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The fight was furious; but the old flag steadily advanced, and by five o'clock in the afternoon, our troops, having driven the enemy before them, reached their boats.
While the troops were embarking, Grant sent out a detachment to bring in the wounded. He had posted a battalion in the morning as a reserve, who, when they saw the main body returning, thought it proper for them to return also without special order. They had done so, and without reporting to any one, - so little were our citizen-soldiers then accustomed to military forms. They could fight and die for the good cause ; but military experience they did not possess. Grant, supposing them still in position, rode back, with only a single member of his staff, to order their return. Suddenly he came upon the whole rebel line, now re-formed to advance, and not fifty yards distant. He was an excellent mark for the rebel sharpshooters; but le stopped, looked at the situation, then turned his horse, and rode slowly back to avoid an appearance of laste. Gen. Polk, who had seen him, called to his men, “ There is a Yankee, if you want to try your aim!” But the bullet destined to kill Grant was not there ; and he rode slowly back until nearing the boats, when the leaden rain hurried his horse into a gallop ; the animal fairly sliding down the river's bank on his haunches.
A plank was quickly thrown out from one of the boats, over which he trotted his horse; the balls now
field, borrowed a rifle, asked permission to join a Michigan regiment, and fought in its ranks throughout the day. He is now Grand Commander of the Army of the Republic.
flying around him in all directions.
The transports moved off towards Cairo; and the gunboats, by way of farewell, opened on the rebel force, now thronging the shore, with grape, canister, and five-second shells, which scattered them with terrible slaughter. The Federal loss was about four hundred men. The Rebel force was about seven thousand : their loss, as admitted by Pollard, was about seven hundred killed, and one hundred and seventy-five more taken prisoners.
The battle was of much importance: it gave our fresh recruits confidence in themselves and in their leader. One incident in connection with this battle shows the nature of civil wars, which place friend against friend. Col. Wright of Tennessee, and Col. Fouke, had been friends in Congress. When they separated at Washington the preceding spring, Wright said, “ Fouke, I expect our next meeting will be on the battle-field.” They parted: one followed the flag of treason; the other, the flag of his country. Their next
1 meeting was on the field of Belmont, where Wright was killed, and sixty of his men taken prisoners by Col. Fouke's regiment.
The next day, the following order was read to the troops :
The general commanding this military district returns his thanks to the troops under his command at the battle of Belmont on yesterday.
It has been his fortune to have been in all the battles fought in Mexico by Generals Scott and Taylor, save Buena Vista ; and he never saw one more hotly contested, or where troops behaved with more gallantry.
Such courage will insure victory wherever our flag may be borne and protected by such a class of men.
To the brave who fell the sympathy of the country is due, and will be manifested in a manner unmistakable.
U. S. GRANT, Brig.-Gen. commanding.
The same day, Grant wrote a private letter to his father, giving an account of the battle, from which the following extracts are taken :
“The whole command, with the exception of a small reserve, was then deployed in like manner, and ordered forward. The order was obeyed with great alacrity; the men all showing great courage.
I can say with great gratification, that every colonel, without a single exception, set an example to their commands, that inspired a confidence that will always insure victory when there is the slightest possibility of gaining one. I feel truly proud to command such men.
“ The object of the expedition was to prevent the enemy from sending a force into Missouri to cut off troops I had sent there for a special purpose, and to prevent re-enforcing Price.
“ Besides being well fortified at Columbus, their numbers far exceeded ours; and it would have been folly to have attacked them. We found the Confederates well armed and brave. On our return, stragglers that had been left in our rear (now front) fired into us, and more recrossed the river, and gave us battle for a full mile, and afterwards at the boats when we were barking.
“ There was no hasty retreating or running away. Taking into account the object of the expedition, the victory was complete. It has given us confidence in the officers and men of this command, that will enable us to lead them in any future engagement, without fear of the result.”
Much importance had been attached at the War Department to retaining the recruits in camps, and making no movements until they had been thoroughly drilled and manquvred: but, after the battle of Belmont, Grant always entertained and acted on the opinion that such delay was useless; that, where both parties are inexperienced, nothing is gained by delay.
N the 31st of August, Fremont issued his cele
brated order, declaring the slaves of rebels free
men, as follows:
“ The property, real and personal, of all persons in the State of Missouri who shall take up arms against the United States, or shall be directly proven to have taken active part with their enemies in the field, is declared to be confiscated to the public use; and their slaves, if any they have, are declared to be free men.”
This was a blow aimed directly at the very heart of the Rebellion. Fremont was born in South Carolina, and knew slavery thoroughly. But the country was not ready for this. The Union must be preserved; but
; slavery must not be harmed. President Lincoln directed the withdrawal of the order. Fremont requested that this should be done by the commander-in-chief; and Mr. Lincoln accordingly overruled it. Three years more of war and suffering were required before it was seen that God had his purposes in this civil conflict; and one of these was to let the oppressed go free.”
Two days after the battle of Belmont, Nov. 9, Gen. Fremont was superseded by Gen. H. W. Halleck,