Battle of Leesburg (Ball's Bluff)


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, November 9, 1861

Below is an online version of the original Harper's Weekly newspaper for November 9, 1861. This newspaper features a variety of original Civil War content. Of particular interest is a large map of the Civil War, showing the various parts of the country at this time. The paper also has news stories on the important events of the war at this time.

(Scroll Down to see entire page, or Newspaper Thumbnails will take you to the page of interest.)


Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa Island


Poem for a Wounded Soldier

Naval Expedition

Naval Expedition

Mississippi River

Mississippi River Battle


Battle of Leesburg


Arkansas Troops

Lincoln Suspends Habeas Corpus

Lincoln Suspends Habeas Corpus

Plantation Slave

Plantation Slave Cartoon

The Battle of Edwards's Ferry

Shenandoah Valley

The Shenandoah Valley


Annapolis, Maryland

Civil War Map of Southern States




[NOVEMBER 9, 1861.





ON this page we publish an illustration of the CAMP OF A VIRGINIAN REGIMENT near Leesburg, Virginia, and a portrait of COL. DEVENS, of the Fifteenth Massachusetts Regiment; and on page 708 an engraving showing OUR ARMY AT EDWARD'S FERRY, preparing to cross the Potomac.

General Stone crossed the Potomac on 21st on a pontoon bridge with 8000 men. Our illustration represents his army gathering at the Ferry before crossing. At the same time a portion of the army crossed the river higher up with less success. The following extract from a letter in the Herald describes the affair :

Colonel Devens, of the Fifteenth Massachusetts Regiment, having received orders to advance with a detachment of his regiment to the Virginia shore, reinforcements having been promised him in case he should be attacked in force, made preparations accordingly, and on Monday morning last at one o'clock he crossed with five companies, viz.: Company A, Captain Rockwood; Company C, Captain Bowman ; Company G, Captain Walter Forehand; Company H, Captain Chase Philbrick; and Company I, Captain George C. Joslin—in all about three hundred and fifty men—to an island in the Potomac called Harrison's Island. The passage to this place was effected in flat-boats. Arrived at the island, where Company H had been on picket duty for a week previously, Colonel Devens was informed by Captain Philbrick, who had been making a reconnoissance a short time before of the Virginia shore, that the enemy was not in sight. He then ordered his men to cross to the shore, which act they accomplished by means of one flat-boat and one metallic boat—a process both slow and tedious.

Colonel Devens landed on the shore without molestation, and proceeded to within about a mile of Leesburg without meeting the enemy. He then threw out Company H, Captain Philbrick, as skirmishers, who soon encountered a

company of rebels, belonging to one of the Mississippi regiments. Captain Philbrick fired upon them a volley, which the enemy returned, and then retreated, when Colonel Devens fell back to his first position on landing, and kept up a sort of skirmishing and bush fighting against 1500 to 1800 rebels for some hours. About one o'clock P.M. reinforcements came up, under command of Brigadier-General Baker, with two howitzers and one brass twelve-pounder. The reinforcements consisted of a part of the Twentieth Massachusetts, Colonel Lee ; the New York Tammany regiment, and a part of the California regiment—in all about 1700 men. In the mean time the enemy had been immensely reinforced from Leesburg, to the number of between 5000 and 8000 men. The fighting was kept up until dark, having commenced about seven in the morning, with great loss on both sides. The Union forces were compelled to retreat, and to avoid leaving their guns and equipments in the hands of the enemy, they threw them into the river by order of their commanders. A large number of the Union men plunged into the river, and were shot while attempting to swim across. The enemy's cavalry made but one charge, and with that exception the whole battle was a bush fight, both sides exhibiting great bravery. The enemy's loss is large—supposed to be about 500. They were thoroughly sheltered by the woods. All about our artillery were shot down. Our guns were spiked and thrown into the river.

Colonel Devens was struck by a musket ball, and his life saved by the ball striking square upon one of the metallic buttons on his coat.

In a word, our army was driven back with heavy loss. Out of 1900 men who crossed the river, 700 were killed or missing, and 160 are wounded in hospital. History affords few examples of such slaughter. General McClellan, in an order of the day referring to the battle, thanks the troops engaged, and adds :

The gallantry and discipline there displayed deserved a more fortunate result; but situated as those troops were, cut off alike from retreat and reinforcements, and attacked

by an overwhelming force of from five thousand to seven thousand, it was not possible that the issue could be successful. Under happier auspices such devotion will insure victory. The General Commanding feels increased confidence in the troops composing General Stone's division.

Our portrait of Colonel Devens is from a photograph sent us from Worcester, Massachusetts. It was taken just before the Colonel left New England on the three months' campaign as major of the 3d battalion of Massachusetts Rifles. All are agreed that Colonel Devens established his reputation as a soldier by his conduct at this battle. Of the performance of his regiment, a correspondent of the Times says :

If the report of the evolutions which took place under fire is correct, it is worth noting; especially the transfer of the Fifteenth Massachussetts Regiment from left to right in perfect order, while in full retreat, and pressed by a victorious enemy, is certainly one of the most remarkable events that has occurred during this war. Their Colonel must have had unbounded confidence in them, or he never would have dared to have given the order. The oldest veterans can do nothing better than this. Such conduct is the last point of perfection reached by veterans after thorough drill, combined with long experience in the field of battle. I should have said, without the least hesitation, that the order for such a movement, while in retreat and under fire, to any volunteer regiment which had been only a few months in the field, would have been equivalent to an order to " break ranks." If the report be true, I doubt not the fact will receive honorable mention at the proper time. Such an example is worth more than the mere looker-on would at first suppose. It is most suggestive, and sets one thinking.

The Fifteenth and Twentieth Massachussetts regiments are officered chiefly by young Harvard men, fresh from a life of wealth and ease ; they showed at this battle the grit that is in them, and justified the Loungers motto, "New England never Runs !"


BRIGADIER-GENERAL LOVELL H. ROUSSEAU, whose portrait we publish herewith, was born in 1818, near Benjamin Logan's celebrated station, or fort, in Lincoln County, Kentucky. He is descended from a Huguenot family, who fled from persecution at home, and settled in America at a very early day. His father died when young Rousseau was but thirteen years old, leaving a large and dependent family. The subject of this sketch enjoyed but few advantages of early education. He is emphatically a self-made man. In 1840 he removed near Louisville, and began the study of law without an instructor. Subsequently he settled in Indiana, where he was elected successively to the State Legislature and Senate. He commanded a company in the Mexican war, and fought gallantly at the battle of Buena Vista. In 1849 he returned to Louisville, and rose rapidly to distinction at a bar rich in ability. He was a member of the Kentucky State Senate at the time our present national troubles began, and immediately took a bold and decided stand in favor of the Government. In June, 1861, he resigned his seat in the Senate, and applied for a commission to raise volunteers. Against the remonstrances and determined opposition of nearly all the prominent men of Kentucky he succeeded in raising two splendid regiments, composed entirely of Kentuckians, called the Louisville Legion. It was those troops, aided by a battalion of Home Guards from Louisville, that lately saved that city from falling into the hands of the rebels. Rousseau and Prentice, of the Louisville Journal, are to-day the saviours of Louisville and of Kentucky. General Rousseau has just been promoted to be Brigadier-General of Volunteers.


Colonel Devens
Lovell Rousseau



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