lay down their arms, stripped themselves of their swords and muskets and hurled them out into the river to prevent their falling into the hands of the foe, and saved themselves as they could by swimming, floating on logs and concealing themselves in the bushed and forest to make their way up and down the river bank to place of crossing.
The instances of personal gallantly of the highest order were so many, that it would be unjust now to detail particular cases. Officers displayed for their men and men for their officers that beautiful devotion which is only to be found among true soldiers.
While these scenes were being enacted on the right, I was preparing on the left for a rapid push forward to the road by which the enemy would retreat if driven, and entirely unsuspicious of the perilous condition of our troops on the right. The additional artillery had already been sent in anticipation, and when I questioned the messenger who left the field about 3 o'clock as to Colonel Baker's position, he informed me that the colonel, when he left, seemed to feel perfectly secure and could doubtless hold his own in case he should not advance. The same statement was made by another messenger half an hour late, and I watched anxiously for a sign of advance on the right,in order to push forward General Gorman. It was, as had been explained to Colonel Baker, impracticable to throw Gorman's brigade directly to the right by reason of the battery in the woods, between which we had never been able to reconnoiter.
At about 4 p. m. I telegraphed I telegraphed to General Banks, requesting him to send a brigade from his division, intending it to occupy the ground on this side the river near Harrison's Island, which would be abandoned in case of a rapid, and shortly after, as the fire slackened above, I awaited a messenger on whose tidings I should give orders either for the advance of Gorman to cut off the retreat of the enemy of for dispositions for the in our present position.
Captain Candy arrived from the field of Colonel Baker a little before 5 p. m. and announced to me the melancholy tidings of Colonel Baker's death, having no news of any further disaster, but stating that re-enforcements were slow. I instantly telegraph to Major-General Banks and the major-general commanding the fact of Colonel Baker's death, and rode rapidly to the right to assume command.
Before arriving opposite the island the evidences of the disaster began to be met in men who had crossed the river by swimming, and on reaching the boat landing the fact was asserted in such a manner as not to be doubted. The reports brought me of the enemy's force were highly exaggerated, it being stated at 10,000 men. I gave orders for the island to be held for the removal of the wounded, established a patrol on the tow-path from opposite the island to the line of pickets near the Monocacy, and returned to the left to secure the troops there from disaster, preparing means of removing them as rapidly as possible.
Orders arrived from headquarters Army of the Potomac to hold the island and Virginia shore at Edwards Ferry at all hazards, promising re-enforcements, and I caused additional entrenching tools to be forwarded to General Gorman, with instructions to intrench and hold out against whatever force might appear.
I should add, that having learned that General Hamilton, with his brigade, was on the march from Darnestown before I left to go the right, I caused orders to intercept him, and instructed him to repair to Conrad's Ferry, where I had orders awaiting him to so dispose of his force as to give protection to Harrison's Island and protect the line of the river.