|from The |
| Dear Friend: I was very pleased at seeing and
making the acquaintance of your mother this morning, and I take the
present opportunity to assure you of my continued good health, and
safety since I last wrote. I have seen many of the unpleasant realities
of war. I was with the rest of my fellow soldiers in the
engagement, known probably as the battle of Leesburg, which was
fought Oct. 21st in the vicinity of Leesburg. We
were started out from our slumbers one week ago tonight, at 12
o’clock, by the drums beating to arms. After being equipped we
marched, nine mikes to Conrad's Ferry, and there waited until
daylight before crossing the river.
Five companies of our regiment were already on the Virginia side, on a scouting expedition. Just at daybreak we heard frequent volleys of musketry, which led us to believe our companies had met the rebels, which conclusion afterwards proved correct.; accordingly we proceeded to cross the river with all possible dispatch. We landed at the foot of a precipice known as Ball’s Bluff, up which we had to climb two by two in an old disused brible path. We proceeded to within about three fourths of a mile of Leesburg, when we came upon the five companies that had preceded us in crossing the river. They had met and repulsed a body of rebel cavalry, with a loss of four killed, and fourteen wounded; rebel losses unknown Upon the arrival of our reinforcements, we immediately through out skirmishers to the right and left which proceedings soon brought on an engagement. After a brisk skirmish of perhaps half an hours continuance, our colonel, finding our ground untenable, retreated slowly and in good order about a third of a mile, and there made a final stand on the field where the battle was fought.
After anxiously waiting about half an hour, we were reinforced by a part of the twentieth Massachusetts, also by a part of Col. Bakers California, and Col. Coggwell’s New York regiments, making our number all told about 1800. We had one cannon and two howitzers, which opened the ball by throwing a few shells into Leesburg by way of a challenge.. Soon our pickets gave notice of the approach of the enemy, by a few scattering shots, which kept constantly increasing in number. Our pickets were driven in, and the engagement became general. We were stationed in the front line, and exposed to a murderous fire, which we returned to the best of our ability, but I fear with little execution, as the rebels were completely screened by woods. Too much credit cannot be given to Col. Devens, who is as brave man as ever stood upon the battle field. We suppose that the force opposed to us could not be less than 5000 with the advantages of cover. At last we were forced to retreat, which we did still fighting. The ground was disputed inch by inch, and the ground was dearly bought by the rebels. After it became evident that we could not hold out, the colonel gave orders to the men to throw their muskets into the river and take care of themselves. Many who could nor swim were taken prisoner, and many were drowned in attempting the passage. After much exertion and at the expense of nearly all my clothing, I reached the Maryland side safely, and am now alive and well and anxious to meet them again upon something like an equal footing, when I hope to be instrumental in wiping out the remembrance of the late defeat. B. D. H.