Imágenes de páginas

more advanced point on the Orange and Alexandria Railway,” leaving but two regiments of cavalry to “occupy Winchester and thoroughly scour the country south of the railway and up the Shenandoah Valley.” Gen. Banks had already thrown across the Potomac, at Harper's Ferry,” the 28th Pennsylvania, Col. Geary, following himself," taking possession of Bolivar and Loudon Heights, Leesburg, Charlestown,” and Martinsburg,” and pushing back the Rebels to Winchester, which Stonewall Jackson evacuated " without a struggle. Gen. Shields, commanding Lander's division,” pursued Jackson to Newmarket,” where he found him strongly posted and ready for action. IIe thereupon fell back rapidly to Winchester, pursued by . Jackson's cavalry, under Turner Ashby. Gen. Banks, having dispatched one division toward Centerville,” Jackson's spies assured him that Shields had but four regiments left, and might easily be captured or routed ; so Ashby drove in our pickets and pressed hard upon Shields, who kept the larger part of his force concealed until Jackson was induced to advance in force and attack. In the slight skirmish which occurred,” Gen. Shields was struck by a fragment of shell which broke his arm, and so injured his shoulder and side that he fought next day's battle in bed. Jackson had 10 regiments of infantry, all Virginians, but reports their aggregate strength at only 3,087 men, with 27 guns and 290 cavalry.” 15 Feb. 24. *Feb. 26. F Feb. 28. * March 3. 19 March 11. *Gen. F. W. Lander, one of the bravest and best of our early commanders, had died March

2d, of congestion of the brain, caused by hardship, exposure, and anxiety.

Gen. Shields had 6,000 infantry, 750

cavalry, and 24 guns, well posted some three miles south of Winchester, and half a mile north of the little village of KERNSTowN, covering the three principal roads which enter Winchester from the south-east, south, and south-west. Gen. Banks had remained with Shields until about 10 A.M.;" when, a careful reconnoissance having discovered no enemy in front but Ashby's cavalry, he concluded that Jackson was too weak or too cautious to risk an attack, and departed for Washington via Harper's Ferry. Before noon, however, Shields was advised by Col. Kimball, on his left, that a Rebel battery had opened on his position, and appeared to be supported by a considerable force of infantry. Thereupon, Sullivan's brigade was pushed forward to support Kimball, and our artillery opened simultaneously with one or two more Rebel batteries; but at such distance as to do little harm. Soon, a still larger force of all arms was developed by Jackson on his right, and an effort made to turn our left, which was gallantly resisted and foiled by Sullivan's brigade, supporting Jenks's artillery. Jackson then rêenforced heavily his left, sending two additional batteries and his reserve to support the movement; when Shields ordered up Tyler's brigade of 4 regiments to the support of Col. Kimball, commanding that wing, whereby the Rebels were outnumbered and hurled back upon their main body, "March 19. - March 22. * About sunset, March 22. * Pollard says the Confederate forces amounted to 6,000 men, with Capt. McLaughlin's bat

tery and Col. Ashby's cavalry. *Sunday, March 23.

[ocr errors]

... strongly posted behind a high and solid stone wall, crossing a hill, where a desperate stand was made by Jackson’s famous ‘Stonewall Brigade,’ and others, whose fire was for a few minutes rapid and deadly; but their position was soon flanked and carried by our eager, determined advance, and they retreated in disorder, leaving 2 guns, 4 caissons, and many small arms. Night now fell, and saved them, doubtless, from a heavier loss. Our men secured their prisoners, cared for their wounded— those of the Rebels having mostly been carried off by them prior to their retreat—and sank down to rest on the battle-field. The Rebels retreated a few miles, rapidly but in good order, ere they, too, rested for the night. Jackson attributes his defeat in part to Gen. R. B. Garnett's error of judgment in repeatedly ordering his men to retreat, when he should have held on and fought. It seems clear, however, that the capital mistake was his own in fighting at all, when his total force, according to his own estimate, was less than 5,000 men, and he estimates our infantry on the field at over 11,000. He makes his loss 80 killed, 342 wounded, and 269 missing, mainly prisoners; total, 691; while Shields claims 300 prisoners, and estimates the Rebel loss in killed and wounded at 1,000 to 1,500." Our own loss in this engagement was 103 killed, including Col. Murray,

of the 84th Pennsylvania; 441 wounded, and 24 missing. Gen. Shields, well aware that


heavy röenforcements for Jackson were at hand, immediately sent an express after Williams's division—by this time well on its way to Harper's Ferry—desiring its immediate return; but Gen. Banks, hearing of the battle by telegraph from Winchester, had already stopped at Harper's Ferry and anticipated this order; himself rejoining Shields early next day, and resuming command. He pursued Jackson vigorously up the Walley to Woodstock, but was unable to bring him to bay.

We have seen that Gen. McClellan's council of corps commanders decided, on the 13th of March, to abandon his original plan of debarking at Urbana, on the Rappahannock, and advancing thence on Richmond by West Point, at the head of York river, making this a secondary base. This most unfortunate decision is rendered unaccountable by a destructive if not disastrous naval collision which had just occurred in Hampton Roads, and of which the results were well known to the council.

Of our naval officers' most calamitous, cowardly, disgraceful desertion of and flight from the Norfolk Navy Yard and Arsenal at the beginning of the struggle, the revolting particulars have already been given.” Among the vessels there abandoned to the Rebels, after being fired, was the first-class 40-gun steam frigate Merrimac, which, by Capt. McCauley's orders, had been scuttled and partly sunk, so that only her rig

*Shields's official report says:

*The enemy's loss is more difficult to ascertain than our own. Two hundred and seventy were found dead on the battle-field; 40 were buried by the inhabitants of the adjacent vil

lage; and, by a calculation made by the number of graves found on both sides of the Valley road between here and Strasburg, their loss in killed must have been about 500, and in wounded 1,000.” * See Vol. I. p. 473–7.


ging and upper works were burned ; her hull being saved by a speedy submersion. Isaving thus fallen an easy prey to the Rebels, she was adopted by them as the basis of an iron-clad, whereof Lieut. John M. Brooke furnished the original plan, which Chief Engineer Williamson and Naval Constructor Porter, together with Lt. Brooke, ultimately fashioned into the terrible engine of destruction known to us as the Merrimac, but designated by her rebuilders the Virginia. Messrs. Brooke, Williamson, and Porter, were all graduates from our navy, as was Commodore Franklin Buchanan, who became her commander. In preparing her for her new service, the hull of the Merrimac was cut down nearly to the water's edge, after she had been plugged, pumped out, and raised; when a sloping roof of heavy timber, strongly and thoroughly plated with railroad iron, rose from two feet below the water-line to about ten feet above : the ends and sides being alike and thoroughly shielded. A light bulwark, or false bow, was added, designed to divide the water, and serve as a tank to regulate the vessel's draft; and beyond this projected a strong iron beak. Being thus rendered thoroughly shotproof, she was armed with 10 heavy and most effective guns; and so, hav

ing been largely refitted from the

spoils of the deserted Navy Yard, became at once the Gheapest and most formidable naval engine of destruction that the world had ever seen. Whether she had or had not the ability to live in an open, turbulent sea, was left undecided by her brief but memorable career. A little before noon, on Saturday,

March 8th, a strange craft was descried from our vessels off Newport News, coming down the Elizabeth river from Norfolk, past Craney Island, attended by two unremarkable steam gunboats. Two other Rebel gunboats, which had, evidently by preconcert, dropped down the James from Richmond, had been discovered at anchor off Smithfield Point, some 12 miles distant, about three hours before. The nondescript and her tenders gradually approached our war-ships awaiting her, and, passing across the bow of the Congress frigate, bore down on the Cumberland, in utter disdain of her rapid and well aimed but utterly ineffective shots, which glanced as harmless from the iron shield of the foe as though they had been peas. Not a gun was fired by the mysterious and terrible stranger until she struck the Cumberland with full force under her starboard fore-channels, at the same moment delivering a most destructive fire; while her blow had opened such a chasm in the bow of the Cumberland that her forward magazine was drowned in 30 minutes. Still, her fire was kept up until, at 3:35 P. M., the water had risen to the main hatchway, and the ship canted to port; when, giving a parting fire, Lt. Morris ordered every man to jump overboard and save himself if possible. The dead, and sick, and severely wounded, were unavoidably left in her bay and on her decks, to the number of at least 100; and she sank to the bottom in 54-feet water, with her flag still flying from her topmast. Meanwhile, the Congress—which had exchanged broadsides with the Merrimac asshe passed—was attacked by the Rebel gunboats, and was battling them to the best of her ability, until, seeing the fate of the Cumberland, she set her jib and topsail, and, with the assistance of the gunboat Zouave, ran aground not far from our batteries at Newport News, where she was soon again assailed by the Merrimac, which, taking position about 150 yards from her stern, raked her fore and aft with shell, while one of the smaller steamers from Norfolk kept up a fire on her starboard quarter; while the Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson–Rebel steamers from up the James—likewise poured in their broadsides with precision and effect. The hapless Congress could only reply from her two stern guns, whereof one was soon dismounted and the other had its muzzle knocked off. Her commander, Lt. Joseph B. Smith, ActingMaster Thomas Moore, and Pilot William Rhodes, with nearly half her crew, having been killed or wounded, the ship on fire in several places, without a gun that could be brought to bear on her destroyers, Lt. Pendergrast, on whom the command had devolved, at 4:30 P. M. hauled down our flag. She was soon boarded by an officer from the Merrimac, who took her in charge, but left shortly afterward; when a small Rebel tug came alongside and demanded that her crew should get out of the ship, as her captors intended to burn her immediately. But our soldiers on shore, who had not surrendered, and who regarded the Congress as now a Rebel vessel, opened so brisk a fire upon her that the tug and her crew suddenly departed; when the Merrimac again opened on the luckless craft, though she had a

[ocr errors]

white flag flying to intimate her sur- . render. Having fired several shells into her, the Merrimac left her to engage the Minnesota, giving opportunity for her crew to escape to the shore in small boats, with their wounded. About dark, the Merrimac returned and poured hot shot into the deserted hulk, until she was set on fire and utterly destroyed, her guns going off as they became heated —a shell from one of them striking a sloop at anchor at Newport News, and blowing her up. At midnight, the fire had reached her magazines, containing five tuns of powder, and she blew up with a tremendous explosion. Of her crew of 434 men, 21S answered to their names at rollcall at Newport News next morning. Capt. John Marston, of the steamship Roanoke, whereof the machinery was disabled, being off Fortress Monroe, was in command of our fleet, when, at 1 P.M., one of his look-out vessels reported by signal that the enemy was coming. Signaling the steam-frigate Minnesota to get under way, and slipping his cable, he had the Roanoke taken in tow by two tugs, and started for the scene of action; but, before he reached it, he had the mortification of seeing the Minnesota hard aground. Continuing on his course, but unable to make tolerable headway, he came in sight of the Cumberland, only to find her virtually destroyed ; having soon after the further mortification of seeing the Congress haul down her flag. Continuing to stand on, he was soon himself aground astern, in 34 fathoms, and was obliged to be hauled off by one of his tugs; when he decided to come to the relief of the stranded Minnesota, hoping with assistance to


pull her off; but found himself unable to do so. Meantime, at 5 P.M., the frigate St. Lawrence, towed by the Cambridge, passed them, and soon also grounded, but was hauled off by the Cambridge, when she returned to the harbor of the fort. The Minnesota, Capt. Van Brunt, having, in passing Sewell's Point, received and returned a fire from the Rebel battery, which crippled her mainmast, had approached within a mile and a half of Newport News, when she grounded, with an ebbing tide, and was still hard at work trying to get off, when, at 4 P. M., the Merrimac, Jamestown, and Patrick Henry, having finished their work at the News, bore down upon her. The shallowness of the water forbade the Merrimac to come within a mile of her, from which distance she fired for the next two or three hours, but once hulling the Minnesota by a shot through her bow. The Jamestown and the Patrick Henry, taking position on the port bow and stern of the Minnesota, where only her heavy pivot-gun could be brought to bear upon them, kept up a vigorous and effective fire on her, by which several of her crew were killed and wounded; but they finally desisted and retired, one of them apparently crippled. At 7 P.M., the Merrimac hauled off also, and all three steamed toward Norfolk, leaving the Minnesota deeply imbedded, by the fire of her broadside guns, in the mud-bank on which she rested; so that it was impossible, even at high tide, by the help of steam-tugs and hawsers, with all hands at work through the night, to haul her off. The prospect for the coming day

was dark enough, until, at 10 P.M., the new iron-clad Monitor, 2 guns, Lt. John L. Worden, reached Fortress Monroe on her trial trip from New York, and was immediately dispatched to the aid of the Minnesota, reporting to Capt. Van Brunt at 2 A. M.” Though but a pigmy beside the Merrimac, and an entire novelty for either land or water—“a cheese-box on a raft”—the previous day’s sore experience of the might and invulnerability of iron-clads insured her a hearty welcome. Never had there been a more signal example of the value of a friend in need. . At 6 A. M., the Rebel flotilla réappeared, and the drums of the Minnesota beat to quarters. But the enemy ran past, as if heading for Fortress Monroe, and came around in the channel by which the Minnesota had reached her uncomfortable position. Again all hands were called to quarters, and the Minnesota, opening with her stern guns, signaled the Monitor to attack, when the undaunted little cheese-box steamed down upon the Rebel Apollyon and laid herself alongside, directly between the Minnesota and her assailant. Gun after gun from the Monitor, responded to with whole broadsides from the Merrimac, seemed to produce no more impression than a hailstorm on a mountain-cliff; until, tired of thus wasting their ammunition, they commenced maneuvering for the better position. In this, the Monitor, being lighter and far more manageable than her foe, had decidedly the advantage; and the Merrimac, disgusted, renewed her attentions to the Minnesota, disregarding a broadside which would have sunk

*Sunday, March 9.

« AnteriorContinuar »