Battle of Ball's Bluff
Report of Col. William Barksdale,
Thirteenth Mississippi Infantry.
Fort Evans, near Leesburg, October 28, 1861.
General N. G. Evans,
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that in obedience to your orders I left my encampment near Ball's Mill, on Goose Creek, with my regiment, on Sunday morning, the 20th instant, at 5 o'clock, and encamped the following night on the Alexandria turnpike road, near the Burnt Bridge over Goose Creek, about 4 miles east from Leesburg, with the Eighth Virginia Regiment, Colonel Hunton, on my right, and the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment, Colonel Featherston, on my left.
Early on Monday morning the guns of tide enemy opened upon us from their batteries on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, but without effect. At 8 o'clock I proceeded with my regiment to Fort Evans, and forthwith took position in the woods to the right of the fort, where I could observe the movements of the enemy.
About 12 o'clock I dispatched Capt. L. D. Fletcher's company (D) to report to you at Fort Evans. I herewith inclose his report of the company's movements that day. During the whole of the engagement it was in the thickest of the fight, rendering efficient service, and bearing itself with undaunted courage.
About 1.30 o'clock I was ordered by you to advance in the direction of Edwards Ferry, and to ascertain the position and number of the enemy. I marched at once in that direction, and halted in a skirt of woods 'near the Daily house, at the same time directing Captain McIntosh to skirmish in the woods and near the river on the left, and Captain Eckford, with a platoon of his company, to skirmish on the right of that house, and report without delay the result of their observation. Both reported that the enemy were in force in large numbers on this side of the river and just beyond the Daily house. I immediately ordered the regiment to advance, and when near the house a number of shots were fired by the advance guard on both sides, killing I man of my regiment. The loss of the enemy not ascertained.
Perceiving that the object of the enemy was to outflank me on the right, and learning that Colonels Burt and Featherston, with their respective commands, had been ordered in another direction, I formed my regiment on the right of the Edwards Ferry road, intending to commence the attack from the woods stretching along tide Daily plantation and to the right of the house, at the same time directing Captain Bradley to skirmish on the left and Captain [Wm. H.] Worthington on the right.
At this moment I was ordered by you to hasten to the support of the Eighth Virginia Regiment and the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Mississippi Regiments, which were engaged with the enemy 2 miles from Edwards Ferry and near Conrad's Ferry. I at once, and in double-quick time, started to their relief, leaving Captain Worthington's company to observe the movements of the enemy at Edwards Ferry, but before reaching the scene of action I received two peremptory orders from you to return to the vicinity of Fort Evans, which was accordingly done, directing the companies of Captains [Sand. J.] Randell, [D. R.] McIntosh, and Worthington to remain in the rear, to prevent the advance of the enemy that night from Edwards Ferry.
I am satisfied that the presence of my command in position at Edwards Ferry prevented the advance of a large column of the enemy, which was intended to re-enforce General Baker's command near Conrad's Ferry, then engaged in battle with our forces.
On Tuesday morning I was ordered by you to reconnoiter the enemy at Edwards Ferry, and attack him if in my judgment his numbers and position would warrant me in doing so. Reaching the ground I occupied the day before, I ordered Captain Randell to skirmish on my left and Captain Eckford on my right. They reported that the enemy in very large numbers were stationed, as on the preceding day, near the banks of the river. From their movements, which could be easily seen from my position, I supposed they were planting a battery at the point of woods jutting out into the field to the right of the Daily house. I determined to make the attack at that point, and accordingly ordered Captain Eckford to advance with his and Captain McElroy's companies, to commence the engagement, and to charge and take the battery, if one should be found there.
Taking the road leading to Kephart's Mill, I halted the regiment in the woods to the right of the Daily plantation, and in a few minutes Captain Eckford commenced the attack upon several companies of pickets which were stationed along the field; charging upon and driving them in great disorder and confusion before his fire. I ordered the regiment at once to advance, and the engagement in a moment became general. Under a heavy fire from the enemy's batteries on both sides of the river and an incessant fire from his lines on this side the regiment continued to advance some 400 yards, firing as it advanced, driving the enemy before it back to the river, and killing, so far as I have been able to learn, 35 or 40 of their number. The enemy having been driven back behind his field works, and greatly outnumbering my command, having also artillery on both sides of the river, I did not deem it proper further to continue the assault, and hence withdrew the regiment to its position near Fort Evans, which I reached some time after dark. I herewith inclose Captain Eckford's report.
Every order I gave during both days was obeyed with promptness and alacrity, and the engagement on Tuesday was marked by the greatest possible zeal, courage, and enthusiasm on the part of both officers and men.
Colonel, Comdg. Thirteenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers.
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
This page last updated 10/23/01
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