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    Camp Benton, Oct. 22d 1861.

    My dear Mother.

    I sit down in haste to give you an
    account of the battle which we have just fought and lost.
    I had been stationed near the river to support a battery
    (Ricketts) for about a week. On Sunday at 3 P.M.
    received orders to march with Capt Bartlett's Company up
    the canal about 3 miles from Edwards Ferry, and await
    orders. When we arrived there we met Col' Lee and Major
    Revere who told us that we were to cross the river with 300
    men of the 15th Mass Regt. and surprise a rebel camp which was near the
    town of Leesburg. So at about 11 o'clock we crossed the
    river to an island some five miles long: there we
    waited until 3 o'clk in the morning, and then crossed
    the river into Virginia. As we had only 3 boats
    to cross in, it took us a long time. One boat would
    hold about 16 men, another 8, and a third only 4.
    The width of the river here is about ¼ of a mile
    or perhaps not so much. The banks on the
    other side are very precipitous and rocky; however
    we managed to get up on to high land by marching
    in single file and picking our way very carefully.
    It was bright moonlight, and the scene was in-
    -discribably romantic. When we reached the
    top of the hill, we found ourselves on a broad
    field of 10 or 12 acres. Here Capt. Bartlett's and my

    Company under Command of the Col. (the Adjutant
    was also with us) remained as a reserve, and to
    Cover the 15th in case they should have to retreat.
    As the 15th advanced, I was sent out on our flank
    with some men to see if we could discover anything.
    When we had got about ¼ of a mile, 5 rebels suddenly
    started up and fired at us wounding one of my men
    in the arm. We fired and one of them fell, but got up
    again and ran. We chased them some way, and then
    returned to where the Col. was stationed. We stationed
    skirmishers on our flank and awaited the result with
    much anxiety. We none of us said anything, but I
    think that all felt, as I did, that we were in a
    desperate situation, unless the 300 men of the 15th
    should be completely successful: and then perhaps
    if we were very quick about it, we might be able
    to get back across the river. Soon we heard rapid
    firing in the direction of the 15th. Soon after 2 men
    Came out of the woods bearing a wounded man in
    their arms, and told us that the 15th had been
    attacked by infantry and cavalry, and that they
    had driven them off, but with the loss of many men,
    and were retreating to the woods near us. Our Col.
    now sent a note to Genl. Stone in which he said
    "if you wish to make a general advance into
    Virginia, send over a great many more men, if not,
    we ought to retreat at once". We had before
    this had orders "not to retreat until orders from Genl. Stone". The whole force we had on
    the Virginia side at this time was 300 of the 15th
    and 100 of the 20th. A short time after the Col.
    sent this message we heard the 15th firing and
    more wounded men were brought down the road.
    In about a quarter of an hour the 15th Came up
    to where we were. The enemy did not follow.
    If they had, we should have been cut off to a man.
    Now some reinforcements Came over, but very
    slowly, as there were only the 3 boats I spoke about
    , and a flat scow which had been found. At 1 o'clk
    the fight Commenced on our right flank, and
    in a short time the rebels were driven back. Then
    Came a breathing space of 10 minutes. Then they
    attacked our left flank. Where I was they
    made a dreadful noise and fired heavily and
    rapidly. They drove my pickets in and killed
    at the 1st fire 2 or 3 men. My men stood firm
    and fought bravely. I was obliged to bring up
    my reserve, and we drove the rebels back.
    An interval of quiet, and they advanced cheering, &
    attacking our whole line. We met them with a
    severe fire, and they fell back, but they Continued
    to fire very rapidly, and killed many of our men.
    They cheered furiously, as their reinforcements
    came up, and their fire became fiercer & fiercer.
    Our gunners were almost all shot, and those
    who remained could not fire very often.My men fell back, and commenced to run. I believe
    our centre was broken at the same time. I
    did all I could to stop them and succeeded in
    stopping about 20 men, with whom I again
    advanced, and checked the rebels. As they were
    advancing in great numbers, we could not
    stop them long however. Here a poor fellow
    in my Company fell shot through the body.
    He was standing close to me, and, as he fell
    he said. "My God. I am shot through".
    We had to fall back rapidly now, as our
    Centre was broken, and had fallen back to
    the woods on the bank of the river. I was
    within 6 feet of Col Baker when he fell. He
    got up once, and then fell again, and 2 men
    Carried him off. He had 3 or 4 bullets in him
    they say. He behaved with the utmost
    Courage and coolness all through the fight. Our
    guns had now ceased to fire, and 2 of them had, I think
    been taken and 1 had been brought back to the
    edge of the woods. All was now confusion, and
    the horses, attached to the caisson of the gun,
    ran, and one was shot just as it was going into
    the woods, so that the other 3 could not draw the
    Caisson. This made a breastwork for a time
    behind which I stood. The fire of the rebels was
    at this time something terrible. The hill was
    Swept with bullets and the men were in the
    woods scattered in all directions.


    Once, when their fire slackened, I ran out on the
    hill with the color Sargeant and the color and Shouted
    to the men to rally round the color. About 40
    men ran out, but a sharp fire of the rebels drove
    them back. I saw our col. last behind the
    Cannon. He had given the order of retreat, as I
    heard, but I do not believe it possible; as there
    Could be no retreat. The ravine and the banks
    of the river were now crowded with men. Some
    were sitting down behind trees and stones. Some
    were carrying the wounded, and some were throw-
    -ing away their guns and trying to swim across.
    On the opposite bank were two hundred of our
    men, who had been sent to reinforce us, but
    Could not get over. All this time the rebels
    were firing volley after volley over the hill,
    but they did not advance to the woods; why I do
    not know, as our fire had almost ceased.

    I went down the ravine and heard that the Col. &
    major & adjutant had gone up the river with a white
    flag and were going to surrender. I saw Capt.
    Tremlett, and he was going to march his men
    up with a white flag and give up. So I walked
    round and [trie?] called for the men of Co. D, but
    they had got scattered when we got rallied
    round the flag and I could only find one or

    two of my men. The river was now full of men
    who were drowning and shouting for help; but
    there was no help to give them except from God.

    I never saw such a sight and God grant
    I may never see such another. I was all
    covered with blood from some one, I suppose
    who had been shot near me. I felt very faint, and
    the men seeing the blood supposed that I was
    wounded, and those who managed to get across
    the river to the island, which we held, reported
    me as killed or taken prisoner. It was now about
    6 o'clock. I wandered round trying to find my
    men and went back to the brow of the hill, but
    there were none of them there. The rebels were
    advancing and firing down the ravine. The men
    were calling out that they would surrender; and
    the rebels were shooting at the men who were
    swimming over. So I went higher up the
    stream and took off my clothes, & taking my
    watch in my hand (I was too tired to try to take
    anything else, and indeed I hardly thought I
    could swim over at all, as the water was cold
    and the distance great). When I started there
    were a few men left who could not swim and
    who were going to give themselves up.
    By the help of God I got over and ran to a
    haystack on the island, and there found Some
    knapsack which we had left, when we started

    on the expedition. The island was crowded with
    soldiers who had been sent over to hold it, in
    case the enemy should attack it. Out of the
    knapsacks I got a rubber blanket, a woolen
    blanket, and a pair of drawers. One of the
    soldiers gave me a coat God bles him!
    a man named Dennis, one of the Tammany
    Regt. Co. A. I slept under a haystack, &
    in the morning went across the river and
    got to the camp. We had only 418 of our
    Regt. in the fight. We took out 22 officers
    and only 9 have returned unharmed

    I must close this now. The officers
    - men who were in the fight yesterday &
    who got back as now in Camp. The rest
    have crossed the river at Edwards Ferry[.]
    We now have a large force there & there [ . . . ]
    will probably be a fight today or tomorrow. [ . . . ]
    shall not be in it. I shall write again soon[.]

    Goodbye. Give my love to all &
    believe that I did my duty.

    your affectionate son


    P.S. My 1st Lieut. Perry is missing. I saw him
    at 5 o'clk and he was not wounded then.

    Ball's Bluff
    A Letter