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[287] in full flame, bridges and machine-shops just blown up, other incendiary fires gleaming in the distance; in short, a rapid, utter, and utterly successful evacuation of the Bull Run defences, town, forts, bridges, huts, railroads, and all!

This morning, then, after breakfast with hospitable artillerists, and a resort to first principles in the currying of horses — that is, each man to take care of his own steed — we of the press had something to stimulate us on a forced ride to Centreville, seven or eight miles yet ahead. I say we, for by this time four newspaper men found themselves together. And what a glorious morning ride! Skies warm and bright, air deliciously reminding us of the last time we went over this same road; of last July, and the march to Centreville, the old skirmishing, the gleaming foe ahead, the quick, warning bugle order to halt or go forward. Was it a year ago? Say rather yesterday, we thought, and that McDowell, not McClellan, was still leading the onset. Had the battle of Bull Run been fought, or did we dream of such a contest and defeat, and were we now going to test those fastnesses again, and make the actuality have more noble ending than the dream? For even now, as such thoughts would occur at sight of every familiar creek and grove, we met McDowell, stern and courtly, just as he rode a year ago, riding back toward Fairfax at the head of his staff. He had been thus early forward, to make assurance of the evacuation doubly sure, and was rejoining his division — most of which we had left behind, now being at last on the front of our lines, and eagerly dashing onward to the first glimpse of those high, sandy, strongly-defended Centreville ridges, which had kept the grand army so long at bay.

On the route we met picturesque groups of contrabands, who had all night been facing toward the free northern star. Uncle Toms, Georges, and Topseys, bundle-laden and kerchief-turbaned, escaping from vassalage, refusing to believe the fearful stories told them of the cruelties of the Lincolnites, and trusting, good-hearted, kindly children, to find rest and comfort somewhere out of the Old Dominion and on the soil where all who tread are henceforth, thank heaven, forever free.

On the route, too, we began to thrid long open fields, where a year ago those dense thickets of pine and oak were standing, and to see here and there the outmost rebel winter quarters. And now to perceive great changes and encounter real surprises. The rebel army has been housed far more comfortably than our own. The advance camps we passed were deserted little villages, with tidy streets, lined with neat, substantial, weather-proof huts. From the outpost camps, and, in fact from all except those in the extreme rear, every vestige of late occupation had been skilfully swept away.

Centreville at last! There it lay, completely fronted and flanked by the earthworks of which so much has been rumored; there it lay, on the long ridge before us, and a long, dangerous natural glacis stretching a mile betwixt our standpoint and the parapets. There were five or six forts, directly in sight, with yawning embrasures, and interconnected by rifle-pits and covered ways, extended along the very height which I weeks ago indicated, from recollection, as the probable location of these defences. Up the opposite hill we dashed, cheering the Stars and Stripes, which a Federal soldier was at the moment waving from the nearest structure.

A ride of a mile from right to left of the defences skirting the village evolved the facts that the site of their line was well chosen; that the works, though neither casemated nor bomb-proof nor neatly finished, are almost as well adapted to their intention as our own on the Potomac, and that their natural advantages are superior. The five forts within sight of the turnpike are lunettes, and double lunettes, stockaded inside, and with fascine and sand-bag lined embrasures. Not a gun was visible in any of them. From information furnished by Centreville residents, I am confident that no heavy siege-guns have ever been trained in these defences; but that the regular field-batteries of the rebels were placed inside them, ready for action or removal at a moment's notice. The range of these outer defences continues at intervals until Union Mills is reached, eight miles to the south, on the Occoquan. Here night before last the rebels blew up the railroad-bridge, (on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad,) and the explosion was heard by our pickets at Sangster's Station, and understood as indicative of what has since taken place.

Without much delay, wishing to see as much as possible in this one day, I rode through Centreville, making brief enquiries of the few people left. First I stopped at the house of Mr. Grigsby, who had bet, on the evening of the twenty-first of last July, that I would not come back within a year. Poor fellow! He was not in his quaint old mansion to pay his lost wager. The rebels, retreating after plundering almost all his personal property, had forced him to evacuate with them — sorely against his will, as a faithful old slave assured me.

Still onward, and now down the Warrenton turnpike — that route of the ever-memorable re treat — to revisit the battle-field of Bull Run.

A ride of four miles, not as of old, between fenced and fruitful wheat-fields, but between bar ren stretches, covered with interminable rebel huts, brought our party to the gorge where Tyler fired his first gun on the morning of that Sunday battle. We were now far ahead of the army's vanguard. Cols. Davies and Kilpatrick, of the Harris light cavalry, had indeed assured us of their last night's presence at Manassas Junction, and of the departure of the “last of the rebels.” So excitement and curiosity got the better of caution, and we pushed forward to the Stone Bridge, intending to go as nearly as possible over the path of the never-forgotten contest — though not having time to follow the extreme flank movement executed by Hunter's column as the chief portion of that day's drama.

Well, the battle-field was before us and around us; less changed in the appearance of its thousand


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