The Civil War Struggle of Ball’s Bluff

“I want sudden, bold, ahead, decided war,” Senator Edward D. Baker’s reaction to Fort Sumter, as he declared it to the Senate. Baker was a unique unique, and he would play a essential purpose in the Struggle of Ball’s Bluff.

When Edward D. Baker was 4, his family members moved from England to Philadelphia. Baker later on lived in Illinois where he was admitted to the bar in 1830. In 1835, he started off in community Illinois politics and alongside this path he achieved Abraham Lincoln. In 1837, Baker was elected to the United States Congress and in 1840, to the United States Senate. Edward D. Baker defeated Abraham Lincoln in 1844 for the United States congressional seat, and was elected. In spite of this, Lincoln and Baker had been good mates and later on Lincoln named his 2nd son (Edward Baker Lincoln) following him.

Baker was a veteran of the Black Hawk War of 1832, and the Mexican War, where he served as a colonel of the 4th Illinois Volunteers. Right after this he moved to Galena, Illinois to run for the United States Congress, therefore staying away from running against his mate from Springfield, Abraham Lincoln (whom he had formerly defeated). Baker was elected. Baker failed to acquire a cabinet appointment from President Franklin Pierce in 1852, so he moved on west to abide by the California Gold Hurry and was admitted to the bar in California. In 1860, Baker was on the go once more, this time to Oregon, and next in his tradition of political good results, was elected to the United States Senate. At Abraham Lincoln’s initial inauguration, Edward D. Baker rode in the presidential carriage and launched Lincoln just before his inaugural address.

In Might, of 1861 Baker’s star all over again was on the increase as the Civil War began to warmth up. He was licensed by the Secretary of War to form an infantry regiment that would be counted as section of the California quota. Baker raised the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry (also recognized as the 1st California), primarily recruiting the troops from Philadelphia, and served as this regiment’s colonel. Only a number of month’s subsequent, Baker obtained command of a brigade in Normal Charles P. Stone’s division. Baker’s function as brigade commander was to guard fords of the Potomac River north of Washington.

In the tumble of 1861, Edward D. Baker was now fifty-years-outdated, handsome, beardless, a near personalized mate of President Abraham Lincoln, and a staunch Union supporter. He was both an Oregon senator and a colonel in the military. Soon after distinguishing himself at lots of concentrations of regulation and politics, evidently even more achievement awaited him as a Civil War officer.

He was a man fond of reciting poetry, was always on the go, was more substantial than lifetime, and before long Baker would have the opportunity to “market sudden, daring, ahead, decided war.” With a Civil War now underway, may well God bless and safeguard any Confederate observed in Colonel Edward D. Baker’s route.

Ball’s Bluff is together the Potomac River about 35 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., and is northeast of Leesburg, Virginia, it is a steep 100-foot-superior bank growing higher than the Potomac on the Virginia shore. It has a 50-garden-deep flood simple from the river, and the bluff by itself is about 600 yards vast. The steep, wooded, bank of the bluff has a 10 to 12 foot-huge cow or cart route meandering from the shore up to the prime.

At Ball’s Bluff, close to midway throughout from the Virginia shore of the Potomac River, is Harrison’s Island, the drinking water operates quickly by way of this narrow channel. From Harrison’s Island across the Potomac about to the Maryland shore, the channel is broader and shallower.

Soon after Very first Bull Run, the Confederates ended up firmly planted in northeast Virginia and controlled most of it. In Oct, Accomplice Standard Joseph E. Johnston had accumulated the greater part of troops at Centerville. There have been nevertheless some Rebel troops close to Leesburg, north of Centerville, but there had been rumors (a black deserter of the 13th Mississippi experienced instructed that the Confederates at Leesburg had taken off provides back again to Manassas, thus planning for a retreat) floating about that Johnston was pulling his Leesburg gentlemen back.

Union Typical George B. McClellan imagined it may be worthwhile to see how honest Johnston was about preserving troops at Leesburg. Camped at Langley (on the Virginia side of the Potomac), was the Pennsylvania Reserves division, it experienced 13,000 troops and was led by George McCall. McClellan sent McCall to Dranesville (about midway among Leesburg and Washington, D. C.) on October 19, contemplating this progression of Yankee troops may well enable urge Joe Johnston to shift his troops out of Leesburg.

Opposite to McClellan’s desires, Accomplice commander Nathan “Shanks” Evans took up a defensive place west of Dranesville as a substitute of withdrawing. Then to complicate the condition, on the early morning of October 20, McClellan received an incorrect message stating that the Confederates experienced responded to McCall’s motion by withdrawing. Shanks Evan’s defensive steps west of Dranesville were misinterpreted as withdrawal.

McClellan preferred to be sure about the Confederate retreat, so he despatched an order made up of these following words and phrases to Normal Charles Stone on the Maryland facet of the Potomac: “preserve a very good lookout on Leesburg, to see if this movement has the outcome to generate them absent. Possibly a slight demonstration on your element would have the outcome to transfer them.”

General Stone interpreted McClellan’s orders freely and proceeded to cross a regiment or two at Edward’s Ferry beneath Ball’s Bluff, and despatched other troops three miles up the Maryland aspect of the Potomac so they could cross in excess of to Virginia at Harrison’s Island. Stone’s ideas have been that he could utilize some tension to the Confederates, and urge them to retreat from Leesburg. Discover Far more Civil War Historical past…

Stone’s adult men marching toward the crossing at Harrison’s Island were the 20th Massachusetts. It was a nighttime march, and by midnight they observed themselves generating the crossing from the Maryland shore. This crossing was tough mainly because they only had 3 compact boats that could only ferry a put together overall of 25 adult men at a time. There was a lot of standing around and ready, and confusion, for those ready to cross and those people who had crossed. In close proximity to dawn on Oct 21, all the 20th Massachusetts found alone on Harrison’s Island looking out at the remaining river crossing of 150 yards above to the Virginia shore. There was a significant and wooded bluff, Ball’s Bluff was its identify. They also uncovered the night earlier, the 15th Massachusetts was ready to get five businesses more than to the Virginia shore. People adult men had been now up on the bluff… and one thing was heading on up there.

That early morning the 20th Massachusetts designed its crossing from Harrison’s Island, and climbed up Ball’s Bluff by the meandering cow or cart route. At the prime, they located by themselves in a glade of open floor, and with not much heading on. Earlier that dawn, Colonel Charles Devon of the 15th Massachusetts had taken some troops virtually all the way to Leesburg, west of Ball’s Bluff. Devon ran into some Accomplice outposts throughout his foray, and some shots ended up fired. Devon was now back again at the glade.

Confederates have been off somewhere in the woods further than the glade, on larger floor, and there had been some pickets accomplishing some shooting. No 1 realized precisely exactly where the Rebels have been, nor how several of them there might be. Colonel Devon sent phrase off to Common Stone, reporting what he knew. Stone despatched phrase back again telling Devon to wait for Colonel Edward D. Baker, who would arrive before long with much more troops, and get cost.

Just after some delay, Colonel Baker arrived at Ball’s Bluff and took command, prepared to fulfill his want of “unexpected, daring, forward, established war.” Lincoln’s close mate was now in cost, prepared to shift (keep in mind, Baker was a man on the go) against the Confederates. One can only think about how much Baker, the profitable law firm and politician, experienced longed for this second. He was known to sometimes recite poetry, and once on a battlefield had instructed a good friend to “Push exactly where ye see my white plume shine amidst the ranks of war.”

As Baker assumed command he explained to Colonel Devon, “I congratulate you, sir, on the prospect of a fight,” and to the troops close by he inquired, “Boys, you want to battle, do not you?” The boys responded positively. The battle was on.

The Rebel fire was becoming far more and far more frequent, and the Johnny Rebs have been concentrating in bigger numbers on further than in the woods, on the significant ground. Baker experienced gotten a couple of guns up on the bluff, and they have been place to do the job shelling the woods where the Rebel sniping arrived from. The 20th Massachusetts returned fireplace and gentlemen have been becoming strike, falling. The boys ended up eco-friendly and new to all this, the thought that enemy shot at them, and correctly. The boys felt their nerves as they noticed the elephant first-hand, this was no drill, blood flowed and lives ended.

Baker returned to the edge of the bluff and saw a New York regiment, the Tammany Regiment it was termed, creating its way up the route. With the arrival of the Tammany adult men, there would be a overall of four Union regiments on Ball’s Bluff. Colonel Baker felt additional and a lot more self-confident. Observing the Tammany Regiment’s colonel, Milton Cogswell, approaching the prime of the bluff, Baker waved and greeted the colonel with a line from Sir Walter Scott’s “The Woman of the Lake “A person blast upon your bugle horn is worth a thousand males.”

Now, Colonel Milton Cogswell was not a law firm-politician-officer, no sir, Cogswell was a real West Stage specialist soldier, and he saw the situation at the best of the bluff differently than Colonel Edward D. Baker. To Cogswell’s trained military services eye, matters seemed negative, incredibly lousy. The Confederates held the superior floor in woods, brush, and timber, and were finding off Union guys at will, just like a turkey-shoot. Cogswell understood the Confederates were making up to a an attack. The Union boys ended up backed up to a steep bluff, with an unfordable river below. To boost the hassle that Cogswell saw, shortly a single of the guns recoiled in excess of the cliff’s bluff. This left the Union boys with no significant gun, since the Rebels experienced presently silenced the other with sniper fireplace.

Colonel Baker might have been a attorney-politician colonel, but he was not an idiot. Baker instantly caught on to the dire instances. He moved together the Union line encouraging the boys to stand rapidly. Most likely Baker recognized that if they retreated down the bluff, with only a few smaller boats it would just take hrs to ferry everybody throughout the river. It was far better to keep and combat. Definitely, Baker must have had a plan in thoughts for results, and to save the working day for the Union boys. We’ll by no means know.

A Rebel sharpshooter (possibly one not fond of poetry) drew a bead on Colonel Edward D. Baker’s pumpkin and killed him quickly with a bullet as a result of the brain.

The Union boys experienced misplaced their poetry quoting lawyer-politician turned colonel. Baker’s physique would now be on the shift down the bluff. Issues began to erode into a finish skedaddle. Right after all, how can you perform a struggle on a bluff, wherever you are sitting ducks, without poetry recitation?

Some resistance and maneuvering was tried, but as dusk commenced, the day was shed for the Union. As Rebel Mississippians and Virginians shot at the compacted group of Yankees, men went more than the bluff as quick as they could. Union boys toppled around the bluff and in their haste to flee, they fell agonizingly on to the bayonets and heads of others earning their way down the bluff. In sites, the sides of the bluff were being worn down to the filth and smoothed above by guys and bodies. After earning it down to the slender shore, far more horror awaited.

Two boatloads of wounded soldiers (the wounded had been brought down the bluff for evacuation all working day extensive) were being trying to make their way about to Harrison’s Island. These boats had been swamped by panicked males jumping onboard in their hurry to conserve their possess skin. Bullets from Rebels firing down from the bluff turned the h2o “as white as in a good hail storm” as a person man described. Numerous of the wounded of the swamped boats could not enable themselves, they drowned and have been swept downstream. A remaining sheet-metallic skiff soon sank soon after staying shot full of holes, now there ended up no boats.

Night time fell with vivid, scarlet muzzle flashes continuing from higher than. Some Union boys surrendered, some stripped down and swam to protection, some others located a neck-deep ford and built it over to Harrison’s Island. Eventually, in excess of 200 Union adult males had been killed or hurt, and over 700 have been taken prisoner. The Accomplice losses were negligible.

Ball’s Bluff was a Union catastrophe. A day that was once interlaced with poetry, was now more acceptable as a topic for a dirge.

Again in Washington, Abraham Lincoln would now mourn a Union decline, and the dying of a close close friend.