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    [Battle of Ball's Cross Roads]. Union Soldier's Letter by David Evans, First Sergeant in the 35th New York Infantry. 12 pages on three bifolia, 7.75" x 9.75", the first sheet showing a view of Washington, D.C., with the Capitol of the United States in the foreground. Fort Morgan, Maryland; September 1, 1861. Writing to an unnamed correspondent, Evans provides a detailed account of the 35th Infantry's actions in the Battle of Ball's Cross Roads.

    Early in his letter, Evans describes the Infantry's campsite, earthworks named Fort Morgan, "in honor of the Governor [Edwin D. Morgan, Governor of New York]. " The fort was "in the form of half an octagon cut in the rear....Made of earth about twelve feet thick with ditch eight-feet deep and twelve feet wide surrounding it on five sides. The back is enclosed by a stockade made of oak logs set on end with loop holes cut for muskets. The other five sides are about eight feet high. It mounts seven guns at present-but will soon have more."

    On the road to Falls Church, Virginia, Evans describes an incident in which he and several other soldiers thought they were sneaking up on sleeping Confederate pickets in an empty house: "...I went around the back of the house followed by four or five boys who were not-just then on duty. Geo. Pointed out the house and I approached very cautiously sticking out my head and ears as far in advance as I could. Soon I heard the snore and went stealthily towards the sound which seemed to proceed from the log house. I soon reached the house and was still uncertain. I then opened the door expecting, perhaps, a dozen or more rebels would rush out at us, but on listening attentively and looking around in the house I discovered that the snoring came from behind the house. I then cautiously took the survey of the back side of the building and discovered the cause of our uneasiness, a few pigs were asleep and making a noise as pigs will sometimes resembling a 'human snore.'"

    Soon after this non-event, the 35th Infantry saw its first action when it spotted several companies of soldiers emerge from behind a hill and form into a column preparing to attack. Not sure they were Confederates or Union soldiers, the Sergeant-Major of the 12th Regiment commanded the approaching soldiers to halt. Thus began the Battle of Balls Cross Road: "the commander of the column told him to throw down his arms or they would fire, and at the word 'fire' they sent a volley of balls into the woods. One struck him in the thigh. One man never returned, this took place about rods from where we stood. The captain then told us to fall in and retreat for we were not strong enough to hold the [?], especially as we saw those who were on the hill and whom we now knew to be Rebels coming towards us. We left in good order slowly but left our pickets still on their posts where they would be taken or shot in a few minutes. I told the captain that it was an outrage to leave our men there and they ought to be called in. The Lieutenant then detailed me to rescue them. When we (the pickets) got up on the high ground and out company had retreated about a mile towards home we stood on the hill and watched the rebels. We discovered that all the troops in sight-both on the hill back of the house and those approaching us were Rebels. They marched up the hill and had a sham battle among themselves on purpose to draw us to the assistance of one of the parties, but the scheme did not work. We also saw a Rebel Field officer marching a Regiment to flank on the other side, and we concluded that it was time to leave.

    Our forces retreated about one mile and formed in a piece of woods on both sides of the road through which the Rebels must pass to get to Balls Cross Road. Shortly they came and about one Thousand strong (there was not a hundred of us) hooting and yelling like so many fiends. When they fairly got into the woods where they knew we were for we were formed right across the road. We poured a volley into them that made them reel. We then retreated firing continually so as to hold them in check until (don't think I misspelled that word) we could get reinforcements after fighting a couple of hours during which time we had been driven about a quarter of a mile the enemy fell back. Our loss was two killed and three wounded. We were under cover of the trees nearly all the time so that our loss is very small. The loss of the enemy we can bot know but it must be considerable. Thus ended the first skirmish that I was ever in.

    Near the end of this fascinating letter, Evans mentions usage by Union forces of balloons: "Every evening there is a balloon ascension near us every evening. Night before last it ascended at Balls Cross Road when the rebels shot-rifled cannon balls at it but did no damage."

    Finally, Evans passes on news of extraordinary - and false - rumors that were swirling about camp regarding General Irvin McDowell: "It is reported here that Gen. McDowell is under arrest. Was arrested last night by order of McLellan [sic] for allowing the Rebels to approach so near and fortify the hills about here when he had command of this Division. It is all rumored and generally believed that he has been ordered under arrest by the President for losing the battle at Bull Run. Where he is said to have thrown away the battle and is charged with being bribed by Davis to give the battle to the Rebels. The evidence against him on this last charge is said to be overwhelming."

    Condition: The letter has horizontal folds which do not affect text. The second bifolium has two very small holes at the intersection of the folds and the hinge. The third bifolium has a partial separation at the hinge. The ink has faded on the first and last pages, but remains legible.

    More Information:

    David Morris Evans (1831-1924) was born in Albany, New York, graduated from Williams College in the same class with future President of the United States James Garfield, and became a successful lawyer and journalist. He enlisted for two years in the 35th New York Infantry in Le Roy, New York, on May 9, 1861 at the age of 29. He mustered into Company A of the Infantry as a musician on June 11, 1861. Later transferring to Company I, Evans was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on November 1, 1861, to a Major on January 1, 1863, and to a Lieutenant Colonel in February 9, 1863. He mustered out of the 35th Infantry on June 5, 1863 at Elmira, New York. Evans then commenced service with the 20th New York Calvary as a 1st Lieutenant and later was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment, which was one of the first Union Army unites to enter Richmond, the Confederate capital, in April 1865. Evans was reported to have ordered the American flag to be raised over the city courthouse. After the war, Evans moved to Minnesota, and died in Minneapolis at the age of 93.

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    April, 2016
    5th Tuesday
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