85.-evacuation of Manassas, Va. March 11, 1862.
The correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer
gives the following account of his exploration of the rebel camps at Centreville
The fortifications at Centreville
look, at a distance, formidable, extending from a point half a mile north of the town, away off to the south as far as the eye can reach.
We rode up to them and found them merely dirt-trenches and sandforts.
They have been evidently laid out by an engineer who understands his business, but have been constructed by men who merely wanted to put in the time.
There has never been a single heavy gun mounted in them.
Embrasures have been made and logs of wood run out in all of them.
All were so arranged, however, that field artillery could be used in them.
The floors on which they could have stood were hemlock boards, one inch thick, and would not have lasted through a single discharge, but would have let the guns down into the sand.
Some of those on the left have wicker-work around the embrasures, which has apparently been done by some old negro basket-maker.
On two of them were raw-hides staked down and sand-bags around the embrasures, but these were intended to rake a storming party should we have marched up in front.
The ditches around them are nicely arranged, so that our troops could have marched down and up the sides readily to make a bayonet-charge.
No timber has ever been placed in front to obstruct a passage, nor were the sides dug perpendicular, but at an angle.
Five of these forts command the road to Centreville
by which McDowell
came in July.
They extend over a line of a mile and a half, and are all connected by rifle-pits dug deep enough to allow artillery to move along behind them without being seen in front, under the protection of sand-banks from four to twelve feet thick.
No precaution appears to have been taken to prevent a flank movement in the rear of Centreville
in anything like such a formidable manner as the front.
The ground to the north is covered with a dense woods and stunted pines.
A few dirt-banks near Centreville
, behind which artillery could have been sheltered, were the only guards on their left.
A piece of dense woods, about a mile and a half from Centreville
, would have afforded us protection from which, with siege-guns, we could have shelled them out in a few hours.
There were a few places where they had had masked batteries in this piece of woods, and they have had a regiment in winter quarters here; but they were only on picket, and could have been easily driven into the Centreville
In the rear of Centreville
was a cavalry camp, and the only shelter for the horses was some cedar-trees, which had been planted so as to protect them from the cold, bleak winds that come whistling down from the Bull Run mountains
How effective it was, can be judged from the fact that in a field but half a mile to the rear lie the carcasses of over a hundred horses, some of them very fine ones, while further down were innumerable horse graveyards, but none of them have been buried.
Overhead an immense drove of vultures was hovering, and the buzzards were evidently anticipating a rich feast, and appeared to be angry at the delay.
To the left of Centreville
was a large number of fine cabins, made of logs, plastered with mud and roofed roughly with shingles; they were in regular rows, and none had been fired.
The grounds around them were quite clean, and we should judge that these had been evacuated by the troops who went home on furloughs — to re-enlist
--none of whom returned.
These huts are better made than those of our own army on the Potomac
, and are now filled by our troops, who are highly delighted with them.
A line of railroad has been built in nearly a direct line from Manassas Junction
, crossing Bull Run
at Blackburn's Ford.
It has been built right along the top of the ground, and contains some pretty sharp curves and heavy grades.
The only bridge on it, which is the one at Blackburn's Ford, and which was merely a frame trestle-work, was fired and burned.
The track remains, however, but is in a dilapidated condition.
The cross-ties are twice the usual width apart, and laid in the sand and swamp without any ballast.
Three or four cars of the M. S. R. R. are broken up and overturned by the side of the track.
No cars were left on it here, and the last train passed over it on Sunday noon.
The telegraph-office here was connected by a single wire with the South
, and the poles bear evidence of its having at one time been extended to Fairfax Court House.
The wire and insulation are all gone, and nothing remains to tell the tale but the bare poles.
The wagon-road to Manassas
has been put in good condition by the plentiful use of planks and logs; through the first piece of woods after leaving Centreville
is a piece of “corduroy road,” which is in terrible condition; the bodies of half a dozen horses who had broken their legs were scattered along the side, a testimony against these wretched inventions.
The road is now in as good condition as it will be at any time for months; it has been widened for teams to pass; or two to go abreast.
The turnpike road to Warrenton
is in as fine condition as it ever was; the fields are in good order for moving artillery, and the side-roads, or those of but little use, are very good.
The roads are
all good after we leave the old lines around Washington
, and have been so for some time.
About noon Gens. McClellan
, with their staffs, and two thousand cavalry for an escort, came up and took the road to Manassas
We fell in with them and followed on down to Manassas
All along to the left of the road was one continuous string of huts, tents, and forts, all empty now — not a human being or animal showed themselves — not a sound save the clatter of the horses' hoofs, the shrill tones of the bugles, or the loud orders of the officers.
At Blackburn's Ford we saw the old battle-field of July eighteenth.
The Butler House
, which was between the two forces and had been riddled with shot and shell, has been repaired.
It was here Beauregard
was dining, and made such a narrow escape at the time.
The tree-tops bear the evidence of the way the shot and shells flew around.
Large limbs were cut off, and tree-tops twisted in a hundred directions, as though struck by lightning.
The woods in which the New-York Twelfth, the First and Second Michigan, and the Massachusetts
First went down has all been cut away, and we can now see where the rebels had their artillery, upon the bank of Bull Run
, behind a breastwork of logs and dirt.
The Washington artillery, of New-Orleans
, and three South-Carolina
regiments, have been encamped near the Butler House
for the winter, but started away some time ago. The artillery left a quantity of harness, etc. None of their tents were destroyed.
Further down are the tents of a whole division, all pitched, as though the occupants had gone home to recruit and reenlist, but had not yet returned.
The plains of Manassas
are really what their name implies.
The time was when there were objects which obstructed the range of vision, but they are all gone now; for miles around we have an unbroken view.
On the hills around are the camps still left, and a column of smoke away off to the right indicated that Manassas
was on fire.
Our cavalry had gone there during Monday night, and found the rear of the enemy still there; but they were firing the remaining property.
A captain, by whose side we rode, told us of piles of new secesh clothes, swords, flags, etc. Galloping ahead of the rest, we reached the Junction
The sight here cannot be portrayed; the large machine-shops, the station-houses, the commissary and quartermaster store-houses, all in ashes.
On the track stood the wreck of a locomotive, and not far down the remains of four freight-cars which had been burned; to the right five hundred barrels of flour had been stove in, and two hundred barrels of vinegar and molasses had been allowed to try experiments in chemical combinations.
Some fifty barrels of pork and beef had been scattered around in the mud, and a few hundred yards down the track a dense cloud of smoke was arising from the remains of a factory which had been used for rendering up tallow and boiling bones.
About a thousand good hides were stretched in a field close by, upon stakes, and remain uninjured.
A car upon the track, which ran to Centreville
, a short distance up, had on it the whole effects of a printing-office, types, cases, all that is needed in an office; a large lot of paper and a Washington press.
The forms had in them blanks for muster-rolls and furloughs.
This car will be a great prize for the regiment into whose hands it falls.
An infantry regiment soon came in and commenced to ransack the tents and remaining stores, for plunder and relics, but the printing-office remained untouched.
Leaving the Junction
, we all rode up to the Bull Run
The different positions occupied by the different forces were explained by Gen. McDowell
They are the same now as when we stood there on that memorable Sabbath.
All was quiet through that now peaceful dale.
The roar of the murderous artillery, the flash of the musketry, and the groans of the wounded and dying seemed to be still ringing in our ears; but the chirping of the tree-frogs, or a solitary bird perched upon a sheltered bush, was all that really broke the stillness.
As we halted for a moment we noticed on the hill-tops a number of empty huts, along the ravines were the strong natural defences so lately garrisoned by the rebel hordes; but they have all gone now. Near the field where Col. Cameron
fell are long and broad trenches, only distinguished as graves by the new-made earth, on which the grass this last summer has refused to grow.
The hill-side where Schenck
led his division under the murderous fire, the ravine where the rebel cavalry outflanked us, the little old negro hut and other buildings they used as hospitals, are still there; the blood-stained floors covered with dirt.
The stone bridge has been blown up, and is now a heap of ruins.
We rode across the field where our Parrott guns were lost, picked up a cannon-ball, and pushed on to Centreville
, reaching here at dark.
The rebel army of the Potomac, from all appearances, has been at times strong in numbers and well entrenched.
They may have had one hundred and fifty thousand men, but we much doubt if they have had over one hundred and ten or one hundred and twenty thousand.
Whether they could have been cut off last fall or this winter, or could have been driven from Manassas
in confusion at any time, is not for us to decide.
Such as they were, they have gone hence.
Contrabands coming in tell us that they said they will make a stand at Warrenton
for the present, but will not fight this side of Gordonsville
, and will force us to come to their mountain fastnesses to meet them.
The rebel Gen. Stuart
was at Gainesville
last night, with the rear of his army, moving swiftly on, impressing all the slaves and driving them on to work on the new fortifications.
Numbers of men suspected of Union sentiments have also been carried away.
Posted on a door of a log-house, where everything had been abandoned in confusion, was the following notice:
New-York world account.
The battle-field of Bull Run.