Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 34.djvu/267

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

Men of Virginia at Ball's Bluff. 259

company in front, and sending his other companies around their flanks. The net was spread in vain in sight of such a bird as Duff. Retiring a few hundred yards to a better position, Duff's men dropped on their knees for more deliberate aim, and fired a stag- gering volley as the enemy approached, which caused Devens to reconsider and retire out of range. In that preliminary skirmish Duff captured three wounded prisoners and fifteen stands of arms, with a loss of three men wounded, while Devens reports one killed, nine wounded and three missing.

Meantime, Devens had been reinforced by one hundred men of the Twentieth Massachusetts, under Colonel Lee, and by the other companies of his regiment, amounting in all to 753.

There was an earthwork called "Fort Evans," to the eastward of Leesburg, which commanded a wide view of the field of operation, where Colonel Evans fixed his headquarters and remained through- out the engagement. He knew that crossings had been effected, both at the Bluff and at Edwards' Ferry the distance between them being about four miles but nothing had as yet occurred to indicate clearly the point from which the enemy's advance was to be made. He could only conjecture, what we know now with cer- tainty, that Stone's plan was for Baker to break and drive the Con- federate left "so that when they are pushed, Gorman (at Edwards' Ferry) can come in on their flank." Stone's strategy was good, but Baker's tactics very bad.

Evans had previously ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Jenifer, with four companies from the Mississippi regiments and three Virginia cavalry companies, under Captains W. B. Ball, W. W. Mead and Lieutenant Morehead, in all 320 men, to the support of Captain Duff, and to hold the enemy in check until his plan of attack should be developed.

About ii o'clock Devens again advanced, "but was met in strong contention by Jenifer's people for about an hour, when the Federals retired." In his report Jenifer speaks in highest praise of the Mississippi companies and the Virginia cavalrymen, who fought dismounted by their side, because of the fences, ravines and thickets in that part of the field. In the charge which dislodged the enemy, Jenifer leaped his horse over the fence, "followed by Captain Ball, Lieutenants Wooldridge and Weisiger, of the Chester- field troop; Baxter, of the Loudoun cavalry, and Messrs. Hendrick and Peters, civilians, who volunteered for the fight." Baxter is