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 of fifty, a quarter part of which, you will see, was from the unfortunate mistake, to call it by no worse name, of Colonel 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 Lieutenant Grebie, of the Second Artillery,who went out with Colonel 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. Our officers have learned wherein their organization and drill are inefficient.
While waiting for the official reports, 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,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF VIRGINIA,
Fortress Monroe, June 16, 1861.
GENERAL: Upon examination of the official reports of the officers commanding the various corps who were engaged in the skirmish at Big Bethel, I find nothing to add or correct in my former dispatch, in so far as relates to the dispositions for the attack. It now turns out beyond controversy, as I deem, that the firing was commenced upon Colonel Townsend's by Colonel Bendix's men. It is not so certain whether Colonel Bendix gave the order to fire or not, although the evidence is strong upon the point that he did so.
Of was evidently a mistake, and in spite of the precaution that, before any order to fire was to be given in the dark, the watchword "Boston" should be shouted, and that Colonel Townsend's men should be distinguished by a white badge upon the arm, with which order Colonel Townsend complied. Lieutenant Greble, of the Second Artillery (regulars), whose loss as a gallant officer, thorough soldier, and amiable man we all must deplore, was with Colonel Bendix's command and participated in the mistake of Colonel Bendix, as I am informed by the colonel's report. Colonel Townsend has desired a court of inquiry for the purpose of investigating this transaction, with which request, as soon the exigencies of the public service will permit, I shall comply.
As I stated in the former report, this attack was not intended to enable us to hold Big Bethel as a post, because it was not seriously in our way on any proposed road to Yorktown, and therefore there was never any intention of maintaining it, even if captured. The length of the road and the heat of the weather had caused great fatigue, as many their thickest clothing I take leave to assure you that every precaution had been taken to prevent notice to the enemy of our approach. A picket guard had been sent out on the night before at 10