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Ball's Bluff, battle at.

In October, 1861, a National force, commanded by Gen. Charles P. Stone, was encamped between Edward's and Conrad's ferries, on [254] the Maryland side of the upper Potomac, while the left wing of the Confederate army, under General Evans, lay at Leesburg, in Virginia. Misinformation had caused a belief that the Confederates had left Leesburg at a little past the middle of October, when General McClellan ordered General McCall, who commanded the advance of the right of the National forces in Virginia, to move forward and occupy Drainesville. At the same time he ordered General Stone to co-operate with General McCall, which he did by

Map of Ball's Bluff.

making a feint of crossing the river at the two ferries above named on the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 20. At the same time part of a Massachusetts regiment, under Colonel Devens (see Devens, Charles), was ordered to take post upon Harrison's Island, in the Potomac, abreast of Ball's Bluff. Devens went to the island with four companies in flat-boats taken from the Chesapeake and Ohio canal. About 3,000 men, under Col. Edward D. Baker. q. v.), of the national Senate, acting as brigadier-general, were held in readiness as a reserve in case of a battle. With that reserve was a fine body of Pennsylvanians known as the “1st California Regiment.” These movements of the Nationals caused an opposing one on the part of the Confederates, who had watched their antagonists with keen vigilance at a point of concealment not far off, Misinformed as to the position of the confederates and supposing McCall to be near enough to give aid if necessary, Stone, on the morning of the 21st, ordered some Massachusetts troops under Colonels Lee and Devens to cross to the Virginia shore from Harrison's Island to reconnoitre. They did not find the fore in the neighborhood.

General Evans, unperceived, lay not far off; and riflemen and cavalry were hovering near and waiting a favorable opportunity to strike Devens, who, leaving a part of Lee's command near the Bluff. had advanced to near Leesburg. After a skirmish, in which he lost one man killed and nine wounded, he fell back towards the Bluff. While halting in an open field, he received orders from Stone to remain there until support could be sent him. His entire force consisted of only 600 men. They were very soon attacked by the Confederates. It was a little past noon. Pressed by overwhelming numbers, Devens fell back to avoid being flanked. Meanwhile Colonel Baker had been pressing forward from Conrad's Ferry to the relief of the assailed troops. Ranking Devens, he had been ordered to Harrison's Island, with discretionary powers to reinforce the party on the Virginia main or to withdraw all the troops to the Maryland side of the river. He concluded to go forward, supposing the forces of McCall and others to be near. He was ignorant of the fact that General McClellan had ordered McCall to fall back from Drainesville.

On reaching the field of conflict, Baker took the chief command of all the forces on the Bluff, about 1,700 strong. Very soon afterwards, while he was in the thickest of the fight encouraging his men, a, bullet pierced his brain and he fell dead. The battle had lasted two hours. His troops. unsupported by others, were crushed by superior numbers. Pressed back to the verge of the Bluff, which there rises more than 100 feet above the river, they fought desperately for a while at twilight, for they had no means for crossing the swollen flood. They were soon overpowered. Some had been pushed down the declivity. Many were made prisoners, and many perished in trying to escape by swimming in the dark. Some were shot in the water, and others were drowned. A flat-boat laden with the wounded was riddled with bullets and sank. In this affair the Nationals lost, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, fully 1,000 men. The Confederates lost 153 killed. The number of their wounded is unknown. [255]

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