|from The |
| For the Worcester Daily Spy
Our Dead at Ballís Bluff
To the Editor of the Spy: I know that your readers will be interested in any facts respecting the brave soldiers who fell in the recent engagement at Ballís Bluff, and particularly as to the burial of the dead. This sad service recently devolved upon Capt. F. F. Vaughn of the Rhode island battery, who was assisted by twelve men, mostly of the nineteenth Massachusetts regiment. He found most of the bodies in the woods around the open field, of which such frequent mention has been made in the papers. Two of the bodies were deprived of their clothing, with the exception of the shirts. This being contrary to the custom of war, the rebel officers expressed regret when they saw it, and said they wished it distinctly understood that this was contrary to their orders, and did not meet with their approval.
In some other instances a coat or a jacket was taken. As indicating what the rebels are destitute of, it is a significant fact, that the hats and caps and shoes and boots were all taken, and the buttons taken or ripped off from the clothing. There was no instance of a body having been mutilated by the enemy. But everything which the soldiers carried in their pockets was taken. and the search was so thorough that there were only three instances in which anything could be found to aid in identifying the bodies. On the pants of one was found the name of Capt. Alden; under the body of another was an envelope subscribed James Douglas; into the top of the socks of another, were beautifully inwrought the letters W. H. H. L.
Forty seven bodies were buried upon the battle field, twelve were brought over to Harrison's Island, and almost twenty were left for the enemy to bury. The sad work was left thus unfinished, because, the darkness of night interposed, and the next day Capt Vaugh was sick. So thoroughly had the battle field been examined by the enemy that only two bodies of the rebel dead were found during the whole day, and only two of our wounded men; these were claimed as prisoners of war, and sent to the hospital at Leesburg. Our dead were buried with their clothing on, laying the bodies upon the side, in trenches, usually, two, three or four side by side, never one upon another, and in the same trench there was only one instance so many as eleven. The face was covered with leaves, and then the body was covered with earth to the depth of three to five feet, and a stone was placed on the head and the foot of each grave. So far as can be judged by the clothing, about half of the dead on the battle ground were of the fifteenth Massachusetts regiment, and about half of the Californians or Bakerís men.
It will be a satisfaction to friends at home to know that the solemn work of burial devolved upon one who so faithfully and tenderly observed the proprieties of the occasion. Learning these facts from Capt. Vaugh himself I felt that your readers would be glad to obtain them from a reliable source. Having just returned from a visit to Poolesville to attend to those of my parishioners who suffered in the battle, I am truly yours. C. Cushing
North Brookfield, Nov. 13.