Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

leading from Baltimore to the West, both of which converged at that point. The Monocacy was but thirty-five miles away. The couriers described the situation ; a clear water stream flowing down to the Potomac, commanding hills on the eastern bank, broad green fields on the western, beyond which the huge mass of Mount Catoctin loomed up; the iron railroad bridge of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad spanning the river, a stone bridge also, and a wooden bridge carrying the two pikes over the stream, the railroad bridge being equidistant between the two; the pretty village of Frederick City three miles to the north, reached by the railroad and the pikes. On the commanding eastern bank the little army of Major General Lew Wallace, since so famous as an author, who then commanded the Middle Department, embracing the region between Washington and Baltimore and the Monocacy, was drawn up in battle array, bent on saving the capital by disputing the enemy's advance to the last, and in the doing of it fighting one of the most gallant and spirited, as well as most momentous in results, of the minor battles of the war. He had but three thousand three hundred men-two thirds of them Home Guards and one-hundred-days' men from Ohio -against the enemy's ten thousand. A division of the Sixth Corps under General Ricketts, which had been hurried from Petersburg to Baltimore when the enemy appeared in the valley, were nearly all the veteran troops he could command. Of this division three regiments were still on the road between Baltimore and the Monocacy, and were promised him at one o'clock.

Early on the morning of the gth, his dispositions for battle were made, the enemy being then in force at Frederick City. To General Tyler and the Maryland and Ohio men was given the task of defending the railroad bridge. Three companies of Colonel Gilpin's regiment were posted to defend Crum's ford, midway of the stone bridge and the railroad bridge, while Landstreet and Gilpin were held in reserve at the railroad. On the left, which was likely to be the main point of attack, Ricketts' veterans were formed in two lines across the Washington pike, so as to hold the rising ground south of it and the wooden bridge over the river. Still farther to the left Colonel Clendennin was posted to watch that flank and guard the lower fords. On the opposite bank, three quarters of a mile in advance, Colonel Brown, with the First Regiment of Potomac Home Guards, were deployed as skirmishers. As these dispositions were made, the railroad agent informed him (the General) that two more troop trains were on the road and would arrive at one P.M. They comprised the remainder of Ricketts' division-three regiments. At the same time the enemy appeared in force, marching down the pike from Frederick City. At sight of the line of defence he halted, threw out skirmishers, planted his guns behind them, and began the battle. At nine he formed columns again, and without attacking even the skirmish line, swept through the fields to the left, just out of range of the Union guns, and forced the passage of the river at a ford about a mile below Ricketts' line. To meet him that officer changed front to the left, so that his right rested on the river bank.

At 10.30 A.M. the enemy's first line of battle appeared marching up against Ricketts, and so far overlapping him, that his second line was merged into the first, leaving no reserve. Still the enemy overlapped. Two guns were hurried from Tyler's force to the imperilled line without avail. Finally the wooden bridge was burned, and the force stationed to defend it was ordered to the front, leaving only Tyler's men in reserve. Early's line now charged with a cheer and a rush, but the veterans stood firm as a rock, and it was hurled back badly defeated. Again it formed and charged recklessly—there was a fierce struggle,then it fell back shattered, and retired sullenly to the woods in the rear.

Wallace could now have retreated safely, but the enemy's full strength was not yet brought against him, and it was important that he should hold on as long as possible. One o'clock came, but there were no signs of the expected reinforcements. Twobut still no rumble of approaching trains was heard. The ranks stood firm and awaited events. At half-past two they saw the enemy's third line of battle move out of the woods and down the hill behind which it had formed; right behind it marched the fourth, outnumbering them four to

Evidently it was time to leave. Ricketts was therefore ordered to retire by way of the Baltimore pike, which he did in good order. While this was being done, the stone bridge became the objective point of both armies. To yield it was for the Union forces to lose their only line of retreat. Colonel Brown with his Marylanders had been fighting over this bridge since the action began, aided toward the last by Tyler, who had hurried to his support. As the head of Ricketts' retreating column reached the pike, Wallace galloped to the bridge and ordered the gallant fellows to hold it at all hazards until the enemy attacked their rear, or until Ricketts' last regiment should clear the country road. Tyler obeyed. He held on, in spite of furious assault again and again repeated, until Ricketts was well on the road to New Market, when a sharp attack upon his rear told him that orders had been obeyed: he was surrounded by the enemy. Not then did the brave fellows think of surrender. Some fled to the woods; the greater part kept their ranks, and, headed by Colonel Brown, fought their way through. General Tyler and his staff escaped into the forest and eventually joined the main army. At this point the enemy stopped pursuit.

one.

Colonel Clendennin who, as we have seen, had been fighting on the extreme left, proved himself a gallant officer. Finding that he was cut off from the main body, he threw himself into the little village of Urbana, where he repeatedly repulsed the assaults of the enemy, and at last by a bold charge, sabre in hand, cut through the hostile ranks, capturing the battle-flag of the Seventeenth Virginia. “As brave a cavalry soldier as ever mounted horse," said his commander in his report of the battle.

The road to Washington was now open to the enemy, but he had been delayed twenty-four precious hours. The next night his army bivouacked at Rockville, but ten miles from Washington, and the next morning appeared before the defences of Washington. The city was thrown into the wildest confusion and alarm. The gravity of the crisis was apparent. Early once within the defences was master of the situation. The officers of government, the invaluable public records, and public buildings were at his mercy. Most serious of all would be the moral effect--for France had long been urging England to recognize the Southern Confederacy, and so great an exploit as the capture of the national capital would, without doubt, be followed by such recognition.

The wildest rumors disturbed the authorities and the citizens. The lowest reports placed the number of the invading hosts at thirty thousand men, and the highest at forty-five thousand. The authorities made preparations for vigorous defence. Three thousand five hundred on hospital duty were ordered to report to General Alger, the military governor of the city. The clerks in the Departments were organized into companies, armed, equipped, and hurried to the front along the northern line of defences ; while the employés of the Navy Yard, with the marine corps, were formed into a regiment and marched out on the Bladensburg road to guard Fort Lincoln. Colonel S. W. Owen even organized a mounted regiment from the teamsters of the city. All the important roads leading into the capital were barricaded with chains, army wagons, and the like.

Meantime hurrying northward came the two divisions of the famous Sixth Corps, and a portion of the Nineteenth Corps—which had been ordered by General Grant to the defence of the capital.

men

« ZurückWeiter »