Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/215

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Battle of Bethel. 199

under Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart; three other companies of Vir- ginia troops, under Major Montague; one company of the Richmond Howitzer battalion, under Major George W. Randolph, and two companies of Virginia cavalry of about one hundred men. From the foregoing it will be seen that there were about 4,400 men on the Federal side against about 1,400 on the Confederate.

General Pierce, of the Federal army, in command at Hampton, was in charge of Butler's forces, and his command broke camp at i o'clock on the morning of the loth of June, marching by two roads, with the intention of forming a junction near Little Bethel Church, about three miles below Big Bethel, and marching in solid column on the Confederates. When the two Federal commands met one mistook the other for the Confederates, immediately swung into line of battle, opened fire, and killed two and wounded nineteen of their friends before the mistake was discovered, including four officers.

While this little "family" affair was going on the Confed- erates were massing their troops and preparing for the impending attack, for which they had but a little while to wait. Soon the drum-beats of the enemy were heard so faint at first as to be hardly distinguishable, but clearer and clearer as the enemy drew nearer, until about 8 o'clock in the morning, when within about eight hun- dred yards in front of them, the Federal line of battle was formed, with Captain Judson Kilpatrick with two companies of Duryea's 5th New York Zouaves (the " Fire Zouaves" they were called), in ad- vance, the Confederate pickets were driven in, and the first battle of the civil war begun at a point about thirteen miles from Yorktowh, where the revolutionary war practically ended just eighty years pre- viously.

The first move of the Federals was by a portion of Townsend's Third New York regiment against the Confederate right, which was quickly driven back by the Confederate artillery and one company of the Third Virginia.

More troops were brought up, and a determined effort made to carry the Confederate left, but with only temporary success, when a gun of the Confederate battery was accidentally spiked by the break- ing of a priming-wire, and the troops supporting it were ordered to fall back to a less exposed position, and the enemy advanced and occupied this work.

Shortly after this the abandoned redoubt was charged by a com- pany of North Carolinians and retaken. In front of it was a house in which the Federal sharpshooters were concealed, and from which