Page images

through trials that would have utterly discouraged a less ambitious and sanguine man, rendered himself famous by the inauguration, drill, and marche de triompke of the Chicago Zouaves. All the country remembers the bloodless march of those young men—the "crimson phantoms " that blazed comet-like before their eyes and secured the championship, without a struggle. When the war broke out, when the knell of Sumter's fall shook the very comer-stone of the nation, Ellsworth sought a place in the army. Jealousy and fear of the youthful aspirant impelled him, and turning his back upon Washington, he hastened to New York, organized the Fire Zouaves, and rushed to his fate.

One who knew him well, and has written a'glorious prose-poem to his memory, thus briefly described him. "His person was strikingly prepossessing. His form, though slight, exactly the Napoleonic size, was very compact and commanding: the head statuesquely poised and .crowned wnth a luxuriance of curling black hair; a hazel eye, bright though serene, the eye of a gentleman as well as a soldier; a nose such as you see on Roman medals; a light moustache, just shading the lips, that were continually curving into the sunniest smiles. His voice, deep and musical, instantly attracted attention, and his address, though not without soldierly brusqueness, was sincere and courteous."

And thus, in the very prime of manhood and vigor, with one of the military insignia he sometimes wore—a golden circle, inscribed with the legend " Nox Nobis, Sed Pro Patria," driven into his heart by the bullet of his assassin, perished a brave spirit—-an ambitious follower after the " pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war "—a soul devoted to his country and his country's honor—an eagle struck in its high soaring, down—a spirit of fire, fretting at causeless delay, burning against useless restraints, and rushing on to snatch success even from the cannon's mouth.

A nation mourned him long—has not yet forgotten him, and green will ever be the laurel she entwines around the name of the boy-martyr of Alexandria !" Remember Ellsworth" became a watchword with the volunteers, who pledged themselves to avenge his death, and well they redeemed it. His life was stainless and loyal—his death, sealed with his blood the holy bond of his noble faith.

When Lincoln saw this young man lying in his coffin, it is said that he wept over hiin. It was the first shock and horror of war brought home to the chief magistrate. Alas! if he has wept for all the brave that have since fallen, his days and nights must have been given up to tears.

Alexandria and its neighborhood were occupied by the Federal troops, and a company of Virginia cavalry were captured; after a detention of some days they were released upon taking the oath of allegiance to the United States. Intrenchments were thrown up around Alexandria, and upon Arlington Heights, which commanded a portion of the capital. Bodies of troops were pushed forward toward Manassas Junction, with the object of interrupting the communication between Richmond and Harper's Ferry.

A detachment took possession of Arlington, the old Curtis Mansion, which had been deserted by its owner, General Lee, when he gave up his flag and took sides with its enemies.

It is said that General Scott held this officer in such high appreciation that he offered him the chance of any position under himself in the 'Union army. When the letter reached Lee, containing this noble proposition, he was sitting with his family at Arlington. He read the letter in silence, and laying it on the table, covered his face with one hand. When he looked up traces of tears were in his eyes, and he said in a broken voice, "What am I to do? If I take up arms for the Union it must be to turn them on my native State, my own neighbors, dear relations. If I do not, they will brand me as a traitor!"

Again he fell into thought. The result was that he abandoned the home consecrated by Washington, and turned upon the flag that great man had planted. •

On the-1st of June, a company of cavalry set out on a scouting expedition to Fairfax Court House, about twenty miles beyond the outposts. Some hundreds of Virginia troops were stationed here, and a sharp skirmish ensued. Several of the Virginians were reported to have been killed; one of the United States troops was killed, and four or five wounded, among whom was the commander, Lieutenant Tompkins. The cavalry withdrew, having made five prisoners, and leaving two of their own number as captives. On the following day the same cavalry company made another dash to Fairfax, and rescued their comrades who had been left behind.


Juhe 10, 1861.

The first engagement on the field occurred at Great Bethel, about ten miles north of Newport News, on the road from Hampton to Yorktown, Virginia, the place having derived its name from a large church, near which the rebels had an entrenched camp.

Under cover of night, the forces, who were under the command of General B. F. Butler, had been repeatedly annoyed by the secession forces, whose rendezvous was Littlo Bethel, distant about eight miles from Newport News, and the same distance from Ilampton, where, also, a church was used as the headquarters of their cavalry, thus literally putting "holy things to an unholy use." The Union-loving, or, at least, Union-respecting citizens, were continually robbed—slaves were impressed to work upon their fortifications, and all that forethought could suggest was recklessly accomplished.

Determined to put a stop to these forays, General Butler organized an expedition for the purpose of surprising the rebels at Little Bethel, giving to the officers commanding discretionary powers, as no positive information could be obtained with regard to their defences or forces.

General Pierce, of Massachusetts, who had the command at Hampton, was instructed to detach Colonels Duryea and Townsend's New York regiments, and Colonel Phelps, commanding at Newport News, was also commanded to start an equal force, about an hour later, to make a demonstration in front. One regiment from each command was directed to repair to a point about one mile from Little Bethel, and there await further orders. Should the design prove successful, they were, when directed, to follow close upon the enemy, drive them into their entrenchments at Big Bethel and attack them.

A naval brigade—a new volunteer organization, stationed at Hampton Roads, had been exercised in the management of scows, with capacity for carrying about one hundred and thirty men, besides those at the oars, and when the night came settling down in darkness, they Bet out, with muffled oars, passed the mouth of Hampton river, and silently proceeded up the stream. Moored at the hither shore of Hampton, at midnight they awaited the time when the blow was to be struck.

Three companies of Duryea's New York Fifth, under the command of Captain Kilpatrick, crossed and went forward on the Bethel road, followed soon after by the remainder of the regiment, and Colonel Townsend's New York Third. One hour later, five companies, each of the Vermont First and Massachusetts Fourth, under Lieutenant-Colonel Washburne; six companies of the New York Seventh, Colonel Bendix, and a squad of regulars, with three small field pieces under Lieutenant Greble, moved forward from Newport News.

At about one o'clock, A. Ji., the three companies under Captain Kilpatrick reached New Market Bridge—at about three o'clock they were joined by the main body and started for Little Bethel. The pickets of the enemy were surprised, the officer in command captured, and the Union forces, flushed with success, were pushing forward, when the sound of heavy firing in their rear checked them.

Meantime, the force from Newport News came up the road from that place, and took the road from Hampton to Bethel, not far behind the Fifth; but they left at the junction of the roads, under Colonel Bendix, a rear guard of one hundred and seventy men and one field-piece, with the order to hold this position at all hazards, where they were to be - joined by Colonel Townsend's regiment from Hampton. Almost immediately after, the Third New York regiment came up the Hampton road. It was still dark, and their colors could not be seen. Their approach also was over a ridge, and as General Pierce and staff, and Colonel Townsend and staff, in a body, rode in front of their troops, and without any advance guard thrown out, as customary, to reconnoitre, they appeared from Colonel Bendix's position to be a troop of cavalry. It was known that the Federal force had no cavalry, and the fire of this rear guard 'was poured into the advancing body, at the distance of a quarter of a mile. But the road in which the Third was marching was a little below the level of the land along the edge, and was bordered on either side by fences, forming a partial cover, and rendering the fire comparatively harmless. Fifteen men, however, were wounded and two killed. The Third then fell back and formed upon a hill, and the force again moved in the following order: Colonel Duryea with the New York Fifth; Lieutenant-Colonel Washburne Nvith the companies from Newport News, and Greble's battery; Colonel Townsend, with the New York Third; Colonel Allen, with the New York First; and Colonel Carr, with the New York Second.

The advance was made with great rapidity and fearlessness, and soon the lurid flames of Little Bethel shot upwards in the murky air, and lighted up the country far and wide. Great Bethel was reached next, and our troops received their first intimation of the location of the enemy that was pouring hissing shot upon them from a masked battery. But they were not to be stayed by the iron rain. Steadily, unflinchingly, though death was threatening them every instant, they marched on and gained a position within two hundred yards of the enemy's works. For two hours the whirl and clash and roar of the battle was terrific. Every soldier fought as if upon his individual efforts rested the chances of the day. Charge after charge of the greatest gallantry was made by the infantry against their invisible foemen, and though suffering terribly from the deadly fire, still pouring fiercely upon them, no one thought of retreat. At length, however, General Pierce deemed the exposure too great, and the chances of success too small to warrant a more persistent struggle, and the troops were withdrawn in good order.

Where all fought so nobly, it would be simply invidious to particularize. But one brave heart there was called home from amid the smoke and tumult of battle that cannot be forgotten. Theodore Winthrop, Major, and formerly of the New York Seventh, there gave his life for bis country—his blood as an offering of sacrifice. A gentleman and scholar as well as a soldier—rich in the rare gifts of genius, he had earned fame in literature before he found that glorious death upon the battle field/ He had been one of the foremost to press forward in the hour of his country's need, and breathed his last, nobly struggling for her honor, with wild battle notes ringing in his ear, and the starry flag waving unconquered above him.

Lieutenant Greble, also, an officer of great promise—of coolness, energy and discretion, won for himself a deathless name and a soldier's grave in this battle. Many others, too, of whom fame will not always be silent, men of noble hearts and fearless courage, hallowed the cause with their blood, and when the records of a nation's jewels shall have been perfected, will be found side by side with the hero-author of Great Bethel.


Jots 17, 1861.

Information that an attempt would be made to destroy the bridges on the Loudon and Hampshire railway, between Alexandria and Vienna, having been conveyed to General McDowell, he dispatched the First Ohio regiment, Colonel McCook, under the direction of Brigadier-General Schenck, to guard the road.

The train of seven cars, backed out by a locomotive, left Alexandria about noon, and proceeded on its way, dropping detachments all along the road, and meeting with no interruptions until entering a straight line near Vienna. Then a man stepped out upon the road and waved his hand, beckoning the train to stop, and warned them "for God's sake not to go on," as they were dead men if they proceeded; that there was a battery and strong force of the enemy ahead.

The officer in front of the Federal troops paused a moment with his hand on his forehead, as if turning the matter over in his mind, and then beckoned to the engineer to go on.

They proceeded a short distance, when a battery on the high ground, to the right of the road leading to Vienna, opened fire upon the train, and poured well-aimed and rapid discharges into the compact body of Federal soldiery. Some four hundred passengers, troops and laborers, were on the train, and many of them were necessarily on the platforms and the tender. The fire of the enemy, which seemed to be more especially directed in the start to disabling the engine,-was particularly destructive amongst the men huddled upon the tender.

A number were killed and wounded here upon the first discharge.

« PreviousContinue »