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Ball's Bluff Battlefield and National Cemetery - Wikipedia
He deployed his two companies across the path to protect them as they approached. Lee suggested to Devens that he form a line of battle but Devens did not respond. Rather, after about thirty minutes and without a word to Lee, he marched his troops back up the path out of sight in the direction of his previous position to await orders from Stone. Keep me constantly informed.
Battle of Ball’s Bluff
Devens preferred that those companies join him so he summoned them. By Devens had ten companies of infantry consisting of about men with him. By noon on 21 October Lee had men with him. Thus far COL Baker was not involved in the operation. He told Baker to hold the ground previously taken but not to fight a superior force. Banks to hold their commands in readiness to support Stone should it come to that.
However, any support Stone could expect from that quarter would not be coming quickly as both generals were now quite a march away from Leesburg. This operation was complicated and delayed by the lack of suitable boats for the job, even with the addition of a few newly found boats during the morning. By the afternoon Stone estimated that he was facing a Confederate force of 4,, although the actual number was 1, Baker did not reach the battlefield until about About then Devens and his men returned to the bluff for a second time and Baker congratulated him for his performance that day.
Baker ordered the other colonels to establish a defensive line on the bluff while he summoned reinforcements. Due to a lack of terrain awareness, however, much of the battle line was poorly laid, allowing Confederate forces to approach unseen until they were within yards of the Union troops. Throughout the afternoon Baker moved about the battlefield without regard to his own safety. Stone believed that Baker was advancing, but in reality, Baker was barely holding his own. Some Union units were running out of ammunition and the number of wounded men mounted.
At about Baker was standing in the open conferring with other officers when he was struck down.
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Death of Col Edward D. This attempt to break out was thwarted by Virginians and Mississippians, giving Cogswell no choice but to order a desperate retreat down the bluff. This idea was so repulsive to Devens that he obliged Cogswell to repeat it before witnesses. As darkness fell Union troops fled down the single path that most of them had climbed earlier in the day.
As troops mingled on the narrow bank below small numbers of them—wounded and uninjured alike—crowded into the few available boats for the return trip to Maryland. Confederate riflemen gathered above and began to pepper the federals with small arms fire, causing panic below. Boats riddled with bullets sank and several soldiers jumped into the cold Potomac in the hopes of escaping the carnage. Many were hit by Confederate fire while others simply drowned in the swift current. Bodies of Union soldiers would be found weeks later several miles downstream; many were later recovered from the Potomac around Washington.
Union soldiers are shot down along the bank of the Potomac as they attempt to retreat across the river from the battlefield. At Stone reported the disaster to McClellan and at President Lincoln learned of the death of his friend. Hundreds more were listed as wounded, captured, or missing.
Had Baker survived this battle it would have been merely a footnote of Civil War history. Instead, his death turned this minor defeat into a major controversy that incited contemporaries and has fascinated historians ever since. A life-long politician, Baker was a political leader in Illinois, California, and Oregon before the war. He had a friendship with Abraham Lincoln so deep that the future President named his second son, Eddie, in his honor.
Even though he had been a colonel in the Mexican War, Baker was no military man. He vacated his seat in the Senate to raise a regiment of volunteers in Pennsylvania, and was about to be commissioned as a general officer at the time of his death. The reaction to the battle was immediate and fierce. On the day after the battle Washington newspapers published the text of an order, provided by a Baker subordinate, from Stone to Baker. Several versions of these orders appeared in other papers, including one in the Washington Daily Intelligencer , that directed Baker to use his discretion and warning him to avoid a trap.
Congress was especially upset at the death of a popular former member and some were quick to find fault with Stone.
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Representative P. Although Congressman Shanks did not name Stone, his meaning was clear. Shanks was just one of many voices blaming Stone and demanding that the War Department take action against him. That support was strong but short lived. Soon after the battle McClellan sent a telegram to his division commanders clearly blaming the disaster on Baker while absolving Stone. He addressed the critical issue of whether Baker was given enough boats to bring his men across the Potomac by placing responsibility on Baker.
Stone claimed that Baker knew that there was not enough boats and that he accepted the risk. In this respect he was not unlike Kentucky born President Lincoln. Speculation about his true loyalties was mixed with vague stories that he ordered the return of escaped slaves to their owners. Stone denied any wrongdoing and insisted that his actions were in accordance with War Department directives.
He admitted expelling disruptive escaped slaves from his camps, but denied returning them to captivity.
These letters soon reached the attention of Stone, leading to a bitter exchange of correspondence with Andrews. Andrew eventually turned the letters over to the fiery U. This reputation stemmed partly from a conversation he had with Leonard Swett, a Lincoln friend from Bloomington, Illinois. And so, in December Stone had three problems: he had a unsubstantiated reputation of being a Southern sympathizer; he was a known opponent of the President; and, he was the overall commander of a battle that resulted in the death of a popular former Republican senator.
His reputation, combined with an environment of increasing distrust of West Point graduates, and the Republican frustration with any conciliatory feelings for the South, combined to create unrest in the Congress.