Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 34.djvu/272

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264 Southern Historical Society Papers.

the landing place and thence poured in a heavy fire on our men, who were endeavoring to cross to the island. The smaller boats had disappeared and the largest boat, rapidly and too heavily loaded, swamped fifteen feet from the shore, and nothing was left to our soldiers but to swim, surrender or die." The "officer of the enemy," referred to by General Stone and Colonel Devens, was Lieutenant Charles B. Wildman, of Loudoun, serving upon General Evans' staff, who came riding rapidly to the field, and mistaking the Federals for his own men, gave the order to charge. Wildman, fortunately, escaped from his perilous predicament, but the men he was leading suffered terribly.

The story of the battle would be incomplete if the essential role of Colonel Barksdale and his Thirteenth Mississippi Regiment were omitted. Remembering that Gorman's Brigade was at Edward's Ferry, numbering, according to official reports, 2,250 strong, and that Stone's plan was to strike the Confederate flank with this force when Baker pushed them from the Bluff", the impor- tance of this role can be appreciated. Whenever Gorman's skir- mishers advanced they were met in fierce contest and promptly driven back, and he was thus kept "bottled up" until Baker's force had been routed and captured.

The statement in Barksdale's report that he was satisfied "that the presence of my command in position at Edwards' Ferry pre- vented the advance of a large column of the enemy, which was in- tended to reinforce General Baker's command near Conrad's Ferry, then engaged in battle with our forces," is ample testimony to the great value of the service here rendered, and also to the modesty and valor of this noble Mississipian, whose fearless fighters, it will be remembered, at a later period in the war, by their tena- cious contention upon the river banks at Fredericksburg, checked Burnside's advance until Lee was prepared to welcome and over- whelm him.


Major Robert Stiles, who was with the Howitzers, near Fort Evans, says in his "Four Years Under Marse Robert :" "We felt peculiarly chagrined at not being able to fire even so much as one shot while the battle roared in the thicket." And again : "We changed position several times during the action, in the vain hope of finding a point from which we might fire upon the enemy with- out imperilling our own men."