Illustrations of the War in AmericaThe Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1118, p. 514.
November 23, 1861
Previous Numbers of this Journal have contained some particulars of the unsuccessful attempt of Stone's and Bank's columns to effect a landing on the 21st ult, on the Virginian Shore of the Upper Potomac, near Leesburg; and we now give two Illustrations, from Sketches by our Special Artist, in connection with this seemingly mad enterprise on the part of the Federal forces. The whole affair appears to have been ill-planned, and adds another to the grievous blunders committed by the Federal commanders. It is hardly credible that 1800 men should have been sent across a river in the face of an enemy most strongly posted, and left unsupported when 30,000 of the division to which they belonged were within sound of their rifles. The small body, however, fought gallantly throughout the day against three times their number. One incident of the fight—a desperate effort made by the 15th Massachusetts Regiment to clear the woods by a bayonet charge—is illustrated on our first page. This is believed to be the only instance in which a bayonet charge has been attempted by a regiment in the Federal army. The 15th Massachusetts fought most gallantly throughout the whole affair, although they knew the odds to be greatly against them; and the example set by their officers, mostly students from Harvard College, Cambridge, was most praiseworthy. Their efforts, however, were not crowned with success, as the deadly fire of the Mississippi riflemen drove them back each time; and, as evening drew on, seeing the utter uselessness of contending against their powerful enemy, the few surviving combatants slowly fell back to the river-side with but two line officers remaining. In the endeavour to recross to the island, midway between the Maryland and Virginian shores, from which they had started, the general organisation of the force was quite abandoned, each company acting separately. The officers and men who could swim started, half naked, over the river, and the boats were kept awhile for the wounded. This, however, lasted but a little time. All order was quickly lost. A large flat boat was sunk by overcrowding, and scores of men perished, some by drowning and some by the fire of the Confederates, who now crowded the high bank and poured an incessant fire upon the scattering fugitives. The river channel was thickly strewed with the dead and dying, but the bearing of the survivors is reported to have been strangely quiet—the immobility, perhaps of desperate hopelessness. Hundreds, probably, were here sacrificed. This much is certain, that out of the 1800 who landed scarcely 600 returned. The retreat of the Federalists forms the subject of the accompanying Engraving.