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Camp Benton, Oct. 22d 1861.
My dear Mother.
I sit down in haste to give you an
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
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.
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
I went down the ravine and heard that the Col.
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
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
Goodbye. Give my love to all &
your affectionate son
P.S. My 1st
Perry is missing. I saw him