Doc. 110.-occupation of Big Bethel, Va.
New-York evening post account.
in camp, near little Bethel, Va., March 27, 1862.the reconnoissance of our troops towards Big Bethel has just been completed with the most satisfactory results. Preparations had been made for a movement in force against the enemy at that point, on the supposition that we might encounter a stubborn resistance, but the sudden flight of the rebels left an easy prey to our soldiers. A strong detachment of cavalry, infantry and artillery, was detailed for this service; two companies of Berdan's sharpshooters marching in the advance. The expedition was under command of Gen. Fitz-John Porter. Yesterday our skirmishers reported the presence of rebel spies at various points on the road to Big Bethel, and during the march we kept a sharp eye upon every bush and log-house where an enemy might have been concealed, but the rebels carefully avoided us, and nearly all the houses along our route were occupied only by the women and children. A few Union farmers, honest-looking, fat and lazy, regarded our force with interest, as we passed, but said nothing. The face of the country over which we marched was level and beautiful. The road was smooth and solid; so good, in fact, that a rail-track could be laid upon it with little trouble. Several fine mansions, surrounded by spacious grounds, dotted the landscape at intervals, but they were invariably deserted, their owners having taken service in the rebel army or fled at our approach, leaving only the house-servants to take charge of the premises. As we emerged from a stretch of forest through which the highway ran, we saw the red sandbanks of the rebel earthworks at Big Bethel on our left. Information of the flight of the enemy was instantly conveyed to us, and we marched quietly in to take possession. Big Bethel was captured without a blow. The fortifications erected by the enemy were five in number. Three of them were breastworks, each a few rods in length, and mounting one gun. Two others were of greater dimensions, and mounted six guns each. The works were all erected on the left side of the main road, and were flanked on the right by a grove. In  front there is a broad space, sloping to the river, fully commanded by the guns of the works. The place was thoroughly defensible, and had the rebels made a stand, we should have had no little difficulty in dislodging them. A small party of rebels having been observed on the opposite side of the river, our sharpshooters were deployed to pick them off. At the same moment our right flank reached its destination and sent a few shots among the enemy, causing a stampede. Away went the rebels, pell-mell, each for himself. In their retreat they stopped long enough to try to tear up the planks of the bridge, but the bullets of our sharpshooters again fell among them, and the flight was suddenly resumed. Our men followed fast, soon replaced the two or three planks that had been torn up, and tore after the flying men, but the chase was ineffectual. The rebels ran well, and were soon beyond reach. A search of the houses in the village resulted in one curious discovery. Our soldiers entered a small cottage, and were assured that “a sick woman” lay in a chamber; but, having reason to suspect a trick, they explored the premises, and discovered a rebel soldier snugly hidden between the sheets. He was clothed in a gray uniform, and had retired without taking the trouble of removing his boots, which were covered with mud and water. He was seized as prize of war, and conveyed to headquarters, when he acknowledged that he had served in the rebel army from June to October, and had recently been assigned to duty in the works at Big Bethel. Our forces are now in full possession of the place. The force of fifteen hundred rebels who were so summarily driven out, have left the results of their labors for our benefit; and our soldiers, although quite disgusted that they had no chance to fight, are in the full enjoyment of the enemy's resources.