« PreviousContinue »
Every one was naturally anxious to should wear white badges around the free himself from the blame of what the arm for the purpose of mutual recogniGeneral has termed an “almost criminal | tion, and if he had, he would not have blunder.” He in his own justification been able to distinguish such badge at declared, that “to prevent the possibil the distance and in the dust of the ity of mistake in the darkness, I directed morning. Colonel Bendix's command that no attack should be made until the did not wear such badges. The uniform watchword— Boston-should be shouted of the Albany regiment was very simby the attacking regiment, and, in case ilar to the uniform of the secession that by any mistake in the march the troops. It is doubtful which side opened regiments that were to make the junc- fire. Many of the Albany boys admit tion should unexpectedly meet and be that they fired first, mistaking the Steuunknown to each other, also directed that ben regiment for enemies, probably for the members of Colonel Townsend's reg- the reason that the latter wore no white iment should be known, if in daylight, badges. by something white worn on their arm.” I “When Colonel Townsend's troops
The General seemed to impute the approached the junction over a slight fault to Colonel Bendix's Germans, who, ridge, they appeared to be a troop of he declared, were the first to open fire. cavalry, because General Pierce and They, however, strenuously defended / staff, and Colonel Townsend and staff, themselves, asserting that the mistake in a body, rode in advance of their was mutual, and the attack on both troops, and without any advance guard sides simultaneous. The adjutant of thrown out, as customary, to reconnoithe German regiment came to the res- tre and protect the head of the column. cue of its fame with the following dec- If the latter precaution had been taken, laration :
the unfortunate mistake would not have “Colonel Bendix had not received happened. It was known that our side any order or intimation that our troops | had no cavalry."
Serious Effects of the Blunder at Little Bethel.---Inexperienced Leader.-Unwise Counsellors.--Second Advance of
General Pierce.-Reinforcements.- Arrival of the Advance at Little Bethel. --A deserted Camp.----March to Big Bethel.-The Enemy reported in Force-Battle given.-Spirit of the Men.- Plan of Battle.-Colonel Duryea's Zouaves.- The Struggle.- Retreat.-The Skirmisheis.--Their Retreat.-Death of Greble.- Withdrawal of the Artillery.--Action of the New York Troops.-Relative Number of Troops Engaged.-Losses.-Enemy's Account of the Affair of Big Bethel.-Attempts at Justification by the Federal Officers.-Consoling Reflection of General Butler. -Censure of General Pierce.-Promises to Justify Himself.- Patriotism.-Gallant Behavior of the Soldiers. Proofs.-Rescue of Guns.-Rescue of Body of Lieutenant Greble.— The Last to Retreat.-Death of Major Winthrop.-His Bravery.-His Last Moments.-Admiration of the Enemy.-Life of Winthrop.-Adventurous Career. ---Restlessness.His Military Career.-Author of the Plan of Battle at Big Bethel.—Literary Tastes.-Success of his Posthumous Works.
GRIEVOUS as had been the blunder at | however, had the prudence, as he adLittle Bethel, and fatal as it was to our vanced, to send back to General Butler
own men destroyed by their com for reinforcements, who sent forward 1861. 100m rades, it was still more serious in Colonel Allen, with his New York city its effects upon the subsequent fate regiment, and Colonel Carr, with that of the expedition. The inexperienced of Troy (N. Y.) leader, counselled by those who were no Colonel Duryea, with his Zouaves, more skilled in the art of war than him- | again assumed the advance, supported self, and piqued into an indiscreet ac- by Colonel Bendix and his Germans, tivity by disappointment, determined to and Colonel Townsend, with the Albany make an effort to redeem the unsuccess- regiment. On reaching Little Bethel, ful beginning of the enterprise. He from which a stray shot was fired by a accordingly ordered his troops again to retreating troop of cavalry, the camp the advance. The enemy, in the mean was found deserted, and this being detime, were on the alert, and had fallen stroyed, our troops pushed on toward back from Little to Big Bethel, where Big Bethel. Here the main body arthe main body was posted under the June rived at about ten o'clock in the cover of a strong battery of several 10. morning, and halted in consequence heavy guns. General Pierce, without of the intelligence brought back by those having made any reconnoissance, and en- who had been sent forward to skirmish tirely ignorant of the force of his antag in advance. Captain Kilpatrick, who onists or the nature of their position or commanded these skirmishers, had evidefences, did not hesitate to push on his dently not underrated the strength of troops, against this concealed and un- | the enemy, for he reported that he had numbered foe, at Great Bethel. He, found them “with about from three
thousand to five thousand men, posted sumed positions toward the enemy's in a strong position on the opposite right and left, with the view of flanking. side of the bridge—three earth-works | Colonel Duryea's Zouaves and Colonel and a masked battery on the right and Townsend's Albany regiment crossed left; in advance of the stream, thirty from the road on the left through some pieces of artillery and a large force of cultivated farm-ground and orchards, to cavalry.”
an open field on the enemy's right, with In face of this portentous report of their skirmishers in advance, and the the numbers and strength of position of Germans, the Massachusetts men, and the enemy, the troops were drawn up Vermonters passed into a forest on the in line of battle, and prepared to give right of the road, and toward the left of fight. The soldiers, though previously the enemy. fatigued by their long and rapid march, ! As the Zouaves advanced, the enemy and dispirited by the fatal mistake of opened their batteries upon them. Colthe previous night, were at once reani-onel Duryea, however, urged them formated by the prospect of a struggle. ward at the double-quick step, until, “It put a new spirit into the men, as finding the fire very “ destructive," he the word passed down the line. They thought it prudent to seek refuge in a were no longer tired and sleepy. Each neighboring wood, where he halted to freshened up to his place in the ranks rest his men, and to complete his prepand closed up in column.”
arations for charging the batteries in The skirmishers, now led by Lieuten-flank. After remaining two hours and ant-Colonel Warren, were again thrown a half in this imperfect cover, where they forward on the right and left, supported | were still within range of the enemy's by the advance guard of Duryea's Zou- guns, the Zouaves returned to the open aves and three pieces of United States field and spiritedly advanced toward the artillery, under the command of Lieu- rebel batteries, with the intention of tenant Greble. The enemy at once making an attempt to carry them by opened fire from their batteries directly storm. They had not proceeded far, howfacing the road, but our men answered ever, before they discovered lying across with a shout, and continued to press their path an almost impassable swamp, forward.
with a small stream running through it. The enemy's fire was so heavy that it These proved to be insurmountable obwas found useless to attempt to meet it stacles. They persevered, however, with directly by discharges of musketry, and great spirit till the order came from accordingly the Federal forces were de- General Pierce to retreat. Colonel ployed. Lieutenant Greble, with his Duryea, now collecting such of his killed three howitzers, being posted in the and wounded as he could find, withdrew road toward the front, was left alone to his men and took to the road in the rear. face the batteries, while the rest as- The Germans, at the same time, were
acting on the right in conjunction with bring to his aid several of my men. the Zouaves on the left, and, like them, | The charge was then sounded, and Lieuhad made several spirited attempts at tenant Greble opened fire with grape charging the batteries, but foiled by the and canister within two hundred yards same obstacles of morass and creek and of the enemy's lines. Captains Winheavy fire, were also forced to withdraw. slow, Bartlett, and myself charged with
Lieutenant Greble, with his three our commands in front; Captain Denike pieces of artillery, had, in the mean and Lieutenant Duryea (son of Colonel time, been returning the fire of the en- Duryea), and about two hundred of the emy with considerable effect, and had Troy Rifles, upon the right ; Colonel steadily advanced until he reached within Townsend, with his men, to the left two hundred yards of the Confederate The enemy were forced out of the first works.
battery, all the forces were rapidly adThe skirmishers, headed by Lieuten vancing, and everything promised a ant-Colonel Warren, had made good speedy victory, when we were ordered progress. “We continued to advance,” to fall back. Where this order came reported Captain Kilpatrick, in com from, I do not know. We maintained mand,"clearing all before us, till we our position till Colonel Townsend bereached a point just on the edge of the gan to retire with his whole command. woods where the fire was so hot and Being left thus alone, and no prospects heavy that we were compelled to halt, of receiving aid, we ordered the men to and there we remained as directed by fall back, which they did, and in good Lieutenant-Colonel Warren, till that gal-order, forming their line of battle about lant officer had made dispositions to turn one hundred and fifty yards in the rear. their flanks. The enemy's fire at this A few minutes afterward, orders came time began to tell upon us with great from General Pierce to cease firing and effect. My men were falling one after retire.” another, as was the case of the rest of Greble, after two hours of spirited the command.
work with his artillery, was struck by a “Our object being now accomplished, cannon-ball in the head and killed into remain longer in this exposed posi- stantly. With his death, the fall of the tion was useless ; numbers of our men larger number of the artillerists, and the being killed and wounded, having re exhaustion of ammunition, it was found ceived a grape-shot through my thigh, necessary to withdraw the guns, which which tore off a portion of the rectangle was done by the Massachusetts men and on Colonel Duryea's left shoulder, passed Vermonters, under Lieutenant-Colonel through my leg, and killed a soldier in Washburne. The body of the young the rear, I withdrew my men to the lieutenant was borne off, lying upon one skirts of the wood. We managed to of those cannon which he had so galreach Lieutenant Greble’s battery and | lantly served.
The New York regiment sent to rein- mile or two, received information that force the Federal troops, reached the the Yankees were coming in large force. battle-field in time to share in the en- We then retired, and after reaching gagement. The commander, Colonel camp the guns were placed in battery Allen, in his official report, says : and the infantry took their places be“Upon reporting to General Pierce, he hind their breast-work. Everybody was directed me to proceed to the front and cool, and all were anxious to give the deploy my regiment in front of the bat- invaders a good reception. About nine tery, which I did, and so remained for o'clock the glittering bayonets of the one hour and forty minutes under a enemy appeared on the hill opposite, heavy fire of at least twenty guns, some and above them waved the star-spanof them rifled, and about four shell gled banner. The moment the head of guns—the enemy deploying in my front the column advanced far enough to show with about 1,200 men and two guns, one or two companies, the Parrott gun but made no advance. They, however, of the howitzer battery opened on them, threw out two heavy flanking parties on throwing a shell right into their midst. my right and left, the former with two Their ranks broke in confusion, and the guns, and completely outflanked the en- column, or as much of it as we could see, tire brigade, at which time General retreated behind two small farm-houses. Pierce deemed it proper to retire." From their position a fire was opened
The number of Federal troops on the on us, which was replied to by our batfield of battle, including the reinforce- tery, which commanded the route of ments, amounted to about four thou their approach. Our firing was excelsand. Of these, sixteen were killed, lent, and the shells scattered in all dithirty-four wounded, and five missing, rections, when they burst. They could making a total of fifty-three. The Fed- hardly approach the guns which they eral loss, moreover, was increased by were firing, for the shells which came the fatal blunder, which resulted in kill- from our battery. Within our encamping two and wounding nineteen. ment fell a perfect hail-storm of canis
The enemy reported that their whole ter shot, bullets, and balls. Remarkable force engaged did not exceed eleven hun- to say, not one of our men was killed dred men, under the command of Gen- inside of our encampment. Several eral Magruder, and one killed and two horses were slain by the shells and wounded, as the total of their loss. bullets. Finding that bombardment One who served with them gave this would not answer, the enemy, about account of the affair :
eleven o'clock, tried to carry the posi"On Monday morning, six hundred tion by assault, but met a terrible reinfantry and two guns, under General pulse at the hands of the infantry as he Magruder, left the camp and proceeded tried to scale the breast-works. The toward Hampton, but after advancing a men disregarded sometimes the defences