to have the remainder of his brigade ready to move early.

Lieut.-Col. Wood, of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, was also ordered to move with a battalion to the river bank opposite Harrison's Island by daybreak. Two mounted howitzers, in charge of Lieut. French of Rickett's battery, were ordered to the tow-path of the canal opposite Harrison's Island. Colonel Devens, in pursuance of his orders, crossed and proceeded to the point indicated, Colonel Lee remaining on the bluff with one hundred men to cover his return. To distract attention from Colonel Devens' movements, and to make a reconnoissance in the direction of Leesburg from Edwards' Ferry, I directed General Gorman to throw across the river at that point two companies of the First Minnesota under cover of a fire from Rickett's battery, and sent out a party of thirty-one Van Alen Cavalry under Maj. Mix, accompanied by Captain Chas. Stewart, assistant adjutant-general, Captain Murphy, and Lieutenants Pierce and Gouraud, with orders [94] to advance along the Leesburg road until they should come to the vicinity of a battery which was known to be on that road, and then turn to the left and examine the heights between that and Goose Creek, and see if any of the enemy were posted in the vicinity, find out their numbers as nearly as possible, their disposition, examine the country with reference to the passage of troops to the Leesburg and Georgetown turnpike, and return rapidly to cover behind the skirmishers of the Minnesota First. This reconnoissance was most gallantly conducted, and the party proceeded along the Leesburg road nearly two miles from the ferry, and when near the position of the hidden battery came suddenly upon a Mississippi regiment, about thirty-five yards distant, received its fire and returned it with their pistols. The fire of the enemy killed one horse, but Lieutenant Gouraud seized the dismounted man, and drawing him on his horse behind him, carried him unhurt from the field. One private of the Fourth Virginia Cavalry was brought off by the party a prisoner, who, being well mounted and armed, his mount replaced the one lost by the fire of the enemy.

Meantime, on the right, Col. Devens, having in pursuance of his orders arrived at the position designated to him as the site of the enemy's camp, found that the scouts had been deceived by the uncertain light, and mistaken openings in the trees for a row of tents. Col. Devens found, however, a wood in which he concealed his force, and proceeded to examine the space between that and Leesburg, sending back to report that thus far he could see no enemy. Immediately on receipt of this intelligence, brought me by Lieut. Howe, who had accompanied both parties, I ordered a non-commissioned officer and ten cavalry to join Col. Devens for the purpose of scouring the country near him while engaged in the reconnoissance, and giving due notice of the approach of any force, and that Lieut.-Colonel Ward, with his battalion of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, should move on to Smoot's Mills, half a mile to the right of the crossing place of Col. Devens, and see where, in a strong position, he could watch and protect the flank of Col. Devens in his return, and secure a second crossing more favorable than the first, and connected by a good road with Leesburg. Capt. Candy, assistant adjutant-general, and Gen. Lander, accompanied the cavalry to serve with it. For some reason never explained to me, neither of these orders was carried out. The cavalry were transferred to the Virginia shore, but were sent back without having left the shore to go inland, and thus Col. Devens was deprived of the means of obtaining warning of any approach of the enemy.

The battalion under Col. Ward was detained on the Bluff in the rear of Col. Devens, instead of being directed to the right. Col. Baker having arrived at Conrad's Ferry with the First California regiment at an early hour, proceeded to Edwards' Ferry, and reported to me in person, stating that his regiment was at the former place, and the three other regiments of his brigade ready to march. I directed him to Harrison's Island to assume command, and in full conversation explained to him the position as it then stood. I told him that Gen. McCall had advanced his troops to Drainesville, and that I was extremely desirous of ascertaining the exact position and force of the enemy in our front, and exploring as far as it was safe on the right, toward Leesburg, and on the left toward the Leesburg and Gum Spring road. I also informed Col. Baker that Gen. German, opposite Edwards' Ferry, should be reinforced, and that I would make every effort to push Gorman's troops carefully forward to discover the best line from that ferry to the Leesburg and Gum Spring road, already mentioned; and the position of the breastworks and hidden battery, which prevented the movement of troops directly from left to right, were also pointed out to him.

The means of transportation across, of the sufficiency of which he (Baker) was to be judge, was detailed, and authority given him to make use of the guns of a section each of Vaughan's and Bunting's batteries, together with French's mountain howitzers, all the troops of his brigade and the Tammany regiment, besides the Nineteenth and part of the Twentieth regiments of Massachusetts Volunteers, and I left it to his discretion, after viewing the ground, to retire from the Virginia shore under the cover of his guns and the fire of the large infantry force, or to place our reinforcements in case he found it practicable and the position on the other side favorable. I stated that I wished no advance made unless the enemy were of inferior force, and under no circumstances to pass beyond Leesburg, or a strong position between it and Goose Creek, on the Gum Spring road, i. e., the Manassas road. Colonel Baker was cautioned in reference to passing artillery across the river; and I begged if he did do so to see it well supported by good infantry. The General pointed out to him the position of some bluffs on this side of the river, from which artillery could act with effect on the other, and, leaving the matter of crossing more troops or retiring what were already over to his discretion, gave him entire control of operations on the right. This gallant and energetic officer left me about nine A. M., or half-past 9, and galloped off quickly to his command.

Reinforcements were rapidly thrown to the Virginia side by General Gorman at Edwards' Ferry, and his skirmishers and cavalry scouts advanced cautiously and steadily to the front and right, while the infantry lines were formed in such positions as to act rapidly and in concert in case of an advance of the enemy, and shells were thrown by Lieutenant Woodruff's Parrott guns into the woods beyond our lines, as they gradually extended, care being taken to annoy the vicinity of the battery on [95] the right. Messengers from Harrison's Island informed me, soon after the arrival of Colonel Baker opposite the island, that he was crossing his whole force as rapidly as possible, and that he had caused an additional flat-boat to be rafted from the canal into the river, and had provided a line to cross the boats more rapidly.

In the morning a skirmish took place between two companies of the Twentieth Massachusetts and about one hundred Mississippi riflemen, during which a body of the enemy's cavalry appeared. Colonel Devens then fell back in good order on Colonel Lee's position. Presently he again advanced, his men behaving admirably, fighting, retiring, and advancing in perfect order, and exhibiting every proof of high courage and good discipline. Had the cavalry scouting party, sent him in the morning, been with him then, he could have had timely warning of the approach of the superior force which afterward overwhelmed his regiment. Thinking that Colonel Baker might be able to use more artillery, I despatched to him two additional pieces, supported by two companies of infantry with directions to come into position below the place of crossing, and report to Colonel Baker. Colonel Baker suggested this himself, later in the day, just before the guns on their way arrived.

After Col. Devens' second advance, Colonel Baker went to the field in person; and it is a matter of regret to me that he left no record of what officers and men he charged with the care of the boats and insuring the regular passage of troops. If any were charged with this duty it was not performed, for the reinforcements as they arrived found no one in command of the boats, and great delays were thus occasioned. Had one officer and a company remained at each landing, guarding the boats, their full capacity would have been made serviceable, and sufficient men would have been passed on to secure success. The forwarding of artillery before its supporting force of infantry also impeded the rapid assembling of an imposing force on the Virginia shore. If the infantry force had first crossed, a difference of one thousand men would have been made in the infantry line at the time of attack, probably enough to have given us the victory.

Between twelve and one P. M. the enemy appeared in force in front of Colonel Devens, and a sharp skirmish ensued, and was maintained for some time by the Fifteenth Massachusetts unsupported, and finding he would be outflanked, Colonel Devens retired a short distance and took up a position near the wood, half a mile in front of Colonel Lee, where he remained until two o'clock, when he again fell back, with the approval of Colonel Baker, and took his place with the portions of the Twentieth Massachusetts and First California which had arrived. Col. Baker now formed his line, and waited the attack of the enemy, which came upon him with great vigor about three P. M., and was well met by our troops, who, though pitched against much superior numbers, three to one, maintained their ground under a most destructive fire of the enemy. Colonel Coggswell reached the field amid the heaviest fire, and came gallantly into action, with a yell which wavered the enemy's line. Lieutenant Bramhall, of Bunting's battery, had succeeded, after extraordinary exertions and labor, in bringing up a piece of the Rhode Island battery, and Lieutenant French his two howitzers; but both officers, after well-directed firing, were soon borne away wounded, and the pieces were hauled to the rear, so that they might not fall into the enemy's hands. At four P. M. Col. Baker fell at the head of his column, pierced by a number of bullets, while cheering his men, and by his own example sustaining the obstinate resistance they were making. The command then devolved upon Colonel Lee, who prepared to commence throwing out forces to the rear, but it was soon found that Colonel Coggswell was the senior in rank, and he, taking the command, ordered preparation to be made for marching to the left, and cutting a way through to Edwards' Ferry. But just as the first dispositions were being effected, a rebel officer rode rapidly in front and beckoned the Tammany regiment toward the enemy. It is not clear whether or not the Tammany men supposed this one of our officers; but they responded with a yell and charged forward, carrying with them in their advance the rest of the line, which soon received a destructive fire from the enemy at close distance. The men were quickly recalled, but their new position frustrated the movement designed, and Col. Coggswell gave the necessary order to retire. The enemy pursued to the edge of the bluff over the landing place, and poured in a heavy fire as our men were endeavoring to cross to the island. The retreat was rapid, but according to orders. The men formed near the river, maintaining for nearly half an hour the hopeless contest rather than surrender. The smaller boats, had disappeared, no one knew where. The largest boat, rapidly and too heavily loaded, swamped some fifteen feet from the shore, and nothing was left to our soldiers but to swim, surrender, or die.

With a devotion worthy of the cause they were serving, officers and men, while quarter was being offered to such as would lay down their arms, stripped themselves of their swords and muskets, and hurled them out into the river to prevent their falling into the hands of the foe, and saved themselves as they could by swimming, floating on logs, and concealing themselves in the bushes of the forest, and to make their way up and down the river bank to the place of crossing. The instances of personal gallantry of the highest order were so many that it would be unjust to detail particular cases. Officers displayed for their men, and men for their officers, that beautiful devotion which is only to be found among true soldiers. While these scenes were being enacted [96] on the right, I was preparing on the left for a rapid push forward to the road by which the enemy would retreat if driven, and entirely unsuspicious of the perilous condition of our troops. The additional artillery had already been sent, and when the messenger, who did not leave the field until after three o'clock, was questioned as to Col. Baker's position, he informed me that the Colonel, when he left, seemed to feel perfectly secure, and could doubtless hold his position in case he should not advance. The same statement was made by another messenger half an hour later, and I watched anxiously for a sign of advance on the right, in order to push forward General Gorman. It was, as had been explained to Colonel Baker, impracticable to throw General Gorman's brigade directly to the right, by reason of the battery in the woods, between which we had never been able to reconnoitre. At four P. M. or thereabouts, I telegraphed to Gen. Banks for a brigade of his division, intending it to occupy the ground on this side of the river near Harrison's Island, which would be abandoned in case of a rapid advance, and shortly after, as the fire slackened, a messenger was waited for on whose tidings should be given orders either for the advance of General Gorman to cut off the retreat of the enemy, or for the disposition for the night in the position then held. At five P. M. Captain Candy arrived from the field and announced the melancholy tidings of Colonel Baker's death, but with no intelligence of any further disaster. I immediately apprised Gen. Banks of Colonel Baker's death, and I rode quickly to the right to assume command. Before arriving opposite the island, men who had crossed the river plainly gave evidence of the disaster, and on reaching the same I was satisfied of it by the conduct of the men then landing in boats.

The reports made to me were that the enemy's force was ten thousand men. This I considered, as it proved to be, an exaggeration. Orders were then given to hold the island, and establish a patrol on the tow-path from opposite the island to the line of pickets near the Monocacy, and I returned to the left to secure the troops there from disaster, and make preparations for moving them as rapidly as possible.

Orders arrived from General McClellan to hold the Island Virginia shore at Edwards' Ferry at all risks, indicating at the same time that reinforcements would be sent, and immediately additional means of intrenching were forwarded, and General Gorman was furnished with particular directions to hold out against any and every force of the enemy.

During that time, General Hamilton with his brigade was on the march from Darnestown. Before I left to go to the right I issued orders to intercept him, and instructed him to repair to Conrad's Ferry, where orders awaited him to so dispose of his force as to give protection to Harrison's Island and protect the line of the river. At three A. M. Major-General Banks arrived and took command.

A report of division for the following days will be made out speedily. I cannot conclude without bearing testimony to the courage, good discipline, and conduct of all the troops of this division during the day. Those in action behaved like veterans, and those not brought into action showed that alacrity and steadiness in their movements which proved their anxiety to engage the foe in their country's cause. We mourn the loss of the brave departed, dead on the field of honor, if not of success, and we miss the companionship of those of our comrades who have fallen into the hands of our enemies. But all feel that they have earned the title of soldier, and all await with increased confidence another measurement of strength with the foe.

Gen. Stone's orders to Col. Baker.--The following are exact copies of the orders from Gen. Stone to Col. Baker, which were found beneath the lining of the latter's hat by Capt. Young, his aid, after the body had been taken from the field. Both were deeply stained with Col. Baker's blood, and one of the bullets, which went through his head, carried away a corner of the first:

H. Q. Corps of [Here the bullet struck and a word is missing.] Edwards' Ferry, October 21, 1861.
Col. E. D. Baker, Corn. of Brigade:
Colonel: In case of heavy firing in front of Harrison's Island, you will advance the California regiment of your brigade, or retire the regiments under Cols. Lee and Devens, now on the [almost rendered illegible by blood] Virginia side of the river, at your discretion — assuming command on arrival.

Very respectfully, Col., your most obt. servt.,

Chas. P. Stone, Brigadier-General Commanding.

The second order which follows, was delivered on the battle-field by Col. Coggswell, who said to Col. Baker, in reply to a question what it meant, “All right, go ahead.” Thereupon Col. Baker put it in his hat without reading. An hour afterward he fell:

Headquarters Corps of observation, Edwards' Ferry, Oct. 22--11.50.
E. D. Baker, Commanding Brigade:
Colonel: I am informed that the force of the enemy is about four thousand, all told. If you can push them, you may do so as far as to have a strong position near Leesburg, if you can keep them before you, avoiding their batteries. If they pass Leesburg and take the Gum Springs road, you will not follow far, but seize the first good position to cover that road.

Their design is to draw us on, if they are obliged to retreat, as far as Goose Creek, where they can be reinforced from Manassas, and have a strong position. [97]

Report frequently, so that when they are pushed, Gorman can come up on their flank.

Yours respectfully and truly,

Charles P. Stone, Brigadier-General Commanding.

Lieutenant Adams' report.

Washington, Oct. 28, 1861.
General Barry, Chief of Artillery:
sir: Agreeably to your instructions, I give below a correct report of the circumstances connected with the recent battle near Ball's Bluff, October 21, 1861.

The left section of Battery B, Rhode Island Artillery, was ordered on the 20th of October to proceed to Conrad's Ferry. Captain Vaughn immediately started, camping at the New York Ninth regiment's camp on Saturday night, and, proceeding to the ferry the following morning, placed one of his pieces in readiness to cross the river. General Baker at that time gave Captain Vaughn orders to place the centre section of his battery, which was two miles and a half distant, in a position to shell the woods. Captain Vaughn immediately started, ordering Lieutenant Bramhall to see to the piece in the event of his not getting back in time to cross with it. Very soon after Captain Vaughn left the river, orders were given to transport one piece of artillery across the river. Lieutenant Bramhall, being at that time chief in command, crossed with the one best situated for immediate and most expeditious forwarding, which was one of Captain Vaughn's pieces. The piece was taken across the river, with the timber, seven horses and fourteen men, including Sergeant Tucker. After dismounting the piece the men dragged it up a steep hill, and, returning for the carriage, brought it up also, mounted the piece, and commenced firing; continued to do so until all the cannoneers, with the exception of two, were shot down. Sergeant Tucker remained by the piece until his right leg was shattered by a musket ball, and then, unassisted, retired.

Lieutenant Bramhall speaks of both the sergeant and all the men, with the exception of one, who retired after the third fire, as exhibiting the greatest bravery. He was also particular to speak of the bravery shown by M. Carmichael and W. F. Matteson. His report to Captain Bunting is full of the praises of the whole detachment.

The loss sustained by the battery is as follows, viz.: One James's rifled cannon, bronze, one gun carriage, one gun limber, seven horses with equipments, four men missing, six men wounded.

The following is a list of those who were in the detachment which crossed the river: Sergeant S. G. Tucker, right leg shattered; Corporal W. F. Tanner, missing, probably drowned; Corporal L. C. Olney, missing, probably drowned; privates Charles Connell, missing, probably drowned; W. F. Matteson, missing, probably drowned; B. W. Matteson, shot through both legs; G. R. Matteson, shot through the side; N. C. Haskins, shot through the chest; John Aspinwall, shot through the arm, above the elbow;----Bromley, arm grazed by musket ball; M. Carmichael, A. J. McAllen, C. L. Woodmancy and M. Tillinghast escaped without injury.

The wounded men will probably recover. Dr. Crosby informs me that he has no fears of any one wounded, but intimates that there is a possibility of its being necessary to amputate Sergeant Tucker's leg.

I feel it my duty to say, that had Captain Vaughn not been prevented by illness, caused by his arduous labors in carrying the dead and wounded across the river, immediately after the battle, a full and authentic report would have been forwarded to you.


George W. Adams, Lieutenant Battery B, R. I. A.
Addenda.--General Stone visited the wounded men, praised them for their bravery, and told them that no men could have worked the piece better.

G. W. Adams, Lieutenant.

Colonel Hinks' report.

Headquarters Nineteenth Regt. Mass. Vol. Camp Benton, October 23d, 1861.
To Brig.-Gen. Lander:
Learning that a column of our troops was crossing the Potomac on the 21st inst., at a point near the centre of Harrison's Island, in which the companies of my regiment stationed as pickets upon the river had been ordered to join by General Baker, I hastened thither, in anticipation of orders from General Stone. I arrived there about half-past 1 o clock P. M., and found among the troops at the point of crossing great confusion, no competent officer seeming to have been left in charge of the transportation, and the progress made in embarking was very slow. I at once took charge at this point, caused a line to be stretched across the river by which to propel the boats, and forwarded troops in the following order, to wit:

Part of California regiment not already crossed, the Rhode Island and New York batteries, the New York Tammany regiment, and the Nineteenth Massachusetts. With the latter regiment I proceeded to the island. I learned that General Baker had been killed, and found every thing in confusion, our column being entirely routed and in precipitate retreat, throwing away their arms, deserting their killed and wounded, and leaving a large number of prisoners in the hands of the enemy. I at once took command, arrested as far as possible the progress of the rout, restored order, and, to check the advance of the enemy, who threatened to occupy the island, I sent the Nineteenth Massachusetts regiment to the front, and placed one gun of the Rhode Island battery and two of the New York battery in position, supported by two companies of the Massachusetts Twentieth, and so much of the Tammany regiment as was upon the island and could be induced to remain; which disposition [98] being made, and pickets extended upon the Virginia side of the island, I commenced active measures for the gathering of the wounded, and rescue of straggling parties of our troops upon the Virginia shore, by the construction of rafts and the use of small boats; the boats used for crossing to the Virginia shore having been swamped and lost in the precipitate and disorderly retreat. No field-officer was on duty upon the island, with the exception of Major Bon, of the New York Tammany regiment.

After the passage of the Nineteenth Massachusetts regiment, no reinforcements crossed to the island, although several regiments were upon the tow-path on the Maryland side, but returned to their camps during the night; a considerable number of unarmed fugitives from various regiments were passed to the Maryland shore during the night, and the transportation of the wounded was continued until noon of the 22d. On the morning of the 22d I despatched Lieutenant Dodge, of the Nineteenth Massachusetts, with a flag of truce, to request of the Confederate commander permission to remove our wounded, of which numbers lay in view, uncared for, on the Virginia shore. This request was denied, except in the case of a few apparently mortally wounded. The remainder were taken prisoners. Permission for my surgeon to cross and treat the wounded was also refused, except upon condition that he should remain a prisoner in their hands. Subsequently I despatched Captain Vaughn, of the Rhode Island battery, with another flag of truce, to obtain permission to bury the dead, which was acceded to, with the stipulation that no movement of troops should be made from the island to the Maryland shore in retreat, while the burying party was employed; and I despatched Captain Vaughn with a party of ten men for that purpose, who remained till after dark, and succeeded in burying forty-seven bodies, which he reported to be about two-thirds of the number lying upon the ground; but night coming on he was unable to bury the remainder.

During the afternoon factious complaint was made by the rebel commander that I had violated the stipulations under which the flag of truce was protected, accompanied by a threat to retain Captain Vaughn and his party as prisoners of war. I at once addressed a note to the rebel commander denying the accusation, threw up new intrenchments, and made disposition of troops, with a view of renewing hostilities if the threat was carried into execution. Subsequently, however, Captain Vaughn returned with his party, and informed me that my explanation was deemed satisfactory by the rebel commander. Immediately after Captain Vaughn's return, under cover of night, I commenced a retreat, in pursuance of orders previously received from Gen. Hamilton, and transported three pieces of artillery, with caissons and ammunition, thirty-six horses, and the eleven companies of infantry under my command, numbering some seven hundred men, in good order, to the Maryland shore, without any casualties or loss whatever; and completing the retreat at twelve o'clock, I immediately passed my compliments to the rebel commander, In the form of four shells from Captain Vaughn's guns, which had been placed in battery upon the high ground overlooking the canal and river. During the retreat I was reinforced by five companies of the Massachusetts Second, under command of Captain Tucker, who remained upon this side of the river, where I stationed him with his command in support of the battery, and ordered to camp the companies of the Nineteenth and Twentieth, who were greatly exhausted, having been constantly employed in the intrenchments, burying the dead, removing the wounded, and transporting the artillery to and from the island.

The enemy known to have been engaged consisted of the Eighth Virginia regiment, under the command of Colonel Janifer, and the Seventeeth and Eighteenth Mississippi regiments, with a squadron of horse and battery, the whole under command of General Evans. Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing cannot be determined, as large numbers of wounded and unwounded were drowned when the boats were swamped, as well as in attempts to swim the river during the night; and no reports have as yet been made to me. The Fifteenth Massachusetts regiment, the Twentieth Massachusetts, Baker's California regiment, and a part of the Tammany regiment, lost a large number of men, who were made prisoners. Colonel Lee and Major Revere, of the Twentieth, and Colonel Coggswell, of the Tammany regiment, are reported missing. Lieut.-Col. Ward, of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, was severely wounded. We have lost two howitzers and one rifled cannon belonging to Capain Vaughn's Rhode Island battery, and a considerable number of small-arms, (say fifteen hundred,) with equipments. I shall make a further report of the killed who were identified before burial.

I have to report that the remnant of the Tammany regiment, under command of Major Bon, deserted its post in the intrenchments on the island at an early hour in the forenoon of the 22d, and passed to the Maryland shore in disobedience of orders, while I was engaged in arranging for the removal of the wounded and the burial of the dead. I cannot close this report with justice to our troops, who fought valiantly, without commenting upon the causes which led to their defeat and complete rout. The means of transportation, for advance in support, or for a retreat, were criminally deficient--especially when we consider the facility for creating proper means for such purposes at our disposal. The place for landing on the Virginia shore was most unfortunately selected, being at a point where the shore rose with great abruptness for a distance of some one hundred and fifty yards, at an angle of at least thirty-five degrees, and was entirely studded with trees, being perfectly impassable to artillery [99] or infantry in line. At the summit, the surface is undulating, where the enemy were placed in force, out of view, and cut down our troops with a murderous fire, which we could not return with any effect. The entire island was also commanded by the enemy's artillery and rifles. In fact, no more unfortunate position could have been forced upon us by the enemy for making an attack — much less selected by ourselves.

Within a half mile upon either side of the points selected a landing could have been effected where we could have been placed upon equal terms with the enemy, if it was necessary to effect a landing from the island. My judgment, however, cannot approve of that policy which multiplies the number of river crossings without any compensation in securing commanding positions thereby.

Respectfully submitted,

Edward W. Hinks, Col. Nineteenth Mass. Vols., Comdg. Baker's Brigade.

Dead, one hundred and fifty; wounded, two hundred and fifty; prisoners, five hundred. Total casualties, nine hundred.

The number of Federal troops engaged was about two thousand one hundred in all. The bodies of the killed were rifled of all valuables by the enemy; the shoulder-straps and buttons were cut from the coats of the officers.

Lieut.-Col. Palfrey's report.

Headquarters 20TH Reg. Mass. Vol. Camp Benton, Poolesvile, Md. Thursday, Oct. 24, 1861.
To His Excellency Governor Andrew:
Governor: It is my painful duty to make the following report:

On the morning of the 21st, Col. Lee, with Major Revere and Adjutant Pierson, conducted the whole or the greater part of Companies A, C, D, E, G, H, and I, of the above regiment, to a point on the Virginia shore opposite Sullivan's Island, a little below Conrad's Ferry. The command numbered something over three hundred men. They were accompanied or followed by other troops, the Massachusetts Fifteenth, Col. Devens, among them. They were soon attacked by the enemy, who outnumbered them greatly. The attack continued to be made at intervals, and most of the fighting was in the afternoon. They were very severely treated, and the following is the result, as nearly as I can state it:

Missing, believed to be prisoners of war-Col. Lee, Major Revere, Adjutant Pierson, Assistant Surgeon Revere, First Lieut. Geo. B. Perry. Believed to be wounded--First Lieut. Babo, Second Lieut. Wesselhoeff. Wounded in this camp--Capt. Dreher, shot through the head from cheek to cheek; recovery possible. Capt. J. C. Putnam, right arm taken off at socket; doing well. First Lieut. O. W. Holmes, jr., shot through chest from side to side; doing well. Captain Schmidt, shot three times through the leg and through small of the back, from side to side; doing well. First Lieut. J. J. Lowell, shot in leg, not serious. Second Lieut. Putnam was shot in the bowels, and died in this camp yesterday. His body was sent on to Boston this morning. Our loss in killed, wounded, and missing, of non-commissioned officers and privates, is reported at one hundred and forty-seven, of whom forty-five are at the camp, and most of them will recover. The other wounded are believed to be prisoners. At about three o'clock on Tuesday morning, I was ordered to march, with all my remaining troops, including even the camp guard, to the river, and cross, and join the advance. I did so, and we returned this morning. We were under fire for a few moments, and in a position of great peril all the time. I have had to go through such fatigue and anxiety for the past four days, and had so much to do in arranging what is left of this gallant and unfortunate regiment, that I can only write briefly, and at a late hour, to state the principal facts of the sad story. All accounts agree that the conduct of officers and men was gallant in the extreme. The enemy paid them the highest tribute when they permitted our burying party to land the following day. You will see from the following table that our loss was about fifty per cent.: officers engaged, twenty-two; officers safe, nine; killed, one; missing, seven; wounded, five; rank and file engaged, three hundred and eighteen; killed, wounded, and missing, one hundred and forty-seven.

I may add that I was ordered to remain in charge of the camp, and that I was called from attendance on the wounded, who were arriving all night, to form my men for the advance to the other side. I brought all my men back in safety. I shall endeavor to write at greater length by the next mail.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

General McClellan's order.

Headquarters army of the Potomac, Washington, October 25, 1861.
The Major-General commanding the Army of the Potomac desires to offer his thanks, and to express his admiration of their conduct, to the officers and men of the detachments of the Fifteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts, First California and Tammany regiments, the First United States Artillery and Rhode Island battery, engaged in the affair of Monday last near Harrison's Island. The gallantry and discipline there displayed deserved a more fortunate result; but situated as these troops were — cut off alike from retreat and reinforcements, and at tacked by an overwhelming force--five thousand against one thousand seven hundred--it was not possible that the issue could have been successful. Under happier auspices such devotion will ensure victory. The General Commanding feels increased confidence in General Stone's division, and, is sure that when they [100] next meet the enemy they will fully retrieve this check, for which they are not accountable.

By command of Major-General McClellan.

S. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Capt. Francis G. Young's statement.

On Sunday evening, Gen. Stone, being persuaded that no important force of the enemy remained along the upper Potomac, and in obedience to orders from Headquarters, commenced his passage of the river at Harrison's Island. The point of transit was about five miles above Edwards' Ferry, and nearly an equal distance from Leesburg. The island is a low, fertile strip of land, several miles in length, so dividing the river that the Maryland channel is not a furlong in width, and that on the Virginia side not more than two hundred feet.

Six companies of the Fifteenth Massachusetts regiment, under Col. Devens, and two companies of the Twentieth (Tammany) New York, arrived at the river about two A. M. Monday, and commenced to cross. At sunrise they were all on the Virginia side.

Before daylight an order came to Colonel Baker to march the first battalion of the California regiment to Conrad's Ferry, two miles south of the island, and then, if he heard firing, go to the support of Coggswell and Devens. Accordingly, Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar advanced with the battalion, six hundred and eighty-nine officers and men, and by sunrise had reached the river and proceeded down to the island crossing. I accompanied the force to arrange for transportation. Was sent to report for orders to General Stone. Returned, having received command to cross at once. On my way back I overtook Colonel Baker, who told me that only the battalion were to cross. He had no orders for the brigade.

Shortly after General Stone placed Colonel Baker in command of all the forces on the Virginia side. Our battalion then, at about seven A. M., commenced crossing to the island, and from thence to the further shore. Meantime we could hear skirmishing shots on the heights, which continued without much intermission through the morning. Now we began to experience the difficulty which was the chief cause of the terrible scenes which closed the day. No adequate means of transportation had been provided. It seemed as if the column was expected to walk across on the water-surface. Nothing but one old scow, capable of holding perhaps forty men, appeared available on either side of the island. If the Massachusetts men had had any other boats, they were not visible in the morning. At length I discovered a large scow in the canal, and two hours were consumed in getting it over into the Maryland channel. It would hold about sixty men. Colonel Baker, Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar, Assistant Adjutant-General Harvey, and myself went with the first load to the island, and there superintended the transit of our men. It was twelve M. before our first company landed at the foot of the bush-covered precipice which rises abruptly over one hundred feet from the river bed on the further side of the river. Four hours more had elapsed before the last company landed. Sections of the Second Rhode Island battery, comprising two howitzers, two field smooth-bores, and one rifled gun, went over with us, the men dragging them up the heights with great difficulty and spirit. All this time irregular fighting was going on above. It seems that Colonel Devens had in the morning moved with a small detachment in the direction of Leesburg, shortly after his forces had crossed, had advanced one mile, there met the enemy's skirmishers in feeble force, and had retired to the brow of the heights. Before this the quartermaster of the Massachusetts Fifteenth had gone alone to a point within a mile of the village, had returned, crossed the river, and reported to General Stone that there were no hostile forces in that region. But after Colonel Devens fell back his men were placed in a semicircular clearing, or natural forest opening covering five or six acres, with its base resting on the edge of the heights, and flanked and fronted by forest. The enemy, becoming bolder, advanced in scattered parties to the edge of these woods, and from ten A. M. till four P. M. kept up a random, annoying fire upon our men. The latter sheltered themselves as well as they could, lying just below the ridge, and awaited reinforcements.

At four, then, our whole force had crossed and ascended, Colonel Baker and staff with the rest, and the troops were suffering somewhat from the concealed enemy's fire. Many had dropped and been carried down the hill. We asked Colonel Baker what he thought of affairs. He said that he thought we had a good position; could fall back for shelter behind the ridge. “Yes,” said we, “but what's in those woods?” He answered, “I think the enemy are concealed on our right.” A private had reported that there was no force on the left, but a deep ravine, hidden by the woods. We then proposed sending skirmishers to make a reconnoissance on the right, and Captain Markoe, Second Lieutenant Williams, and myself advanced with Companies A and D of the California regiment. Company A got in front on rising ground, in skirmishing order, Company D following in line. The California battalion, to make the story clear, were drawn up on the left of the open field; the Massachusetts Fifteenth and Tammany on the right, and the Massachusetts Twentieth nearer the centre. Colonel Coggswell took charge of the artillery. Only four guns were planted in the field, the rifled gun having been hauled up at the wrong place, and being afterward seized by the enemy and spiked. When our skirmishing companies had reached the edge of the woods, suddenly the enemy, hitherto concealed, rose with a yell and fired a volley, then began fighting in their usual manner: first giving a yell and volley; then loading and firing at will for a few minutes; [101] then ceasing an equal time; then giving another yell and volley, and so on, pouring a murderous fire into our little band for the space of half an hour. The whole woods around swarmed with them. They had no artillery and no cavalry. Our Rhode-Islanders, except the officers, deserted their guns; but Colonel Baker, Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar, Colonel Coggswell, and Adjutant Harvey manned the battery, and fired the guns themselves, aided by Company G, First California, led by the gallant Captain Beiral. (The latter was conspicuous for bravery throughout the action; is wounded, but not dangeiously, and is now safe on Maryland ground.)

We kept up both a musketry and cannon fire as well as we could, but half the time we could not see the enemy, and his cowardly discharges were thinning our ranks; still most of the men stood firm and acted bravely. The enemy's volleys and yells increased in loudness, and it was evident that reinforcements were pouring in to his aid. Captain Stewart, General Stone's adjutant, came on the field with the cheering statement that General Gorman would shortly support us. At a quarter to six P. M. we held a council of war, and resolved to stand our ground, General Baker ordering me to go for reinforcements. By this time Coggswell was wounded — Wistar had fallen. The enemy were growing more daring, rushing out of the woods, taking some prisoners, and firing hotly.

Just then a rebel officer, riding a white horse, came out of the woods and beckoned to us to come forward. Colonel Baker thought it was General Johnston, and that the enemy would meet us in open fight. Part of our column charged, Baker cheering us on, when a tremendous onset was made by the rebels. One man rode forward, presented a revolver at Baker, and fired all its charges at him. Our gallant leader fell, and at the same moment all our lines were driven back by the overwhelming force opposed to them. But Captain Beiral, with his company, fought his way back to Colonel Baker's body, rescued it, brought it along to me, and then a general retreat commenced.

It was sauve qui peut! I got the Colonel's body to the island before the worst of the rout, and then, looking to the Virginia shore, saw such a spectacle as no tongue can describe. Our entire forces were retreating, tumbling, rolling, leaping down the steep heights; the enemy following them, murdering, and taking prisoners. Colonel Devens left his command, and swam the river on horseback. Colonel Coggswell, after unavailing bravery, had ordered the retreat himself, but, being wounded, was taken. The one boat in the Virginia channel was speedily filled and sunk. A thousand men thronged the further bank. Muskets, coats, and every thing were thrown aside, and all were desperately trying to escape. Hundreds plunged into the rapid current, and the shrieks of the drowning added to the horror of sounds and sights. The enemy kept up their fire from the cliff above. All was terror, confusion, and dismay. A captain of the Fifteenth Massachusetts at one moment charged gallantly up the hill, leading two companies, who still had their arms, against the pursuing foe. A moment later and the same officer, perceiving the hopelessness of the situation, waved a white handkerchief, and surrendered the main body of his command. Other portions of the column surrendered; but the rebels kept up their fire upon those who tried to cross, and many not drowned in the river were shot in the act of swimming.

Night came on. At eight P. M. all of our band whose fortune it was to return had landed on Harrison Island, and the fire from the Virginia heights had ceased. The rebels took all our guns but one. When I left they had shouted to us, telling us to come over and take away our dead under a flag of truce; had also mounted our own guns on the heights, and warned us to leave the island in four hours. The cause of this sad havoc was that we had no proper means of transit and retreat.

1 this battle is variously known as the battle of ball's Bluff, Edwards' Ferry, Harrison's Island, and Leesburg.

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