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Report of Brig. Gen. Willis A. Gorman, U.S. Army, of operations oppo
site Edwards Ferry, Maryland.
BRIGADE HEADQUARTERS, NEAR EDWARDS FERRY,
October 26, 1861. I have the honor to communicate to the general commanding the division the facts and events connected with my brigade in the advance across the Potomac, made under his orders. On the 20th instant I received orders to detach two companies of the First Minnesota Regi. ment to cover a reconnaissance on the Virginia side of the Potomac, whereupon Colonel Dana sent forward Companies E and K, who crossed the river, but were soon recalled. On the morning of the 21st two other companies of the same regiment crossed and covered the advance of a cavalry party under Major Mix, at the same time driving in the enemy's pickets.* Orders were received by me to have the Second New York State Militia and First Minnesota Volunteers at Edwards Ferry on Monday, the 21st instant, at daylight, or as near that hour as possible. These two regiments arrived there at the time specified. I also ordered the Thirty-fourth New York Volunteers to proceed to the same point at as early an hour as possible from Seneca Mills, 8 miles distant. They arrived with great promptitude at 11 o'clock. During that day and night (the 21st) the entire brigade crossed the river, numbering about 2,250 men.
Just about the time I got the first regiment across a severe battle commenced near Conrad's Ferry, distant 5 or 6 miles. Before the bri. gade got over news of a repulse of our troops at Conrad's Ferry reached the general commanding, who sent me an order in writing to commence intrenchments immediately” on the Virginia side. With the utmost dispatch intrenching tools were placed in the hands of the Seventh Michigan Regiment (whose guns were almost worthless), who did good service, and very soon rifle-pits were dug and other intrench. ments begun. From the commencement of the crossing on Monday I was ordered in command of the troops at the Ferry and in charge of the means and manner of disposing of them as the re-enforcements arrived; also of crossing them over the river. On the arrival of MajorGeneral Banks on the 22d I received the same order from him. I seized all the canal-boats within 2 miles of the Ferry-above and below-and all the flat, scow, and row boats to be found, and put seven canal-boats and two scow-boats into the Potomac from the canal, placing them in charge of Captain Foote, quartermaster of the Second New York State Militia, who managed the crossing with great energy, so that by Tuesday, 22d instant, at 10 o'clock a. m., we had crossed 4,500 men, 110 or more of Van Alen's Cavalry, and two 12-punder howitzers of Ricketts' battery, immediately under the charge of Lieutenants Kirby and Woodruff.
About 4 o'clock on the 22d instant the enemy was seen advancing upon us in force. They immediately, and with great spirit and deter. mination, attacked our outposts near the woods adjacent to Goose Creek, to the left and in front of our lines, and about 3 miles from Leesburg. They numbered over 3,000 infantry, with some cavalry in reserve. Our forces met the attack with equal firmness, and for a short time the firing was rapid, when the two pieces of artillery opened upon the enemy a well-directed fire, doing fearful execution, causing them to give way in confusion and make a hasty return within their breastworks near Leesburg, suffering a loss of 60 killed and wounded, as ascertained from their wounded and from citizens in the vicinity. The loss in my brigade is one killed and one severely wounded, both belong. ing to Company I, First Minnesota Volunteers.
* Reference to this skirmish is in General Stone's report (October 29) of Ball's Bluff, No. 2, p. 293.
On the 23d, by the general's orders, I directed further intrenchments around the White house near the enemy's works. I also had the fences, yard, and lane barricaded, and strengthened with logs, rails,.old plows, wagons, and lumber. On the night of the 23d, about 7 o'clock, the general ordered me again to proceed to the Maryland side, and take charge of the crossing of artillery and more troops. On arriving I started across four more pieces of artillery. A storm of wind which had been prevailing nearly all day seemed to forbid the possibility of further re-enforcements from this side. Provisions were getting short; the artillery on the Virginia shore were short of ammunition; the wind was setting strongly from the Virginia shore; the means of transportation were heavy scows and clumsy canal-boats, managed by poles, when at 8 o'clock p. m. I received notice from Major-General Banks that General McClellan had ordered the withdrawal of the whole force from the Virginia to the Maryland side, and orders to proceed quietly, but with all energy, to make the arrangements necessary on the Mary. land side, and directed me to call to this work the boatmen and lum. bermen of the First Minnesota Volunteers, as it was evident that every. thing depended on the energy, courage, and muscles of the boatmen to contend against the adverse wind-storm. This detail was made, to which was added 100 men from Colonel Kenly's Maryland regiment, 100 more from the Thirty-fourth New York Volunteers, and 150 from the Seventh Michigan Regiment. The plan being matured, the seemingly impossible enterprise was entered upon with a spirit and energy that knew “no such word as fail," and between 9 o'clock p. m. of the 23d ard 5 o'clock a. m. of the 24th every man, horse, and piece of artil. lery was safely withdrawn from the Virginia shore, and landed on this side again without an accident or the loss of a man or a horse, except the casualty of the fight. The fortitude, endurance, and energy displayed by the men detailed to perform this work deserve the highest commendation. The Minnesota lumbermen performed their part with such skill as to merit special notice. The courage and coolness of the officers and men of my brigade, in most part, as exhibited in their crossing the river, engaging the enemy, and their orderly withdrawal across again, give reliable assurance of their efficiency.
It may not be improper here to state that the result of this movement as a reconnaissance must prove highly beneficial to any future movement in that direction. Each order was strictly followed, and the desired result accomplished.
Trusting that I have performed satisfactorily the somewhat difficult and responsible duty to which General Stone and General Banks aşsigned me, I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. A. GORMAN,
Brigadier-General. Capt. CHARLES STEWART,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Brig. Gen. Stone's Division.
Report of Vaj. John Mix, Third New York Cavalry, of reconnaissance
and skirmish on Leesburg road, Virginia.
November 4, 1861. SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of my reconnaissance on the 21st ultimo:
In compliance with the instructions of Brigadier-General Stone, I crossed the Potomac at Edwards Ferry about 7 o'clock a. m., with a party of 3 officers and 31 rank and file, Capt. Charles Stewart, assistant adjutant-general, accompanying the party. A line of skirmishers, con. sisting of two companies of the First Minnesota, commanded the line of the hill to the right and front. After carefully examining our arms and equipments, we moved quickly forward on the Leesburg road.' The house to the right, about 2 miles from the landing, known as Monroe's, was found vacant, and appeared to have been left in great haste, most probably during the cannonading of the 20th. At this passing the road enters a thick wood, with a great growth of underbrush, impenetrable to our flanking at the gait we were moving. They were conse. quently drawn up the road and ordered to proceed at a slow gallop. The road was here so narrow and crooked that they could not keep over 40 paces in the front. Three hundred yards from the house a road crosses the one we were upon, running to the bridge over Goose Creek on the left and to Leesburg on the right. I, however, kept straight on, as the road presented little opportunity for observation, and would sooner reach the high and open country around the enemy's breastworks to the left and front. Soon after reaching this point we drove in a vedette of the enemy, who took the alarm too soon to allow a reasonable chance of our capturing him, and I did not wish to fatigue our horses by useless pursuit.
A negro whom we had met reported that a regiment of infantry and a body of cavalry had left the immediate neighborhood that morning at daylight, and taken the Leesburg road. With this intelligence we proceeded on our way, and when about 1,200 yards farther in the woods our advance suddenly halted and signalized the enemy in sight. Pushing rapidly forward, we saw the bayonets glistening above the brush; but for the thick undergrowth but few of the enemy could be seen. In an instant the head of the columns “by fours" came upon the road within 35 yards of us, and 5 yards of one of our men (Sergeant Brown), who held his position when he discovered them. At the same moment a rise in the ground disclosed to me a long line of bayonets pushing rapidly forward with the evident intention of flanking the road on our left
. I immediately directed a fire on them from our revolvers, which took effect on at least 2 of them, one an officer who was leading the column, probably a lieutenant; we wheeled quickly about, when instantly their first platoon opened fire upon us from a distance of not over 30 yards. We retired at a smart gallop about 100 yards, when a turn in the road protected us from their fire, which was now very rapid, but ineffective. Within 30 yards of their column a horse was shot, another stumbled and fell, leaving 2 men almost in the ranks of the enemy. These men were rescued and brought back in a most gallant manner by Capt. Charles Stewart and Lieut. George E. Gourand, and were quickly mounted, when we formed for a charge, but the enemy had deployed to the right and left of the road and again compelled us to retire, which we did leisurely, examining the ground to the right and left and leaving vedettes at the most commanding positions.
The enemy did not follow us beyond the edge of the woods in the front of Monroe's house. Lieutenant Pierce and Sergeant Chesbrough were left here to observe his movements, while the remainder of the party proceeded to the left. A scout belonging to the Fourth Virginia Cav. alry, Ball's company, was then captured. He had been reconnoitering and had fallen in with our party unexpectedly. Having examined the country to the left and front without discovering anything of further importance, we fell back on our line of skirmishers, leaving the open country and the Monroe house occupied by our vedettes.
Thus closed our movements as a reconnoitering party, but at their own request Captain Murphy, Lieutenant Pierce, and Sergeant Chesbrough remained and gathered much important information during the day and chased several parties who ventured out of the woods back into them. Upon one of these occasions they captured a wooden can. teen and saddle-bags which a scout dropped in his hurried retreat.
In conclusion, sir, I cannot but commend in the highest terms the conduct of both officers and men under my command. Their coolness and prompt obedience speak well for their future reputation. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major, Commanding. Capt. CHARLES STEWART,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Headquarters Corps of Observation.
Report of Brig. Gen. John J. Abercrombie, U. 8. Army, of operations
opposite Eduards Ferry, Md.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE, VOLUNTEERS,
1861. GENERAL: I have the honor to report: In obedience to your order of the 21st instant a portion of my brigade, consisting of the Sixteenth Indiana and Thirtieth Pennsylvania Regiments, marched from Dawsonville at 8 p. m. on that day to Seneca Mills, when further orders were received from you to continue the march to Édwards Ferry, where the brigade arrived, after a fatiguing night's march, about 4 a. m. of the 22d.
Immediately on our arrival further instructions were received to cross to the Virginia side of the Potomac. Accordingly, hungry and wet as the troops were, they proceeded, and without a murmur, commenced crossing, the Sixteenth Indiana leading, as fast as the limited means of transportation at hand would admit; the Thirtieth Pennsylvania followed, and, by great exertions, etfected a landing about 2 p. m. Encamped near the ferry I found the First Minnesota Regiment, Colonel Dana; Second New York, Colonel Tompkins; the Thirty-fourth New York, Colonel La Dew, and Seventh Michigan, on the crest of the hill, running nearly parallel to the course of the river, and perhaps some 400 or 500 yards beyond it; one company of the Nineteenth Massachusetts Tiger Zouaves, Captain Wass, occupying a farm house to the right; a company of telescopic rifle sharpshooters, Captain
rifle-pits on their left, extending along the ridge nearly to Goose Creek, which enters the Potomac at the ferry and nearly at right angles to it, between the zouaves and sharpshooters, and on the same line a section of a light battery in charge of a sergeant.
Not being aware that any officer of superior rank to myself was present ou duty with the troops on the Virginia side, I assumed the command, and commenced my arrangements for resisting an attack by posting the Thirtieth Pennsylvania Regiment on the extreme right of our position to guard against a tlank movement between the heights in front and the river. The Sixteenth Indiana was posted about the center of the plain, fifty or sixty paces from the river; the New York and Minnesota regiments on its left, in the direction of the ferry and resting on Goose Creek; the Seventh Michigan being in advance immediately at the foot of the hill, on which were the sharpshooters and the cavalry, about 30 in number, under Major Mix, of the Van Alen Regiment, to their right, and similarly posted.
About 4 p. m. on the 22d the enemy were seen in the distance, cavalry and jufantry, advancing cautiously. The Indiana and Minnesota regiments were ordered to advance and support the sharpshooters anıl artillery, which was done with great promptness. The remaining force was held in reserve, to act as circumstances might require. Previous, however, to this disposition an advance picket from tlie New York and Minnesota regiments had been thrown forward to prevent the enemy from crossing a bridge about a mile and a half above the ferry and across Goose Creek, and to hold the wooded hill adjacent to it.
As the enemy approached, the artillery opened a fire of shell; the sharpshooters also delivered a well-directed fire, while the pickets at and near the bridge did the same, which caused the rebels to retrace their steps in the direction of Leesburg. The troops remained in position as long as there was the leist probability of a renewal of the attack, when the Indiana and Minnesota regiments were withdrawn to resume their respective stations near the bank of the river, and the outposts at the bridge and on the hill near by were re-enforced by three companies of the Indiana and two of the Pennsylvania regiments. During the night everything was quiet.
On the following day several alarms of the approach of the enemy Tere given, which, however, proved to be nothing more than small parties of cavalry endeavoring to make a reconnaissance. General Stone, in the mean time having arriver and assume the command, ordered the Indiana and Minnesota regiments to return to the hill, where they remained until dark, when they returned to camp).
About 9 p. m. I was informed by General Stone that instructions liad been received to recross the river. The Indiana and Minnesota regi. ments were again sent forward to occupy their previous positions on the hill, and to remain there until all the outposts had been withdrawn and embarked, including the cavalry and artillery, and were the last to leave the Virginia side.
Much credit is due to the chaplain of the Twelfth Massachusetts, who actcıl for the time as one of my aides, and superintended the embarkation of the troops, which was done in a masterly manner, and by his ac ivity and admirable management enabled the whole company to cross before the dawn of day.
Throughout the time we occupied the Virginia side the troops conducted themselves with great propriety and coolness, and responded with alacrity to every call to meet the enemy. I regret to say there
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