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Doc. 90. battle of Bolivar Heights, Va. Fought October 16, 1861.

Report of Colonel Geary.

Headquarters Twenty-Eighth regiment, P. V., Oct. 18, 1861.
To the Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:
sir: On the 8th instant, Major J. P. Gould, of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, acting under orders of Major-General Banks, crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry to seize a quantity of wheat held by the rebels at that point.

Three companies of the Third Wisconsin Volunteers, and a section of the Rhode Island battery, under Captain Tompkins, were ordered to report themselves to Major Gould for the purpose of assisting in and covering the necessary movements of the operation.

On the 10th instant the Major called upon me to aid him with men and cannon, but as the necessity for them seemed to have vanished, the order was countermanded. Again, on Sunday, the 13th, I received reliable information that the rebel forces were concentrating in the direction of Harper's Ferry, and I also learned from Major Gould that he required assistance.

In the evening, accompanied by Governor Sprague of Rhode Island, and Capt. Tompkins of the Rhode Island Artillery, I went to Sandy Hook with two companies of my regiment and one piece of cannon. On Monday I entered into Virginia, and on that day and the following one aided in the removal of the wheat, and held in check the gathering forces of the enemy.

The troops under my command were four companies (A, D, F, and G) of the Twenty-eighth regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, three companies (C, I, and K) of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, and three companies of the Third Wisconsin regiment, numbering in all about six hundred men, and two pieces of cannon, under command of Captain Tompkins of the Rhode Island battery. and two pieces of the Ninth New York battery, under Lieutenant Martin. About one hundred men of the Massachusetts regiment were left on the north side of the Potomac River, and the two pieces of the Rhode Island battery were placed on the Maryland Heights; one of the New York guns on the railroad opposite Harper's Ferry, and the other to command the approach from Pleasant [196] Valley (in Virginia). The command of all the troops thus left I confided to Major Gould.

The object for which the river had been crossed having been accomplished, on Tuesday night, I had determined to re-cross the river on Wednesday, and permit the troops to return to their various regiments; but about seven o'clock on the morning of the 16th, my pickets stationed on the heights above Bolivar, extending from the Potomac to the Shenandoah River, about two and a half miles west of Harper's Ferry, were driven into the town of Bolivar by the enemy, who approached from the west in three columns, consisting of infantry and cavalry, supported by artillery. I was upon the ground in a few minutes, and rallied my pickets upon the main body in Bolivar.

In a short time the action became general. The advanced guard of the rebels, consisting of several hundred cavalry, charged gallantly toward the upper part of the town, and their infantry and artillery soon took position upon the heights from which my pickets had been driven. Their three pieces of artillery were stationed on and near the Charlestown road, where it crosses Bolivar Heights. They had one thirty-two-pounder columbiad, one steel rifled thirteen-pounder, and one brass six-pounder, all of which were served upon the troops of my command with great activity, the large gun throwing alternately solid shot, shell, and grape, and the others principally fuze shell.

While these demonstrations were being made in front, a large body of men made their appearance upon London Heights, with four pieces of cannon, stationed at the most eligible points of the mountain, to bombard our troops and prevent the use of the ferry on the Potomac. The commencement of the firing upon our front and left was almost simultaneous. In order to prevent the enemy from crossing the Shenandoah, I detached a company of the Thirteenth Massachusetts regiment, under command of Captain Schriber, for the defence of the fords on the river. He took position near the old rifle works, and during the action rendered good service there. There then remained under my immediate command about four hundred and fifty men. With these the fierce charge of the enemy's cavalry was soon checked and turned back, only to be renewed with greater impetuosity, supported, in addition to the artillery, by the fire of long lines of infantry stationed on Bolivar Heights; but they were as soon repulsed. Three charges were thus made by them in succession. Under this concentrated fire our troops held their position until eleven o'clock, when Lieutenant Martin by my order joined me with one rifled cannon, which had been placed to cover the ferry, he having crossed the river with it under a galling fire of riflemen from Loudon Heights.

I then pushed forward my right flank, consisting of two companies (A and G) of the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers. They succeeded in turning the enemy's left near the Potomac, and gained a portion of the heights. At the same time Lieutenant Martin opened a well-directed fire upon the enemy's cannon in our front, and Captain Tompkins succeeded in silencing some of the enemy's guns on Loudon heights. The seservices, simultaneously rendered, were of great importance, and the turning of the enemy's flank being the key to the success of the action, I instantly ordered a general forward movement, which terminated in a charge, and we were soon in possession of the heights from river to river. There I halted the troops, and from that position they drove the fugutives, with a well-directed aim of cannon and small arms, across the valley in the direction of Hallstown. If any cavalry had been attached to my command the enemy could have been cut to pieces, as they did not cease their flight until they reached Charlestown, a distance of six miles.

Immediately after the capture of the heights, Major Tyndale arrived with a reinforcement of five companies of my regiment from Point of Rocks, two of which he ordered to report to Major Gould, at Sandy Hook, and soon joined me with the others on the field. The standard of the Twenty-eighth regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers--the flag of the Union--was then unfurled on the soil of Virginia, and planted on an eminence of Bolivar Heights, and under its folds we directed the fire of our artillery against the batteries and forces on Loudon Heights, and soon succeeded in silencing every gun and driving away every rebel that could be seen.

The victory was complete. The loss of the enemy in killed and wounded is generally conceded to be about one hundred and fifty, which they carried back in wagons and on horses as rapidly as they fell.

We took four prisoners, among whom is Rev. Nathaniel Green North, chaplain of Colonel Ashby's command. He is said to have been present at every battle that has occurred in Virginia. The fine thirty-two-pounder columbiad, mounted on an old fashioned gun-carriage, was captured, together with a quantity of ammunition for it, consisting of ball, shell, and grapeshot, for the transportation of which a wagon was used as a caisson. These were immediately transferred to the north side of the Potomac, and the gun is placed in position against its late proprietors. One of their small guns used at Boliver Heights was disabled, having one of the wheels shot from the gun-carriage by a well-directed shot from Lieut. Martin. They succeeded in dragging it from the field. Our loss is four killed, seven wounded, and two taken prisoners, a list of whom is hereto attached. The greater part of the loss occurred in the Wisconsin companies, who gallantly sustained the position of our left flank throughout the contest.

One of the soldiers taken by the enemy was Corporal----, Third Wisconsin regiment, who was wounded in the action. The other Corporal, Benaiah Pratt, of Company A, Twenty-eighth [197] regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, was accidentally taken by a few of the enemy, whom he mistook for Massachusetts men, their uniforms corresponding, in all respects, to that of the latter. The four men who were killed were afterward charged upon by the cavalry and stabbed through the body, stripped of all their clothing, not excepting shoes and stockings, and left in perfect nudity. One was laid out in the form of crucifixion, with his hands spread, and cut through the palms with a dull knife. This inhuman treatment incensed our troops exceedingly, and I fear its consequences may be shown in retaliating acts hereafter.

I visited the iron foundery at Shenandoah City, and ascertained that it was used by the rebels for casting shot and shell of all kinds. I ordered it to be burned, which was done the same night. The acts of individual gallantry are so numerous in the whole command that it would be impossible to give to each an appropriate mention; but I do not hesitate to say that every corps behaved with the coolness and courage of veteran troops.

It affords me pleasure to mention that Hon. Daniel McCook, (father of Gen. McCook,) as an amateur soldier, gun in hand, volunteered and rendered much service during the engagement. I also mention like services rendered by Benjamin G. Owen, Esq., of St. Louis. Both of these gentlemen were greatly exposed during the action.

I am informed by authority deemed reliable, that the enemy's forces consisted of the following troops, viz. :--the Thirteenth and Nineteenth Mississippi regiments; the Eighth Virginia regiment of Infantry; Colonel Ashby's regiment of Cavalry; and Rogers' Richmond battery of six pieces and one thirty-two-pounder columbiad, commanded by Gen. Evans in person.

Bolivar Heights was taken at half-past 1 P. M. I directed our troops to rest there until evening, when we fired a farewell shot into Hallstown, and as there was no longer any necessity to remain on that side of the Potomac, our errand having been crowned with the fullest success, I marched my command to the ferry, and in five hours it was safely landed in Maryland. There being no immediate apprehension of the enemy there, I ordered the Wisconsin companies to report to Colonel Ruger, their commander, in Frederick, and returned to this place with part of my regiment and the two guns of the New York battery, leaving Captain Tompkins' guns with Major Gould for a few days; also one company from my own regiment.

Yours, &c.,

John W. Geary, Colonel Commanding Twenty-eighth Regiment P. V.

Lieutenant Martin's report.

Headquarters Twenty-Eighth regiment P. V., Point of Rocks, Md., Oct. 17.
Captain T. B. Bunting, Commanding Light Battery K, Ninth Regiment N. Y. S. M.:
I have the honor to submit for your consideration the following report of an engagement which occurred at Harper's Ferry and Bolivar, Virginia, on Wednesday, 16th instant:

On Sunday, 13th instant, I received orders at six P. M. from Col. Geary, commanding this post, to hold the section under my command in readiness to march at a moment's notice. At eleven P. M. we left this post by railroad, and arrived at Sandy Hook at one o'clock on Monday morning, 14th inst. I should here mention that the order for the moving of the entire section was afterward so changed as to refer to one piece only, without caisson. As soon as possible after arriving at Sandy Hook, the piece (the one throwing the Hotchkiss projectile) was placed in battery, commanding Loudon Heights and raking the road running along the base of those mountains. Although an attack was expected on the forces, consisting of companies of the Twenty-eighth regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, of the Third regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, and of the Thirteenth regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, who, under the personal supervision of Colonel Geary, were removing stores of wheat from Herr's mills, situated on Shenandoah Street, in Harper's Ferry, every thing remained quiet, and no anticipations of an immediate action were entertained until Tuesday evening, when Col. Geary sent me orders to be particularly on the alert. The night passed away quietly, however. On Wednesday morning at eight o'clock, heavy cannonading and sharp musketry fire in the direction of Bolivar Heights told us that work was at hand. A battery of four guns, stationed on Loudon Heights, also opened with shell. This was immediately replied to, and subsequently silenced, by a section of the Rhode Island First battery, which, on Monday morning, 14th inst., had been withdrawn from its position at Bolivar and stationed on Maryland Heights. At half-past 9 A. M. an order from Col. Geary arrived to take my piece immediately over the river and report to him. Previous to doing so, by order of Major Gould, of the Thirteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, I had telegraphed to Point of Rocks for the balance of the section. While crossing the river a brisk fire was opened on us by riflemen stationed on Loudon Heights, but happily doing no injury. We immediately passed up the street, which runs in almost a direct line from the destroyed Government buildings to Bolivar Heights, under a scorching fire of shell, canister, and spherical-case shot, which the enemy poured in upon us from a thirteen-pound rifled gun and an iron thirty-two-pounder, stationed on the street running around Bolivar Heights. The enemy's aim was remarkably accurate, not one of their projectiles striking more than twenty feet from us while coming into battery; one of their shells fell but two feet in front of the lead-horses of the gun, and simultaneously another passed over the ammunition chest on the limber. While loading for the first time an unexploded canister passed just over the piece and between the cannoniers.

After taking our position in the middle of the [198] street, we opened a sharp fire on the enemy with shell; and news reaching Col. Geary, who was but a few paces from us on our right, that the enemy were falling back, he ordered me to advance, firing as we did so. We moved forward about one hundred and fifty yards, when the order to cease firing and move forward to Bolivar Heights reached me. On our movements to that point we passed the thirty-two-pound gun (which I subsequently ascertained we silenced on our second round, the shell striking and exploding on the axle-body of the carriage) in possession of the infantry, and on which Col. Geary was writing his first despatch.

As soon as we made our appearance on the brow of the hill the enemy again opened on us with shell from the rifled gun, which they had posted on the Halltown road, at a point where it enters and is screened by the dense woods through which it passes. The third shell from our gun struck their piece on the face of the muzzle, and glancing, tore away the entire wheel, effectually silencing the piece. The enemy's cavalry were easily to be discerned in the woods; but a few shell soon dispersed them. Being notified that the other gun of the section was coming up the street, Col. Geary ordered me to meet it, and take a position near the Shenandoah, where I could bear upon Loudon Heights on the battery stationed there, and on the infantry stationed in the woods on the heights. I threw five shells, without, however, meeting with any response. The gun was then ordered to Bolivar Heights, with the rest of the section. At eleven o'clock P. M. I was ordered to throw a shell into Halltown and immediately march to the river — the firing of the gun being the signal for the remainder of the forces to fall into the line of march. Four hours were consumed in transporting the section over the Potomac, the only facility for crossing being a scow, guided by cables stretched from bank to bank.

The men under my command acted nobly and untiringly, both during the action and whilst we were transporting the section. They had no food nor rest for twenty-four hours; but with the entire force, as well, I heard nothing like complaint. It was the hour for the morning meal when the transportation of the section was completed, and, after tasting their first food since the preceding morning, they were called to their guns, an attack being looked for from the Loudon road. At twelve o'clock M. to-day I received orders to return by rail to this place, and arrived here at four o'clock, and they are now enjoying the first rest which they have had since Tuesday night, the 15th instant.--I feel it my duty to mention the different effects produced by the James and Hotchkiss shell before I close. The Hotchkiss was used entirely during that part of the action before the enemy finally retreated. The James was that used in shelling Loudon Heights. The former did not fail in producing the effect desired but once, and that was caused by a failure to explode, and not by any separation of the leaden band from the projectile. The latter, (the James,) however, in this as well as other actions — at Pritchard's Mills, Berlin, and Point of Rocks, at which I have used them, and the results of which I have reported to you heretofore — worked very badly. Of the five shells that I threw at the enemy on Loudon, two failed to explode; and, as an instance of what great deviation is caused by the lead flying off from the shell, which is always the case with this projectile, I need only remark that, with the same elevation, one shell struck half way up the mountain, the other clean over it. The leaden band would sometimes leave the projectile whole, and at others would fly off in small pieces — in one case not ten feet from the gun. You will at once see how little reliance can be placed on these shot and shell.

In concluding this hastily written report, I have to remark that I fired thirty Hotchkiss shell and five James shell, a total of thirty-five rounds, and that we came off the field and arrived at this post with no damage to either men, horses, or pieces.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. W. Martin, Lieut. Commanding Sect. Battery K, Ninth Regiment N. Y. S. M.

Washington Star account.

On the morning of the 16th instant, at half-past 8 o'clock, Colonel John W. Geary, of the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania regiment, and about four hundred men, composed of fractions of Companies A, D, F, and G, of the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania; C, I, and K, Thirteenth Massachusetts; A, C, and H, Third Wisconsin, aided by two “amateurs,” (Judge Daniel McCook and Benjamin G. Owens of Illinois,) were attacked by twenty-five hundred or more of the rebels, including the celebrated cavalry regiment of Colonel Ashby. The rebels had six pieces of artillery-four of them upon Loudon Heights south, and two upon Bolivar Heights west, upon the Charlestown road, midway between the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers, and a mile and a half back of the ferry. The rebels first drove in our pickets from Bolivar Heights, and then began a cross fire upon us, which lasted for several hours. Their cavalry charged into Bolivar, but were driven back by the Third Wisconsin boys, aided by shells from Capt. Tompkins' battery, which was upon the Maryland Heights east of the ferry.

Two Wisconsin companies, led by Captain Henry Bertram, made a desperate charge upon the enemy's guns and took a thirty-two pound columbiad, but were driven back by a cavalry charge and heavy firing from the vicinity of Smallwood's woods. Shell then fell around us as thick as hail, and making a noise over us about like a train of cars when crossing a bridge. Capt. Tompkins at this time turned his guns upon Loudon Heights, silenced all their [199] guns there, and scattered the enemy, who were seen in great numbers. The two rebel guns upon Bolivar Heights kept up a constant fire with shell and canister until about five P. M., and our men were gradually advancing upon them under cover of the houses, breaking down the fences as they went, to the west end of the town, when Lieut. Martin, with a piece of artillery belonging to the Ninth New York regiment, came to our aid, and fired upon the enemy with terrible effect, advancing at intervals, accompanied by Colonel Geary in person. The men flanked right and left, considerably in advance of the piece, and deployed obliquely.

The Wisconsin men, commanded by Captain H. Bertram, were on the left; the Massachusetts men, under Lieut. Jackson, a Pennsylvania company, and one of the “amateurs,” composed the right wing. Colonel Geary, Judge McCook, and the balance of the Pennsylvanians were in the centre. Our brave band, with a universal shout for the Union, stormed the heights of Bolivar, drove the enemy in the wildest confusion from Smallwood's woods, recaptured the thirty-two-pounder and two ammunition wagons, disabled several of the enemy's horses, took four prisoners, including ChaplainBilly North,” of Jefferson County, Va. The rebel colonel's cap was among the trophies; he was shot from his horse, but remounted and made his escape. The rebels could not stand the fire of our artillery and Enfield rifles, so they fled to the woods near Halltown, and began shelling us with the only remaining available gun they had left; but our shells soon silenced it--one of them striking the rebel caisson caused a great explosion. When we reached the heights, we found the axle of the “new convert” considerably damaged by a shell, and also found that the rebels had used great industry during the day by making extensive additions to our works there, from which they had driven our pickets in the morning.

The rebels disgraced themselves more than ever by taking off the clothing, rifling the pockets, and then running their bayonets through the Federal killed!

A team of a dozen horses was brought up from the ferry with remarkable expedition, and the big gun was conveyed across the river, placed in a position commanding Harper's Ferry and the mouth of the Shenandoah, and was there, by one of the “amateurs,” named “The New convert to the Union.” As the gun moved down the street toward the Maryland side, we met Major Tyndale and Adjutant Flynn, with a reinforcement of five companies, to wit, B, C, I, K, and M, of the Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania, who had just arrived from Point of Rocks. The cheering of these troops was most vociferous, and the Virginia ladies of the place gave strong proof of their love for the Union, by waving their handkerchiefs and joining the general jubilee. About five P. M. one or two other cannon of the New York Ninth crossed the river, ascended Bolivar Heights, and then the woods in the direction of Halltown, as well as Loudon Heights, were completely shelled, but with no reply.

Our loss was four killed and eight wounded. Theirs must have been very heavy, as they had all the wagons of the neighborhood busy in hauling off the slain. Two wagons were seen full of the killed. Their chaplain admitted the loss to be very heavy, and much blood was found upon the hill from which they were driven. Colonel Geary displayed much skill and great bravery during the whole of the engagement. This was my first day upon the battlefield, and my venerable friend Judge McCook fully sustained the high reputation of the “McCook fighting family.” This was not a “Bull Run,” but a rebel-run affair. The rebel colonel during the next day sent down a flag of truce, offering to exchange the only prisoner they took — a Pennsylvania corporal — for the chaplain. A few of their cavalry also appeared back of Bolivar, but were promptly shelled and dispersed by the Rhode Island battery. Great praise is due the surgeons of the Third Wisconsin and the Thirteenth Massachusetts for skill and attention to the wounded, and to Corporal Myers of Company A, Third Wisconsin, for efficient aid in bringing the captured gun off the field. Colonel Geary was ordered by Major-General Banks to cross the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, in order that he might capture a large quantity of wheat, most of which was stored in a mill belonging to a gentleman by the name of Herr. The order aforesaid was obeyed, and twenty-one thousand bushels of wheat were taken. The object of the mission was accomplished before the battle began.

Philadelphia Inquirer account.

camp Tyndale, Point of Rocks, Oct. 17.
I expect you have heard that we have had a battle, and have been waiting anxiously to hear from me, thinking that I might be either killed or wounded; but, as yet, I am all right. The battle commenced yesterday. About seven o'clock A. M. they opened on us with artillery; but we stood their fire for about half an hour. We were then ordered to fall back under cover. We did so, but kept up a continual fire, with good effect. We took our positions behind buildings and trees, but had to keep shifting our positions to get out of the range of their artillery. They fired on us from three different points — on our front and on both flanks. We made two or three charges, and drove them from their positions; and occasionally the cavalry would show themselves and try to drive back our advance guard; but they found it was no go. We kept them at bay until our artillery arrived. All this time the rebel artillery kept up a continual fire, and their cavalry made repeated charges; but we kept our position, and received their fire from all points until our artillery had crossed. Our guns, from the Maryland side, soon silenced the battery on Loudon Heights. We then felt all right. The only thing that [200] troubled us now was the battery on the hill, which our battery, (New York Ninth,) as soon as they had settled themselves, soon silenced. This battery had a thirty-two-pound columbiad. About this time Company G arrived, and were ordered to deploy as skirmishers on the right. The command of the left wing was given to Captain Bertram, and the command of the right to McCook, an old chap that fights on his own hook. He is always riding about with a rifle at his saddle-bow. All this time our guns were playing with terrible effect. The command was now given, “Steady, forward.” We advanced within two hundred yards of them, firing as we advanced, doing good execution. Our colonel now ordered us to “fix bayonets;” then “charge, forward;” and we did charge, driving them before us like so many sheep. We soon reached the hill, and saw them retreating in great confusion; but they were not soon enough to get out of the way of our Enfields, and we poured our Minie balls into them with great slaughter. They now reached the woods, and, concealing themselves behind the trees, again brought their artillery to bear on us; but it was what we called a farewell shot, for I guess they concluded they had pressing business nearer home. They fear Geary like they do the----. We never saw them after this, except the picket now and then. We now took our position on the hill, and resolved never to leave it. We captured the columbiad and sent it to the Maryland side under a guard. Two horsemen appeared after this from a thicket, but no sooner had they showed themselves than our boys opened on them, and took one of them prisoner; he proved to be their chaplain, and was sent to the Maryland side. for safe keeping. The battle lasted for eight hours. The force of the rebels was between two and three thousand; they had one regiment of infantry, five hundred cavalry, and seven pieces of artillery. Our force in the principal part of the fight was not over two hundred and fifty men, (no exaggeration,) and at no time over three hundred and fifty. Geary said it was a glorious victory, and the hardest battle he was ever in; he compliments the men, and says they behaved like veterans. Company D was particularly thanked. We were several times very nearly cut off, but managed to give them the slip. Most all our boys lost their overcoats and blankets, and we had no breakfast, dinner, or supper until eleven o'clock at night. We were ordered to camp along with Company F, to refresh ourselves. The loss of the rebels was over one hundred and fifty killed and wounded. On our side the Wisconsin boys suffered the most; they lost four killed and several wounded. The Massachusetts had one killed and several wounded. We (Twenty-eighth) had only two wounded. Our Colonel was slightly wounded in the leg in the fore part of the engagement. The boys would not be satisfied until he took off his boot and showed us where it was. We thought it was worse than he wanted to let on. Captain Bertram had a very narrow escape: a ball passed completely through his pants. Our loss altogether was not over six killed and several wounded.

Another account.

A correspondent of the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette, a member of the Massachusetts Thirteenth, gives the following account of the fight:

Sandy Hook, Oct. 17, 1861.
In my last I gave you an account of Company C's battle; to-day I am able to give you the particulars of the hard fought battle of yesterday, in which Company C figured largely. About seven A. M. we heard the booming of the rebel guns driving in our outposts, and our company was soon formed awaiting orders. Colonel Geary came dashing down ordering us forward to the centre, which was the town of Bolivar. We moved up the turnpike, meeting one of the Wisconsin and one of the Pennsylvania companies retreating. We moved steadily on. Lieutenant Jackson urged us, as we marched forward, to remember that now was the time for Massachusetts to show herself, and to do our duty.

When we arrived at the square, we saw the rebels entering the town. We were immediately deployed, and ordered to cover ourselves as much as possible. In a moment we opened fire upon them from behind fences, houses, trees, stones, and every conceivable cover. We steadily advanced, being supported by the two companies that had before retreated. On, on we went, pouring in the deadly hail, the enemy slowly retreating before us, until finally they broke and fled into the woods. There they rallied.

We had advanced beyond the town, and they answered our fire in good earnest. We were ordered to move back under cover of the houses. The rebels then gave a cheer and advanced upon us, their infantry on the turnpike supported by cavalry on their right flank. We slowly retreated before them, until we came to a cross street with a brick house on either corner. We were ordered to enter the houses and fire from the windows, as we must make a stand there. Just then Twitchell was wounded in the elbow, and Lieutenant Jackson, sheathing his sword, took his gun, prepared to make it tell. We made our stand, and poured a deadly fire into the infantry. They had their flag flying, and were advancing in column. Our bullets told every time, and they began to waver. They then turned and fled into the woods. The cavalry were met by Company A, of the Wisconsin regiment, who were just coming up. They also turned and fled, and the Wisconsin boys with a cheer followed them, our company with answering cheers joining in the pursuit. I thought the day was ours, when a most withering fire came from the woods, and we were forced to fall back to our former position. The Wisconsin company was considerably cut up, but we escaped, with the single exception of Corporal [201] Stimpson,1 who was wounded in the foot by a musket ball. It was a miracle that no more were hurt, for the bullets seemed to fill the air, and lodged in the fences and houses all about us. Then there was a lull in the battle, which did not last long. The infantry started out again and engaged us, while the cavalry tried to outflank us. The cornfields began to speak again, and Company A, Pennsylvania, engaged the cavalry on our right flank, while the Wisconsin boys held the left. The Colonel came riding up telling us to hold on a little longer, for reinforcements were coming. We gave a cheer and drove the enemy to the woods, where they ceased firing upon us, and we were glad enough to rest. They then began to shell us, the missiles skipping down the street. We only laughed at them. They fired some twenty rounds at us, which were harmless, when we heard the rattling of chains coming up street. It was our cannon and reinforcements. We gave a cheer, and the gun spoke for itself. We were then deployed, our left resting on the gun, our right swinging around to sweep the woods. Their gun was silenced by the second discharge from our own, and we steadily advanced. Closing upon their centre, they retreated before us, and the day was ours. We saluted our victory with three rousing cheers.

We were then ordered to half-left wheel, double quick, and as we came upon the brow of the hill we saw them leaving across the valley. We gave them a parting volley, rallied upon the centre, and were the first upon the ground the enemy had held. We gave three more cheers, which made the woods ring out a merry peal. The gun was immediately advanced, and poured destruction upon the retreating columns. They left a twenty-four-pounder upon the field, and a wagon-load of ammunition. The fight lasted eight hours by the watch, and we burnt on an average forty ounces of powder!

The Colonel said he had been in fifteen battles, and never saw so hot a one before. Several times it looked blue enough. There we were, three companies of infantry fighting six times our number, and they supported by cavalry and artillery. Our boys fought like tigers; not one backed down; every one did his best. I have since learned that there were two thousand infantry, five hundred cavalry, and three pieces of artillery--one rifled, one smooth, and the smooth twenty-four pounder which we took. It is no wonder we had to fight, and the greatest wonder is how we held our own. They also had artillery on Loudon Mountain, which kept pouring in shot and shell upon us, and at one time our own artillery on Maryland Heights shelled us, as we were falling back, thinking we were the enemy.

There were many side scenes. Stimpson had a hand-to-hand fight with one of the cavalry, whom he bayoneted, illustrating the bayonet drill in which the company has been exercised. Corporal Marshall was chased by a mounted officer while he was assisting one of the wounded Wisconsin boys off. He turned and shot his pursuer through the breast. The officer proved to be Colonel Ashby, the commander of the rebels, which accounted for the lull in the battle alluded to. We have since learned that he was not killed, but will probably have to keep in the house for some time. There were many other similar scenes.

We have heard there were one hundred and fifty of them killed and wounded. The Enfield rifle is the piece that tells. I heard one of the rebels exclaim: “I wish to God we had their guns!” We found the men they had killed in their charge upon the Wisconsin Company A, stripped and stabbed through and through with bayonets. That is the way they desecrate the dead. So much for the chivalrous Virginians! We vowed vengeance if we ever met with them again.

We camped upon the field, lying down just as we were, and it needed no rocking to put us to sleep. At midnight we were aroused, and ordered to move over the river. As we heard the enemy had received large reinforcements, we took their gun with us, and it is now ready to vent its spite upon its former masters.

Twitchell and Stimpson are the only two hurt, and the doctor says they are not very seriously. The Wisconsin boys suffered most. They had six killed, ten wounded, and one is missing. Companies I and K were not engaged, and did not burn a cartridge. They were on the Shenandoah. As we gathered around our camp-fires, almost every one having a bullet mark upon his clothes to show, I could not help thanking the God of battles for his mercy toward us. It seems more like a dream than a reality, as I look back over the scenes of yesterday. The sixteenth of October will be long remembered by us all. It was just the end of three months service — a kind of quarterly settlement — and the Paymaster came to-day to balance accounts and make our previously useless pocket-books once more serviceable. It is doubly a settlement day, for we settled the account of the rebels, and the United States settles ours, but in a way far more pleasing to us and our poor washerwoman, who has been looking for that never coming next week, until she, like ourselves, began to think it was the next week after never.


Secession account of the battle.

The following is the secession version of the late engagement at Harper's Ferry, as published in the Baltimore Republican.

If you read the papers you will find one of those brilliant victories of the Federal army stated to have taken place at Harper's Ferry. A bigger he never was told. I will give you the facts of the fight. Yesterday morning seven companies of Federal troops, three of them [202] belonging to the Third Wisconsin regiment, and tour to the Massachusetts regiment, went over the river to Halltown, to take one hundred and twenty-two thousand bushels of wheat that was in a mill there at Bolivar.

On the top of the hill nine men had an old cannon which they fired on the seven companies, and for a long time held them in check, when, being reinforced by thirty more men, making thirty-nine, they fought there for two hours, and then fell back two miles. The Federals followed, until suddenly a regiment of Virginians came in sight, drawn up in line of battle. So soon as the Federals saw these they ran as fast as they could, some of them throwing away their knapsacks, and not stopping until they got to Sandy Hook. The Virginians followed, but were unable, as the retreating enemy had a big start, to overtake them. Four of the Wisconsin men were killed, and eight or ten of the Massachusetts men wounded.

The killed and wounded were brought here (to Frederick) this morning. Now I assure you this is the truth of the whole matter. The Wisconsin boys complain of the Massachusetts men for running first, who themselves are charged in turn with cowardice. Colonel Geary had command of the Federals, and was wounded in the calf of the leg.

What do men think of this as a glorious Federal victory? I forgot to state that none of the Virginians were killed. This, I assure you, is so, although it looks hard to believe in face of what is put in print. The Confederates have entire possession of the ferry now, and will hold it as long as they please.



1 Corporal Stimpson is the correspondent of the Boston Saturday Evening Gazette, who writes over the signature of “Gaspard.”

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