Comments on Mr. Russell's letter: from the Chicago Tribune.
's letter to the London Times
, the greater part of which we transferred to our columns yesterday morning, is, in many respects, a remarkable paper.
We enjoyed the privilege of riding from a point a couple of miles east of Centreville
, to another point east of Fairfax Court House, with Mr. Russell
, and when he tells what took place on that bit of road, we are competent judges of his truthfulness and fairness as a descriptive writer.
We do not know and do not care what he saw, or says he saw, of the fight and the flight, before we found him; but from the errors and misstatements in that portion of his narrative with which we are immediately concerned, we should be justified in believing that he was not at the battle at all, and that the materials for his letter were gathered from some Fire Zouave or a private of the Ohio Second, who left, terror stricken, in the early part of the fray, and carried the fatal news of the rout and the race to the credulous rear.
We left Centreville
without, knowing that a repulse had been felt, or that a retreat to that point had been ordered.
Jogging leisurely down the Washington
road, perhaps ten minutes--certainly not more — ahead of Mr. Russell
, we saw nothing of the flogging, lashing, spurring, beating, and abandoning that he so graphically describes.
The road was as quiet and clear as if no army were in the vicinity.
A mile from Centreville
we met that New Jersey regiment, a private of which, Mr. Russell
says, threatened to “shoot him if he did not halt.”
The officers were turning back the few fugitives, not a dozen in all, that were on their way in; but, recognized as a civilian, as the Times
correspondent must have been, we passed to the rear unchallenged.
, at that moment, could not have been half a mile behind us. Pushing on slowly we were overtaken by Col. Hunter
's carriage, in which he, wounded, was going to the city.
saw it, or says he saw it, attended by .an escort of troopers, at the bead of whom was a major, who “considered it right to take charge of his chief and leave his battalion.”
We saw no troopers nor major.
Hon. Isaac N. Arnold
, of the House
, was riding by the side of the vehicle, and he, a smooth-faced gentleman, in the garb of a civilian, may have been mistaken by our “own correspondent” for a doubtful man of war. Possibly two miles and a half from Centreville
, we stopped at a road-side farm house for a cup of water.
While drinking, Mr. Russell
We recognized him, rode along, and were soon engaged with him in a discussion of the causes of the check — it was not then known to be any thing more; and, in his company, we went on through Fairfax
, in all a distance, perhaps, of six or eight miles; and we can affirm that not one incident which he relates as happening in that stretch, had any foundation in fact.
We saw nothing of that Englishman of whom he says:
It was about this time I met a cart by the roadside, surrounded by a group of soldiers, some of whom had “69” on their caps.
The owner, as I took him to be, was in great distress; and cried out, as I passed, “ Can you tell me, sir, where the Sixty-ninth are?
These men say they are cut to pieces.”
“I can't tell you.”
“I'm in charge of the mails, sir, and I will deliver them if I die for it. You are a gentleman, and I can depend on your word.
Is it safe for me to go on?”
Not knowing the extent of the debacle, I assured him it was, and asked the men of the regiment how they happened to be there.
“Shure, the colonel himself told us to go off every man on his own hook, and to fly for our lives,” replied one of them.
The mail agent, who told me he was an Englishman, started the cart again.
I sincerely hope no bad result to himself or his charge followed my advice.
We rode into Fairfax
I reached Fairfax Court House; the people, black and white, with anxious faces, were at the doors, and the infantry under arms.
I was besieged with questions, though hundreds of fugitives had passed through before me.
It is a small matter, this, but it marks the accuracy of the man. Not a question was asked of Mr. Russell
nor of us; not a “fugitive,” we dare affirm, had passed that way; the infantry — another New Jersey regiment, if we are not mistaken — were at their usual evening parade, supposing, no doubt, that their companions in arms had won a great victory.
At one house I stopped to ask for water for my horse; the owner sent his servant for it cheerfully, the very house where we had in vain asked for something to eat in the forenoon.
“There's a fright among them,” I observed in reply to his question concerning the commissariat drivers.
“They're afraid of the enemy's cavalry.”
“Are you an American?”
said the man. “No, I am not.”
“Well, then,” he said, “there will be cavalry on them soon enough.
There's twenty thousand of the best horsemen in the world in Virginny.”
At the little one-horse tavern in Fairfax