Today in History:

34 Series I Volume V- Serial 5 - West Virginia

Page 34 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.

advancing there under Baker. The left, under Gorman, has advanced its skirmishers nearly 1 mile, and, if the movement continues successful, will turn the enemy's right.



EDWARDS FERRY, October 21, 1861-4 p. m.

General McCLELLAN:

Nearly all my force is across the river. Baker on the right; Gorman on the left. Right sharply engaged.



EDWARDS FERRY, October 21, 1861-9.30 p. m.

Major-General McCLELLAN:

I am occupied in preventing further disaster, and try to get into a position to redeem. We have lost some of our best commanders-Baker dead, Cogswell a prisoner or secreted. The wounded are being carefully and rapidly removed, and Gorman's wing is being cautiously withdrawn. Any advance from Dranesville must be made cautiously.

All was reported going well up to Baker's death, but in the confusion following that, the right wing was outflanked. In a few hours I shall, unless a night attack is made, be in the same position as last night, save the loss of many good men.



Although no more fully informed of the state of affairs, I had during the afternoon, as a precautionary measure, ordered General Banks to send one brigade to the support of the troops at Harrison's Island, and to move with the other two to Seneca Mill, ready to support General Stone if necessary. The 9.30 p. m. dispatch of General Stone did not give me an entire understanding of the state of the case.

Aware of the difficulties and perhaps fatal consequences of recrossing such a river as the Potomac after a repulse, and from these telegrams supposing his whole force to be on the Virginia side, I directed General Stone to intrench himself, and hold the Virginia side at all hazards until re-enforcements could arrive, when he could safely withdraw to the Maryland side or hold his position on the Virginia side, should that prove advisable. General Banks was instructed to move the rest of his division to Edwards Ferry, and to send over as many men as possible before daylight to re-enforce Stone. He did not arrive in time to effect this, and was instructed to collect all the canal-boats he could find and use them for crossing at Edwards Ferry in sufficient force to enable the troops already there to hold the opposite side.

On the 22nd I went to the ground in person, and reaching Poolesville, learned for the first time the full details of the affair.

The following extract from the evidence of General Stone before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, on the 5th of January, 1862, will throw further light on this occurrence:

General Stone says he received the order from my headquarters to make a slight demonstration at about 11 a. m. on the 20th, and that, in obedience to that order, he made the demonstration on the evening of the same day.

In regard to the reconnaissance on the 21st, which resulted in the battle of Ball's Bluff, he was asked the following questions:

Question. Did this reconnaissance originate with yourself or had your orders from the General-in-Chief to make it?

To which he replied: "It originated with myself-the reconnaissance."

Question. The order did not proceed from General McClellan?

Answer. I was directed the day before to make a demonstration; that demonstration was made the day previous.

Page 34 OPERATIONS IN MD., N. VA., AND W. VA. Chapter XIV.