From The Constitution, Wednesday, June 19, 1861 (volume 24, number 1225)
Harper’s Ferry Evacuated
On Friday morning the rebels evacuated Harper’s Ferry. They blew up the bridge across the Potomac with gunpowder, and went away down the road to Winchester destroying every thing they could not carry away with them, tearing up the railroad track and burning the bridges as they went.
Head-quarters, Department of Virginia, Fortress Monroe, June 10, 1861
General: Having learned that the enemy had established an outpost of some strength at a place called Little Bethel, a small church about eight miles from Newport News, and the same distance from Hampton, from whence they were accustomed nightly to advance both on Newport News and the picket guards of Hampton to annoy them, and also from whence they had come down in small squads of cavalry and taken a number of Union men, some of whom had the safeguard and protection of the troops of the United States, and forced them into the rebel ranks, and that they were also gathering up the slaves of citizens who had moved away and left their farms in charge of their negroes, carrying them to work in intrenchments [sic] at Williamsburgh and Yorktown, I had determined to send up a force to drive them back and destroy their camp, the headquarters of which was this small church. I had also learned that at a place a little further on, on the road to Yorktown, was an outwork of the rebels, on the Hampton side of a place called Big Bethel, a large church, near the head of the north branch of the Back River, and that here was a very considerable rendezvous, with works of more or less strength in process of erection, and from this point the whole country was laid under contribution.
Accordingly I ordered Gen. Pierce, who is in command of Camp Hamilton, at Hampton, to send Duryee’s regiment of Zouaves to be ferried over Hampton Creek at 1 o’clock this morning, and to march by the road up to Newmarket Bridge, then crossing the bridge, to go by a road, and thus put the regiment in the rear of the enemy, and between Big Bethel and Little Bethel, in part for the purpose of cutting him off, and then to make an attack upon Little Bethel. Directed Gen. Pierce to support him from Hampton with Col. Townsend’s regiment, with two mounted howitzers, and to march about an hour later. At the same time I directed Col. Phelps, commanding at Newport News, to send out a battalion, composed of such companies of the regiments under his command as he thought best, under command of Lieu. Col. Washborne [sic], in time to make a demonstration upon Little Bethel in front, and to have him supported by Col. Bendix’s Regiment, with two field pieces. Bendix’s and Townsend’s Regiments should effect a junction at a fork of the road leading from Hampton to Newport News, something like a mile and a half from Little Bethel. I directed the march to be so timed that the attack should be made just at daybreak, and that, after the attack was made upon Little Bethel, Duryee’s Regiment and a regiment from Newport News should follow immediately upon the heels of the fugitives, if they were enabled to cut them off, and attack the battery on the road to Big Bethel, while covered by the fugitives ; of if it was thought expedient by Gen. Pierce, failing to surprise the camp at Little Bethel, they should attempt to take the work near Big Bethel. To prevent the possibility of mistake in the darkness, I directed that no attempt should be made until the watchword should be shouted by the attacking regiment, and, in case that by any mistake in the march the regiments that were to make the junction should unexpectedly meet and be unknown to each other, also directed that the members of Col. Townsend’s Regiment should be known, if in daylight, by something white worn on the arm. The troops were accordingly put in motion as ordered, and the march was so timed that Col. Duryee had got in the position noted upon the accompanying sketch, and Lieut. Col. Washburn, in command of the regiment from Newport News, had got into the position indicated upon the sketch, and Col. Bendix’s Regiment had been posted and ordered to hold the fork of the road, with two pieces of artillery, and Col. Townsend’s Regiment had got to the place indicated just behind, and were about to form a junction as the day dawned.
Up to this point the plan had been vigorously, accurately and successfully carried out ; but here, by some strange intuity, and as yet unexplained blunder, without any word of notice, while Col. Townsend was in column en route, and when the head of the column was within one hundred yards, Col. Bendix’s regiment opened fire with both artillery and musketry upon Col. Townsend’s column, which, in the hurry and confusion, was irregularly returned by some of Col. Townsend’s men who feared they had fallen into an ambuscade. Col. Townsend’s column immediately retreated to the eminence near by, and were not pursued by Col. Bendix’s men. By this almost criminal blunder, two of Col. Townsend’s regiment were killed, and eight more or less wounded.
Hearing this cannonading and firing in his rear, Lieut.-Col. Washburn, not knowing but that his communication might be cut off, immediately reversed his march, as did Col. Duryee, and marched back to form a junction with his reserves.
Gen. Pierce, who was with Col. Townsend’s Regiment, fearing that the enemy had notice of our approach, and had posted himself in force on the line of march, and not getting any communication from Col. Duryee, sent back to me for reinforcements, and I immediately ordered Col. Allen’s Regiment to be put in motion, and they reached Hampton about 7 o’clock. In the meantime the true state of facts having been ascertained by Gen. Pierce, the regiments effected a junction, and resumed the line of march. At the moment of the firing of Col. Bendix, Col. Duryee had surprised a part of an outlying guard of the enemy, consisting of thirty persons, who have been brought in to me.
Of course by all this firing all hopes of a surprise above the camp at Little Bethel was lost, and, upon marching upon it, it was found to have been vacated, and the cavalry had passed on toward Big Bethel. Col. Duryee, however, destroyed the camp at Little Bethel, and advanced. Gen. Pierce then, as he informs me, with the advice of his Colonels, thought best to carry the works of the enemy at Big Bethel, and made dispositions to that effect. The attack commenced, as I am informed—for I have not yet received any official reports—about half-past nine o’clock.
At about 10 o’clock Gen. Pierce sent a note to me, saying that there was a sharp engagement with the enemy, and that he thought that he should be able to maintain his position until reinforcements could come up. Acting upon this information, col. Carr’s regiment, which had been ordered in the morning to proceed as far as Newmarket Bridge, as allowed to go forward. I received this information for which I had sent a special messenger, about 12 o’clock. I immediately made disposition from Newport News to have Col. Phelps, for the four regiments there, forward aid if necessary. As soon as these orders could be sent forward, I repaired to Hampton, for the purpose of having proper ambulances and wagons for the sick and wounded, intending to go forward and join the command. While the wagons were going forward a messenger came, announcing that the engagement had terminated, and that the troops were retiring in good order to camp. I remained upon the ground at Hampton, personally seeing the wounded put in boats and towed round to the hospital, and ordering forward Lieut. Morris, with two boat howitzers, to cover the rear of the returning column, in case it should be attacked. Having been informed that the ammunition of the artillery had been expended, and seeing the head of the column approach Hampton, in good order, I waited for Gen. Pierce to come up. I am informed by him that the dead and wounded had all been brought off, and that the return had been conducted in good order, and without haste. I learned from him that the men behaved with great steadiness, with the exception of some few instances, and that the attack was made with propriety, vigor and courage, but that the enemy were found to be supported by a battery, variously estimated of from fifteen to twenty pieces, some of which were rifled cannon, which were very well served, and protected from being readily turned by a creek in front.
Our loss is very considerable, amounting perhaps to forty or fifty, a quarter part of which you will see was from the unfortunate mistake—to call it by no worse name—of Col. Bendix.
I will, as soon as official returns can be got, give a fuller detail of the affair, and will only add now that we have to regret especially the death of Lieut. Grebel, of the Second Artillery, who went with Col. Washburn, from Newport News, and who very efficiently and gallantly fought his piece until he was struck by a cannon shot. I will endeavor to get accurate statements to forward by the next mail. I think, in the unfortunate combination of circumstances, and the result which we experienced, we have gained more than we have lost. Our troops have learned to have confidence in themselves under fire, the enemy have shown that they will not meet us in the open field, and out officers have learned wherein the organization and drill are inefficient.
While waiting for the official report, I have the honor to submit thus far the information of which I am possessed.
I have the honor to be, most respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Maj. Gen. Commanding.
Provision for Mr. Douglas’ Family
As Senator Douglas died without leaving any fortune for his family, it is proposed to raise a fund for the widow. A committee has been formed, at the head of which is Richard Yates of Ottawa, Ill., to receive contributions, and an appeal has been made to the people of the United States.
A Connecticut Soldier Killed
A train ran on Sunday afternoon on the Alexandria, Loudon and Hampshire Railroad from Alexandria to Vienna, fifteen miles, on board of which was the First Connecticut Regiment commanded by Gen. Tyler. The object of the expedition was to make a reconnoisance [sic] of the road. While returning, and near Alexandria, a shot was fired by a man in ambush on the side of the road, which hit George Busbee of the Life Guards. He soon after died of his wound in great agony. His body was to be brought to Hartford. Gen. Tyler was standing by him at the time he was hit, and the shot was probably intended for him. A search was immediately made, and two men were arrested, one of whom is probably the assassin.
The Fourth Regiment
The steamers City of Hartford and Granite State with the Fourth Regiment reached Jersey City at about half past five o’clock on Tuesday morning, but the Regiment did not leave the boats till 11 o’clock. They reached Philadelphia that night. At Camden they were met with orders to proceed to Harrisburg.
While at Philadelphia a sorrowful casualty happened. George Barratt, a member of Company II., Capt. Clark’s, fell upon the railroad track and was killed by the cars. Barratt belonged in Hartford.
The regiment proceeded at once to Harrisburg and thence to Chambersburg. Immediately on reaching the latter place they were inspected by Gen. Patterson and received into active service. Col. Woodhouse, in a note to Adj. Gen. Williams, says they expected to leave Chambersburg for Hagerstown on Saturday, and the Colonel thought then they might see fighting soon.
Death of Erastus Brainerd
We record with sorrow this week the death of Erastus Brainerd, Esq., of Portland. He was found dead in his bed on Saturday evening. For several months past he has been quite unwell, and for most of the time had been confined to his house. His death was sudden though his friends had not for some time expected his recovery.
Mr. Brainerd was one of the pioneers of the stone-quarrying business in Portland. Not far from forty years ago, he and his brother Silas, lately deceased, made a fortunate purchase of the spot of ground on the bank of the river now occupied by Brainerd’s quarry, and on a small scale commenced to getting out stone. A few hundred dollars at first constituted all the capital invested in the business. But it was not many years before the Portland stone came into general favor, and its merits as among the most beautiful and desirable materials for building and for monumental purposes were universally acknowledged. Through the energy, in a great measure, of Mr. Brainerd and those associated with him, the business has rapidly increased, and the Portland Quarry vessels from Brainerd & Co’s. and other Quarries now find their way into nearly all the principal seaports along the coast.
The death of Mr. Brainerd will be deeply felt in Portland, where besides a large family he leaves an extensive circle of friends. He was in the 69th year of his age.
The Commencement Exercises of the Wesleyan University will be held at the Methodist E. Church, Thursday next. Doors open for the admission of ladies at 8 ½ o’clock.
The procession will form on the College grounds at 9 o’clock, in the following order.
President of University and Governor of State
Pres. Board of Trustees & Pres. of Joint Board
Members of Joint Board
Faculty of University
Ex-members of Faculty
Faculty of other Colleges
Mayor of City of Middletown, and Members of City Government
Members of Patronizing Conferences
Resident and other Clergymen
Alumni in the order of graduation
Alumni of other Colleges
Senior, Junior and Sophomore Classes
Candidates for Admission
Mr. Russell, the London Times’ correspondent has the following in his last letter from Montgomery, Ala.:
Montgomery is on an undulating plain, and covers ground large enough for a city of 200,000 inhabitants, but its population is only 12,000. Indeed, the politicians here appear to dislike large cities, but the city designers certainly prepare to take them if they come. There is a large negro population, and a considerable number of a color which forces me to doubt the evidences of my senses rather than the statements made to me by some of my friends that the planters affect the character of parent in their moral relations merely with the negro race. A waiter at the hotel—a tall, handsome young fellow, with the least tinge of color in his cheek, not as dark as the majority of Spaniards or Italians—astonished me in my ignorance to-day when, in reply to a question asked by one of our party, in consequence of a discussion on the point, he informed me he ‘was a slave.’ The man, as he said so, looked confused ; his manner altered. He had been talking familiarly with us, but the moment he replied, ‘I am a slave, sir,’ his loquacity disappeared, and he walked hurriedly and in silence out of the room.