Following is the after-action report of Captain Lorenzo D. Fletcher, commander of the Minutemen of Attala—the only company of the 13th regiment that fought at Ball’s Bluff—to Col. William Barksdale, commanding the regiment.
Remember that our letter-writer Nimrod Newton Nash and diarist Mike M. Hubbert were both Minutemen privates.
Leesburg, October 22, 1861
Sir: I beg leave to submit the following report of the part my company took in the engagement on yesterday, the 21st, near this place.
In obedience to an order received from you I reported my company numbering about 90 men to Gen. Evans at Fort Evans, who ordered me to advance and skirmish a skirt of woods opposite and near to a small house, said to be Mrs. Jackson’s. Upon my arrival there I encountered the pickets of the enemy, who held a position along a line of fence. They opened a fire upon my company, which was returned, the pickets of the enemy falling back into the field and some of them occupying positions in and around the house of Mrs. Jackson. My company continued to advance until we reached the fence just left by the enemy who continued to fire upon us from the field and house, the fire being constantly returned by my men.
Finding that the enemy were so concealed that they could fire upon me with effect without my being able to reach them, I ordered my men to go over into the field and drive them from it and the house. My order was promptly obeyed by every man except two, who had been wounded. In a very short time we succeeded in driving them from their hiding place and put them to flight, killing and wounding 7 or 8 of their number. Having succeeded in clearing that locality of the enemy, I had done all that I had been ordered to do. After a few moments’ delay I advanced my company across the field in the direction the enemy had taken, but found none of them.
Here I received an order to place my company on the left of the Eighth Virginia Regiment, which was said to be passing through the woods in the direction of the main body of the enemy to give them battle. This I attempted to do, but failed to find the Eight Virginia, but soon a general engagement commenced between the Virginians and the enemy on my right. As soon as I could procure a reliable guide who knew the positions occupied by the contending forces I started to the Eighth Virginia to assist them. Upon my arrival my company was thrown forward into the field side by side with the Eighth Virginia Regiment and a part of the Eighteenth Mississippi Regiment, who had come up also, under command of Major E.G. Henry. Then it was that quite a spirited and hot contest ensued, in which my company acted a conspicuous part. The enemy having a position near a battery of howitzers, an order was given to charge the battery, which was responded to instantly by my company and the Virginians, and I think a portion of the Eighteenth Mississippi. The charge was successful, the guns were taken, several of my men being among the first to reach the guns and take part in their removal. In this charge I suffered no loss except one man (James E. Ballon) who fell mortally wounded, having been shot through the breast while making his way to the guns. At the time he fell he was among those farthest in advance.
Notwithstanding my line had become broken and my men, as well as all others who were here engaged, had become scattered, still none were seen to falter. I continued in the engagement until its close, when I returned with my company to the regiment near Fort Evans.
My loss during the day was 1 killed, 4 wounded; 2 very slightly by pieces of bombs while on our way to join the Eighth Virginia; the other two are not seriously hurt.
It affords me pleasure to be able to truly state that every man in my company, both officers and privates, did his whole duty nobly, willingly, and gallantly.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
McLean’s collected muster rolls do not include Ballon. Howell doesn’t have him, either. McLean does name the four Minutemen who were wounded: Pvt. Charles S. Cone, Pvt. Nimrod Newton Nash, Pvt. Alexander G. Ross, and Pvt. William C. Tipton.
All but Tipton were only slightly wounded, mainly by shrapnel from artillery shells. Tipton was listed as severely injured by a gunshot wound to the right thigh. He was later discharged for disability.
Pvt. Thurman E. Hendricks, whose diary McLean privately obtained for his history of the regiment, said Tipton was wounded in a “friendly-fire” incident when “one soldier loaded and capped his gun and while cocking it let the hammer slip and shot another soldier squatting in front of him.”
Two days after his report, Fletcher, a 32-year-old veteran of the Mexican War, was listed on his muster roll as absent from the regiment on sick leave.