Page images
PDF
EPUB

baro learned, boldly held fast to his colors, waved them in front of the line, cheering the men to the defense of their flag.

of the Fifteenth Massachusetts Regiment I would particularly mention Captain Bowman, who, in addition to gallantry on the field, volun. teered to assist the last companies which formed on the bluffs to cover the passage of the river.

Reports of the Fifteenth Massachusetts and the First California Regiments have, I understand, been made direct to your headquarters. No report has been received by me from the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment.

Of my own regiment, the Tammany, I cannot speak too highly, and would mention the conduct of Captain Alden, who brought two companies into action, drove the enemy back, checked them, and fell nobly doing his duty. Captains Gerety and O'Meara brought their companies in good order to the field after the repulse, and with their brave men held the bluff until long after nightfall, thus saving the command a long time from a murderous fire. In this duty Captain Gerety lost his life and the regiment a most valuable officer. Lieutenant Gillies, who acted as my adjutant and aide-de-camp during the day, performed his duty most gallantly, and fell after the final repulse.

Before closing my report I deem it my duty as commander of the field daring the last part of the action to state my convictions as to the prin. cipal causes of the untoward results of the day: First. The transportation of troops across the two branches of the river was in no way guarded or organized. There were no guards at any of the landings. No boats? crews had been detailed, and each command as it arrived was obliged to organize its own. No guns were placed in position either on the Maryland side or on the island to protect the passage, although several pieces were disposable on the Maryland shore near the landing. Had the full capacity of the boats been employed, more than twice as many men might have crossed in time to take part in the action. Second. The dispositions on the field were faulty, according to my judgment. Had the hills on our left front been occupied half an hour after I came on the field, as they might have been without loss, it would have been impossible to dislodge us, and we might have been indefinitely reenforced. As the lines were formed it was impossible ever to bring more than 300 or 400 men into action at a time, and yet from the choice of ground those men not in action were still exposed to fire. The whole brunt of the action fell, as had been pointed out to the commander, on the left and the right, and the reserve could render no service or assistance to their brave comrades, whilst they were themselves being shot down at their separate posts. I have the honor to be, general, your most obedient servant,

M. COGSWELL, Colonel Forty-second New York Volunteers, Commanding. Brig. Gen. CHARLES P. STONE.

No. 9. Report of Lieut. Col. James J. Mooney, Forty-second New York Infantry.

HEADQUARTERS TAMMANY REGIMENT,

Camp Lyon, near Poolesville, Ma., November 4, 1861. SIR: I herewith transmit to you a complete report of an engagement with the rebels at a point on the Potomac River, in the State of Virginia, known as Ball's Bluff, in which the Tammany regiment from New York were active participants.

On the morning of the 21st ultimo Colonel Cogswell received orders from Brigadier-General Stone to hold the regiment in readiness to march on a moment's warning to a point 2 miles below Conrad's Ferry, in the State of Maryland. On arriving at the point the whole regiment was transported in good order and without accident to Harrison's Isl. and, about midway between the Maryland and Virginia shores, in the Potomac River.

Here, in accordance with the orders of the general in command, the regiment commenced crossing to the Virginia shore to a steep acclivity, some 50 feet in height. The passage across was slow and tedious, owing to the inadequate means of transit provided, only about a sin gle company being able to cross at a time. Company A, Captain Har. rington; Company C, Lieutenant McPberson; Company E, Capt. T. H. O'Meara; Company H, Capt. H. H. Alden,

and Company K, Capt. M. Gerety, had succeeded in crossing to the Virginia shore, and were hotly engaged in a sanguinary and uneven conflict with the rebels, when the boat used for the transportation of troops to the battle-field was swamped on a return trip, laden with wounded and dead soldiers who had just fallen on the field of battle. How many of our bleeding soldiers were thus buried beneath the waters of the Potomac it was impossible in the confusion that followed to ascertain. No inconsiderable number were rescued by their comrades in arms on the island, and others, not seriously injured, escaped by their own exertions, but there is no doubt but some were drowned by this unfortunate occurrence. As this was the only boat at command, Companies B, Lieut. J. McGrath; D, Capt. Isaac Gotthold; F, Capt. J. W. Tobin; G, Captain Quinn and I, Capt. D. Hogg, were thus prevented from crossing to Virginia to assist their compatriots already in conflict with a largely superior force of the enemy. The men evinced the deepest anxiety to go to the rescue of their brother soldiers, and manifested the most unmistakable sorrow on learning the impossibility of engaging with the enemy.

The detachment of the Tammany which succeeded in crossing to the Virginia shore was marched up the steep acclivity, and immediately entered into the conflict, already progressing, with a spirit and intrepidity that would have done credit to older and more experienced sol. diers, but the contest was too uneven, and, notwithstanding the valor and steadfastness of the men, the battle went against us, though twice the troops of the Tammany impetuously and with great effect charged on the enemy after the order for the retreat had been given. The retreat was conducted with the most perfect order to the river, our soldiers contesting every inch of the ground in retiring. On arriving at the river and finding no means of conveyance to the island, our troops were ordered to throw their arms into the river and such of them who could swim to do so, as this was their only alternative from being taken prisoners.

Below I transmit to you a list of those killed, wounded, and missing. Having no means of ascertaining the actual facts in the case, of course there are many unavoidable inaccuracies in the list, and it is but reasonable to suppose that at least a large propertion of those reported as wounded and missing are among the dead.*

On the death of Col. E. D. Baker, acting brigadier-general, Col. Milton Cogswell, of the Tammany regiment, assumed command of the brigade. Though the fortunes of the Union forces had already commenced to wane, Colonel Cogswell rallied them with consummate skill, and when retreat became inevitable, drew off the men in the best possible style, ordering them to cast their muskets and accouterments into the river rather than leave them as trophies for the rebels. He was wounded in the hand, though it is supposed not seriously, sufficiently so, however, to prevent him from swimming to the island, in consequence of which he was doubtless taken prisoner.

* The nominal lists omitted above show casualties to have been 9 killed. 10 wounded, and 135 missing; but see report No. 3.

Captain Harrington (Company Al conducted himself both on the battle-field and in the retreat with great coolness and discretion. On seeing that he must either be killed or taken prisoner, he threw his strord in the river, divested himself of his wearing apparel, and swam to the island.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to Captain O'Meara (Company E] and those under his command. They fought with undaunted bravery and great efficiency, and when vanquished at last, Captain O'Meara swam to the island and implored Colonel Hinks, then in command there, for the use of a boat to rescue his brave men from the hands of the enemy, and failing in this, he recrossed the river to Virginia in order to assist his men in person with the best means he could devise to escape. As he did not return it is presumed that he is now a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. His persistent efforts in behalf of the safety and welfare of those under his command are worthy of the highest encomiums.

Captain Alden (Company H] fell at almost the first volley from the enemy. His remains were afterward recognized by Captain Vaughan, of the Third Rhode Island Battery, who crossed to the Virginia shore with a flag of truce on the 230 instant and buried a portion of the dead. Though deprived of their commander thus early in the action, the company still continued to fight with commendable ardor.

The supposition that Captain Gerety Company K) is among the killed is well founded, though not fully authenticated. He shouldered a musket and was seen to be engaged in the conflict in person. It is credited that he was killed pierced with several balls, and that his body was afterward terribly mutilated by passing cavalry of the enemy, Sergt. Thomas Wright, of Company G, who was detailed on the island to assist in the transportation of troops, is missing.

The detachment of the Tammany regiment that remained on the island in consequence of the accident heretofore mentioned-consisting of Companies B, Lieat. James McGrath_commanding; D, Capt. Isaac Gotthold commanding; F, Capt. J. W. Tobin commanding; G, Capt. John Quinn commanding; and I, Capt. David Hogg commandingwere on active and arduous service from the moment of their arrival on the island until 2 p. m. of the succeeding day in taking care of and conveying the wounded to the hospital, and in standing in the intrenchments as a guard under a heavy and incessant fire from the enemy. Notwithstanding the inclement wind and storm that prevailed during the night, the men performed the disagreeable task assigned them without a murmur.

During the forenoon of the 22d the Tammany regiment was relieved by the Twenty-seventh Indiana Regiment, of General Hamilton's brigade.

The regiment was then marched back to Camp Lyon, and though griered and disappointed at the result of the engagement with the enemy, their zeal and ardor are unabated. The inauspicious result, which was entirely beyond the control of those engaged, and for which they cannot in the slightest be held responsible, has had the effect of inspiring the men with renewed determination, instead of producing discontent and disorganization, which too often follow upon the heels of such lamentable disasters.

It would be unjust to close this report without paying tribute to the exertions of Maj. Peter Bowe and Lieut. Thomas Abbott in superintending the transportation of troops to the Virginia shore and bringing back to the island the dead, dying, wounded, and discomfited soldiers. The task was a severe one, but they performed it with fidelity and promptitude. Their assiduous attention to the duties devolving upon them deserves the highest and most honorable mention. Respectfully,

JAMES J. MOONEY, Lieutenant-Colonel, Comdg. Tammany Regiment N. Y. S. V. His Excellency EDWIN D. MORGAN,

Governor of the State of New York.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Report of Lieut. Col. Isaac J. Wistar, Seventy-first Pennsylvania In

fantry

HEADQUARTERS FIRST CALIFORNIA REGIMENT,

Near Poolesville, Md., October 22, 1861. SIR: I have the honor to send for the examination of the general commanding a rebel officer captured yesterday by Capt. John Markoe in one of the enemy's charges upon our position at Conrad's Ferry. Captain Markoe was afterward captured himself by the enemy.

Having been severely wounded myself near the close of the action, I am unable to make a detailed report of my losses on the occasion, further than my killed, wounded, and missing amount to more than onehalf those engaged. Most of those who escaped swam the river, consequently my loss in muskets is very great; but comparatively few fell into the hands of the enemy, they mostly having been destroyed in the river to prevent it.

I went into action with about 600 men, being the first battalion of my regiment, yesterday afternoon about 2 p. m.

The action continued until dark, with a heavy loss on both sides, the firing on both sides being very spirited and effective.

Out of the whole force I can parade this afternoon about 270 men, the officers having suffered disproportionally great.

My own wounds are severe and painful but not fatal, with ordinary
good fortune, as I understand, and I hope to make a detailed report
shortly.
I have the honor to be, captain, your obedient servant,

ISAAC J. WISTAR,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding California Regiment,

Per JNO. L. WINKHON,

(Colonel Wistar being unable to write.) Captain STEWART,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

No. 11.

Report of Capt. Francis G. Young, of Colonel Baker's staff. Sir: At the request of the relatives and many friends of Colonel Baker I have the honor to submit a statement of the facts of the engagement on last Monday, the 21st instant, fought opposite Harrison's Island, on the Virginia shore.

In obedience to an order of General Stone, the first battalion of the California regiment, Baker's brigade, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar, left Camp Observation, near the mouth of the Monocacy, at 4 a. m. Monday, and reached Conrad's Ferry at sunrise. The battalion stacked arms, and I proceeded to Edwards Ferry, distant 5 miles, and reported to General Stone for orders. Lieutenant Howe, of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, arrived there at the same time, and reported that he had crossed the river at Harrison's Island during the night, and with some others of his regiment had scouted the country in the direction of Leesburg and found no enemy. General Stone thereupon directed me to return to Lieutenant-Colonel Wistar, with an order for the battalion to stand fast until perchance he should hear heavy firing in front, and in that event to cross to the Virginia shore at Harrison's Island. At this time the summit of the bluff opposite the island on the Virginia side was occupied by six companies of the Fifteenth Massachusetts, Colonel Devens, a detachment of the Twentieth Massachusetts, Colonel Lee, and two companies of the Tammany regiment; also, two small howitzers of the Rhode Island Battery on the island. These forces had crossed during the night preceding, and on my return to Colonel Wistar irregular firing of musketry was heard from the bluff opposite the island. Shortly afterwards Colonel Baker arrived with the other officers of his staff, and in a little while General Stone dispatched to him from Edwards Ferry an order in writing that in the event of heavy firing in direction of Harrison's Island he should advance the California regiment or retire the Union forces from the Virginia side of the river at his discretion, and to assume the command on reaching the Virginia side. Colonel Baker immediately sent for three regiments and a squadron of cavalry from his brigade and for Colonel Cogswell and the rest of his Tammany regiment.

Proceeding to the crossing at Harrison's Island, we found the means of transportation to consist of two flat-boats of the capacity of 25 to 40 men, and a small skiff, which would carry but 3 or 4 men. The river was swollen and the current rapid, and there was much labor and delay in making use of the boats. “Another flat-boat was found in the canal 1 mile distant, and being towed down to the crossing, was with much difficulty got into the Potomac. Colonel Baker immediately crossed with me and as many men as could be got into the boats to the island, and reaching the opposite side of the island found one flat-boat and a small metallic boat. He crossed to the Virginia shore without delay with Adjutant-General Harvey, sending me back with an order for Colonel Cogswell to bring over the artillery.

It was now 2 o'clock p. m., and Colonel Cogswell coming over from the Maryland side with two pieces of artillery, horses and men, we carried with us the two howitzers of the Rhode Island Battery and crossed to the Virginia side. The bank is of miry clay, and the heights alınost precipitous, with fallen trees and rocks, making it very difficult to get up the artillery. Arriving by circuitous routes on the summit, We found an open field of six acres, covered with wild grass, scrub oak,

« PreviousContinue »