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[68] silence in the despatches and telegrams from the West and South-Western camps of the Federalists which justifies the secessionist rumors of disaster in those quarters. The Confederates by moving out to meet McDowell anticipated the engagement, and brought on the action sooner than he expected, so much so that he was obliged to break up his column, and turn out the regiments right and left as well as he could to bring them into line. It would seem as if they were aware of his plans, for they disregarded the movements on their right, and did not exhibit any activity there till the force opposite their left began to give way, whereupon they made an attempt on the left flank of the Federalists, which added to the alarm of the retiring army.

In my last letter, sent at 4 o'clock on Tuesday morning by special courier to Boston, where it arrived in time for the Wednesday packet of July 24, I brought down my narrative to the Monday preceding, such as it was, and have nothing to add to it of much consequence. One of the first acts of the Secretary of War, on being made aware of the reverse, was to telegraph to General McClellan to come to Washington, and to demand reinforcements from the Governors of the Northern States, as well as to put the authorities at Fort McHenry on their guard against a rising in Baltimore. On Tuesday, the rain having ceased in the morning early, the streets were crowded with baggage carts and with soldiers, who wandered up and down astonishing the natives with anecdotes of battle, and doing any thing but duty with their regiments. These men have now been coerced by the mounted patrols to repair to the rendezvous assigned for them by General Mansfield or to go to durance vile; but for the whole day and night the Capital presented an extraordinary aspect, to which a deeper interest was lent by the arrival of wagons and ambulances of wounded.

Wednesday, July 24.
Before breakfast I rode over the Long Bridge to Arlington. There were groups of soldiers, mostly without arms or belts, some few shoeless, a good many footsore, going along the ground or standing in the streets of the city engaged in the occupation called “loafing” in these parts. Several of the men stopped me to inquire after the different regiments to which they belonged. They were dejected and broken — looking fellows, but, at all events, their mien was more becoming than that of their officers, who are crowding about the hotels and talking of their “whipping” with complacency and without shame. A Washington paper, alluding to the demoralization of the regiments yesterday evening, calls on these officers “to forego one day's duty at the bars and hotels,” and to return to their corps. Thousands of men follow the example of their superiors. The necessities of others compel them to seek out the quarters of their regiments that they may be fed. One man dressed in uniform had the impudence to come into my room to-day, and, after a series of anecdotes, which would furnish a stupendous sequel to Munchausen, as to his valor, “masked batteries,” charges of cavalry, &c., to ask me for the loan of $5, on the ground that he was a waiter at the hotel at which I had stopped in New York. I could perceive by his talk and by that of some other soldiers, the mode in which these stories about “charges” and “masked batteries” are made up. A newspaper reporter is made the victim of some glorious myths by a frightened, intoxicated, or needy warrior, and these are duly made immortal in type. Then hundreds of men, anxious to see what is said about them in the papers, and ignorant as soldiers generally are of the incidents of the affair in which they have been engaged, read of “Black horse Rangers,” “prodigious slaughter,” “Fire Zouaves,” Capt. Meagher, on a white charger, with a green flag, rushing into the midst of inaccessible and impregnable masked batteries, and persuade themselves it is all true, adding to their subsequent narratives such incidents of life and color as may be within their knowledge or imagination. Excitement has a wonderful influence on their perceptive faculties. Great exertions were requisite yesterday to prevent the mob of disorganized soldiers and the rabble from maltreating or murdering the Confederate prisoners, and it was necessary to rescue them by patrols of dragoons. In one instance a Senator informed General McDowell that he had seen the mob with his own eyes hanging a prisoner, and that gallant and generous officer at once rushed off, if he could not rescue, at least to avenge the “rebel;” but on arriving at the place he was happy to find he was in time to shield the man from the violence of the crowd, and that the Senator had mistaken an “effigy” for a human being. Gen. McDowell has been much distressed by the dastardly conduct of some of the beaten troops towards their prisoners, and there have been strange scenes in consequence. “General,” said one man, “had I known this I would have died a hundred times before I fell into these wretches' hands. Let me go free, and let any two or four of them venture to insult me then!” The soldiers are, however, greatly irritated not only by defeat, but by reports of the most horrible cruelties and atrocities towards prisoners and wounded by the Confederates; indeed, if it should be the case that the latter burnt a hospital at Centreville with all the wounded, and that they cut the throats of captives and dying soldiers on the field of battle and in the retreat, the indignation and disgust of the whole civilized world should visit them, and their cause will be marred more by such vile cowardice and blood-thirstiness than ten such victories could advance it. For one, I am loth to credit these stories, but it is only right to say that there are many such current, particularly in reference to the New Orleans Zouaves.

In a previous letter some account was given

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