|from The |
| FULL ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE OF BALL'S BLUFF,
NEAR EDWARD’S FERRY
List of the Killed and Wounded Officers Of The Massachusetts Fifteenth
Washington, Oct. 22. So far as can be ascertained, there has been no renewal of the fight at Edwards Ferry. The indications plainly are that the military authorities are sedulously engaged in strengthening our forces at that point. The information received thus far is presumed to be of such a character as not to entitle it credence in all particulars.
The Washington Star of this evening publishes the following additional facts of the affair at Edwards Ferry. The Star says it is a mistake to suppose that Gen. Stone was repulsed. He was eminently successful, having effected his object although at some loss to his right wing. Gen. Banks is in person on the Virginia side and has assumed the chief command.
Col. Crosswell, commanding the New York Tammany regiment is among the missing. He was formerly captain in the eighth regular infantry. Lieut. Col. Ward of the Massachusetts fifteenth was wounded in the leg. Gen. Bakers command consists of portions of three regiments, namely the California regiment, the Massachusetts fifteenth, and the New York Tammany, numbering in all about eighteen hundred men.
General McCall's division remains in about the same position the main body has held for some days past, whence he may operate effectively in any direction. Its presence higher up the river, to support an important movement of Generals Stone and Banks, has not been necessary, as the result proves.
The Star’s description of the fight says both wings were attacked as early as nine o’clock a. m., but the enemy was repulsed whenever he appeared. About five o’clock in the afternoon the right wing found itself confronted by near four thousand of the enemy, under Gen. Evens, with artillery. Gen. Baker gallantly essayed the charge in which he was killed. The officer left in command immediately ordered the men to fall back near the river bank, where they could be supported by Gen. Stone and the portions of the army that had effected a crossing. The men obeyed in good order, carrying off all the dead and wounded. On reaching the position selected the right wing turned, though under fire of the enemy, which gradually slackened until midnight when it ceased.
Throughout the night the balance of Gen. Stone’s force crossed the river, and through up temporary works, that tender his position secure, and enables him to protect the crossing of the division of Gen. Banks, to be essayed this morning. The object of Stone’s movement was to enable his command, with that of Gen. Bank’s division to be safely transferred to Virginia. Evans attacked Baker in front and both flanks. Col. Coggswell was probably taken prisoner.
Our information so far, this forenoon, is that Bank’s army duly arrived at the Maryland landing at Edward’s Ferry last night, and has been crossing the river securely since daylight.
Volume 90 # 43 Worcester Spy October 30, 1861
Poolesville. Oct. 22--- The following report of the battle of Ball’ Bluff midway between Conrad’s and Edward’s Ferries, and opposite Harrison’s Island which occurred yesterday has been gleaned from official sources:
On Sunday night Col. Devens of the fifteenth Massachusetts who had for some time guarded Harrison's Island with one company, ordered Capt. Philbrick of Company H and Quartermaster Howe of his staff, with a detachment of twenty men, to scout the Virginia shore in the direction of Leesburg. They crossed from the island to the shore, and executed the order by approaching within three fourths of a mile of Leesburg, returning to their starting point about ten o’clock at night, having discovered as they supposed a small camp one mile or more from Leesburg.
On their reporting to Col. Devens, the latter with about three hundred men, pushed forward by direction of Gen. Stone, into the same locality, with orders to destroy the camp at daybreak and return. Col. Devens went and remaining there with his command concealed, sent back word that no enemy was in sight. Capt. Philbrick’s company taking an advanced position, while the remaining companies were concealed as a reserve in case of attack upon the advance, when about a mile and a half from the river and five hundred yards in advance of Col. Devens’ reserve, Philbrick, accompanied by Col. Devens in person, attacked and drove back a company of Mississippi riflemen, and then fell back to the reserve located in the rear, on the appearance of a body of rebel cavalry. in the skirmish Philbrick had difficulty in getting near enough to the enemy for his smoothbore guns to have much effect, whereas the others used long range rifles on our forces.
At daylight, and at the same hour that Col. Devens’ left the shore to make the advance, Col. Lee of the twentieth Massachusetts regiment sent over one company of his regiment, which remained on the shore to cover the return of Devens’. Col. Devens’ maintained his ground, and was reinforced during the morning by three hundred more of his regiment, under Lieut. Col. Ward. About one o’clock he was attacked by a considerable force of riflemen, who attempted to outflank him. Fearing they might be successful, and after resisting them for some time, Col. Devens slowly retreated in perfect order to the river, where Gen. Baker had arrive with a battalion of the California regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Wistar.
Gen. Baker then took command, first complementing Col. Devens for his successful resistance to a superior force, and giving his command, now less than six hundred men the right of the line of battle. The center and left being formed of about three hundred of the Massachusetts twentieth, under Col. Lee, and the California battalion about five hundred in number , under Lieut. Colonel Wistar. Two mounted howitzers, commanded by Lieut. French, and one piece of the New York battery commanded by Lieut. Bramhall were in front of the center just previous to the commencement of the action. The attack was commenced by the enemy on our right, but was soon directed more heavily toward the center and left. For about two hours the battle raged terrifically. There was a complete shower of leaden hail. Three several (separate?) times the left of the line made an advance but was compelled to retire as often. The right was better protected and held their position. An order came from Gen. Baker to throw two companies of the fifteenth Massachusetts to the center, which was immediately executed. This produced the impression that the battle was going against us, but caused no confusion or dismay. The left was hard pressed but remained firm.
About this time the news spread that Gen. Baker was killed. While in the act of pushing a canon forward with his shoulder to the wheel, he was pierced by six bullets. he was evidently the object of the enemy’s sharpshooters. After this there was a cessation of fire for a few minutes, during which Colonel Coggswell of the New York Tammany regiment, arrived with two companies, and he being the senior officer, the command devolved on him. In a short time it became evident to Col. Coggswell that the day was lost, and he thought it best to cut his way through to Edwards’ Ferry, where General Gorman was in charge, throwing over reinforcements by direction of Gen. Stone, who was within sight of the battle field, at Edward’s Ferry, directing the general movements
An order was now issued to transfer the fifteenth Massachusetts regiment from the right to the left, which was executed as calmly as a battalion drill. Col. Coggswell soon became satisfied of the impossibility of reaching Edward’s Ferry as desired, and gave an order to fall back toward the river, which was executed as well as the circumstances would permit. They reached the river bank about twenty minutes before nightfall, here the fifteenth deployed as skirmishers along the shore.
The only means of conveyance to the island was a large boat capable of carrying about forty persons, which was overcrowded and swamped, and also one of smaller dimensions. The troops remaining on the shore made a desperate resistance, and it is believed that the enemy took comparatively few prisoners in consequence. Those who could swim plunged into the water, those carrying their arms who could, and others throwing them into the river to prevent their falling into the enemies hands. Some escaped by availing themselves of the darkness and the heavily wooded banks, but several are known to have drowned in the waters of the Potomac.
The behavior of our troops before a superior number of the enemy was marked as nobly brave and enduring. Near the close of the action, and after the day was considered irretrievably lost, the two recently arrived companies of the Tammany regiment made a desperate charge, but were met with a terrific fire by the enemy. It is probable that a secession officer was mistaken for one of our commanders, who appeared in front and gave the order to charge. The brave Lieut. Bramhall of the New York ninth battery lost one of his guns, and himself was wounded seriously but not fatally.
The gallant Lieut. French of the howitzer battery, fired with his own hands four shots after the day was lost and his men scattered. He was shot in the left breast and ankle but not mortally wounded. On reaching the island, which he did by throwing his sword and revolver into the river and swimming across, Col. Devens at once posted thirty of his men to prevent any attempt of the enemy at pursuit. This force was subsequently augmented by the arrival there of other companies from the Maryland shore, under Colonel Hinks of the nineteenth Massachusetts regiment. Colonel Devens received a slight contusion in the breast from a musket ball.
Commissioned Officers of the Massachusetts 15th
Captain Rockwood of Co. A.
Captain Simonds of Co. B.
Captain Bowman of Co. C. (probably)
Captain Studley of Co. D.
Second Lieutenant Grout
Second Lieutenant Vassal, company E
Captain Gatchell, company K.
Lieutenant Colonel Ward, leg amputated.
Capt. Sloan, company F, slightly
Capt. Forehand, company G.
First Lieutenant Holden, company H.
Captain Philbrick, company H, slightly.
Col. Lee of the Massachusetts twentieth, and Col. Coggswell of the Tammany regiment, are probably prisoners. Lieut. Col. Wistar of the California regiment is supposed to be mortally wounded.
As an instance of the weight and concentration of the enemy’s fire, the clothing and equipage of Quartermaster Howe, of the fifteenth Massachusetts, bore the marks of four distinct rifle shots, one ball passing through the crown of his cap and another flattening on the plate of his belt, yet he was uninjured. Most of the wounded have been conveyed to their respective encampment hospitals.
The enemy’s force was very large. Their positions were well selected from a familiar knowledge of the country. there is at present no means of ascertaining heir loss, but it must have been immense, as our few pieces of artillery were served with accuracy.
It is proper to state in connection with the foregoing that Gen. Stone’s orders to gen. Baker were to advance a brigade, including a battery, to the support of Col. Devens, and to attack the enemy in force only in case of a knowledge of their inferior numbers and of his ability to defeat them, but under no circumstances to bring on a general engagement between the main forces of both sides.