CAMP PIERPONT, VA., October 24, 1861.
After waiting all day in momentary expectation of orders to advance, we were informed this evening that the movement was postponed. I am of course in ignorance of what was in contemplation, but presume our movement had reference to what has taken place on the river above us. You are doubtless apprised of the disastrous affair that has occurred there with part of Stone’s and Banks’s commands. As far as I can gather, an unauthorized scouting party reported a small body of the enemy, when an attempt was made to capture them, which resulted in our people, eighteen hundred strong, being driven back into the river, where many lives were sacrificed and prisoners taken. The whole affair was a bungle from the beginning. First, in the officer's sending out a scouting party without authority; second, in not reinforcing him when it was found the enemy were in force. The worst part of the business is that at the very time our people were contending against such odds, the advance of McCall's Division was only ten miles off, and had we been ordered forward, instead of back, we could have captured the whole of them. Of course, we were in ignorance of what was going on, and I presume McClellan was not fully advised of what was taking place, or he would have undoubtedly sent us on. I suppose they concealed from him the true state of the case, and made such reports that induced him to believe all was going well. Such contre-temps are very demoralizing, and particularly unfortunate at this juncture, when we are meeting with so many reverses on a small scale.
I should like to know what John Markoe says of the affair at Edwards’1 and Conrad’s Ferry.1 I was glad to see his name was not among the casualties. Baker2 was colonel of the regiment he was attached to. Wistar,3 the lieutenant colonel, is said to be mortally wounded. It is reported that out of the eighteen hundred who crossed the river, only three hundred got back, the balance being either killed, drowned, or prisoners. The weather has been very disagreeable, first raining hard day and night, and now very cold, with high northwest winds. The men in consequence suffer a great deal, particularly on the march, when we go without tents or shelter of any kind.
1 Engagement at Ball's Bluff, Va., October 21, 1861.
2 Edward D. Baker, colonel 71st Regt. Pa. Vols.
3 Isaac J. Wistar, lieutenant-colonel 71st Regt. Pa. Vols.
SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 225-6