from The Southbridge Journal, 1 Nov 1861 (Volume 1 #37), contributed by Mike Branniff
Poolesville, Oct 23, 1861
Dear Mother: I have the painful duty to perform of telling you that the15th Regiment is badly cut up. On Sunday morning at one o’clock the long roll beat to arms, and we were marched down to the Potomac in double quick, which we reached at an early hour in the morning, and were taken across in scows.
Our Colonel went over with five companies at four o’clock in the morning, and marched to within a mile and a half of Leesburg, when we were attacked by the rebels, and our boys returned the fire with a will. At twelve o’clock we had to fall back, and drew up in line of battle, commanded by Colonel Baker with six pieces of artillery. The rebels outflanked us, and poured in the bullets like hail, and we had to lay down on our faces. I lay in a gully. The groans of the wounded were terrible to hear. We fought for two hours with 1800 men against 5000. We were obliged to fall back with a great loss. We retreated to the river, but how in the world we were to cross, we could not tell, and the rebels were pouring in volley after volley.
Colonel Baker fell with six bullets in his body, and Col. Ward had his leg shattered. My own escape was marvelous. A hundred of us went up the river two miles bearing a flag of truce. Of course we all expected to be taken prisoners, but finding a boat we all got over to the island. Poor McKinstry, I am afraid, was either taken prisoner or killed.
It was a sad sight, seeing the boys going into the river and drowning. Fifty or seventy five were drowned or shot in the river. We had to throw away our guns and belts, and those that swam had to loose their cloths.
I never witnessed such a terrible scene before. The rebels fought like tigers, and showed no mercy to our boys, and to hear them yell when they charged sent chill through us. I had the eagle shot off my hat, which made me hop some, I can tell you.
Although the Fifteenth regiment had to take the whole force of the battle, and was sadly cut to pieces, the rebels did not get our colors. When the order came to retreat, I had to crawl some fifty or a hundred rods on my face in the mud, in order to escape alive and unhurt. Gen. Stone was almost distracted when he heard of our retreat. The movement was not carried out in (the manner?) it should be. We fought with all our might and courage and I experienced no fear, once we were well into it.