A Trip on picket — view of Washington.
correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.
Near Fairfax Court-House, Sept. 12, 1861.
On Friday, the 5th of this month, our regiment was ordered to leave its encampment near Fairfax Court-House, and go up towards Washington
on picket duty.
The day upon which we set out was pleasant, and although the roads were quite muddy from the recent rains, we had a much more agreeable march than we anticipated.
Our officers were kind in permitting us to avail ourselves of the side walks upon the turnpike, some of them walking for the weary to ride, and others administering to our comfort by passing up and down the line and treating us to peaches, pears and melons they had bought upon the way. Our captain is peculiarly good at this, and I think he has found out the true secret of governing his men. We passed Fairfax Court-House with our spirits much more elated than when we retreated from that place at the approach of the ‘"Grand Army"’ on Wednesday, the 17th of July. With ‘"arms at will"’ and ‘"route step,"’ and many a joke and heartylaugh, we wended our way towards the ‘"city of the Great King."’
The country in front rises in beautiful undulations until the hill region of the Potomac
forms a vast amphitheatre, in which are to be seen clusters of chestnut, skirts of cedar, dispersed in various profusion, cultivated fields of corn and buckwheat in full bloom, stately mansions, and orchards laden with delicious fruit.
Near the road, we observed some few abandoned houses of noble souls who had left all for the sake of the Union
, and are ready not only to sacrifice their property but their lives and sacred honor in defence of a political and military despotism, for which their fathers did not fight.
After stopping to rest several times and filling up our canteens with good cool water, we came in sight of Falls Church
, distant about ten miles from our encampment.
This is a neat village, containing about twelve families and four churches, at one of which it is said that General Washington
often attended service.
The boundary line of the original District of Columbia runs just beyond Falls Church
After passing the line stones of this District, now called the County of Alexandria
, we marched about three quarters of a mile and stretched our arms upon Brandymore Castle
, near the Alexandria
The eagerness and anxiety of our soldiers here to see the Yankee Capital
surpassed all bounds.
It was almost impossible for the military authorities to keep their men in camp.
The nearest point from which a view of Washington
could be had was from Upton's Hill
, a place of much interest, as it is owned by the present Black-Republican Congressman
from the disloyal portion of Virginia
's residence is pierced by two cannon balls, fired into it by the Washington Artillery, when they drove the enemy off the hill some ten days ago. The writer of this article, as he now stands upon this lofty eminence and facing the Potomac
, can see the stupendous dome of the Federal Capitol
far beyond and overlooking Arlington Heights
The colors of the stars and stripes floating droopingly over the doomed city, contrasts finely with the deep blueish green of the forests of the Maryland Heights
that lie far beyond, looming up with magnificent grandeur above all surrounding objects.
On the Maryland
side, below the Capitol
, appears the Lunatic Insane Asylum
, a large, red, brick building, said to have been built by charitable contributions.
Further back upon the heights is the residence of Mr. Seaton
, the well known editor of the National Intelligencer.
It is a magnificent palace, and in some respects resembles the Capitol
The breastworks of the enemy can be distinctly seen about three miles off, and sentinels standing upon post.
With the aid of the telescope, an officer upon horseback appears far in the distance under the United States
flag, brandishing his sword and giving orders to his men. Away he dashes off at full speed, swearing, no doubt, eternal vengeance upon the ‘"rebels,"’ and exhibiting at the same time his wonderful capabilities of making another glorious retreat.
A sentinel of Abe appears to the naked eye to the left, walking upon the top of a large framed house.
A very large schooner, with its sails in full blast, is seen lying quietly upon the bosom of the Potomac
The smoke from the steamers as they run up and down the stream, indicates their course by the cloud-like columns that hang heavily above the forests.
Upon the Georgetown Heights
appears the Soldiers' Home, breaking the horizon on the left.
Its elevation and the purity of the surrounding atmosphere renders it a favorite resort for distinguished individuals during the summer season.
The lofty spire of the Episcopal Theological Seminary, near Alexandria
, appears to the naked eye from almost every hill in this region of country, and when viewed with the telescope it shows itself to be a building of nice proportions and exquisite finish.
The balloon of Professor Lowe
can be seen regularly twice a day making observations upon our movements.
The Washington Artillery shot at it a few days ago, and it has been very cautious ever since in peeping over the trees at us. The drums of the enemy keep up almost an incessant beating day and night.
There are various conjectures what it all means.
It has been thought that every man who threw away his gun at Bull Run
has been promoted to the office of drummer.
We can hear the Yankees
play ‘"Dixie"’ upon their brass band, and occasionally they give us a touch of ‘"Yankee Doodle
."’ The town clock strikes within hearing of our pickets when everything is still at night.
's and Mason's Hills are to the right of Upton's Hill
Both are occupied by our soldiers.
The former is almost destitute of foliage and undergrowth, while the latter is covered with large and shady trees.
Between these hills and the entrenchments of the enemy is comparatively a level portion of land, bare in some places and in others covered with growing crops and original forests.
The pickets of the two contending armies advance several hundred yards beyond their respective breastworks, and take every advantage possible of every stump, rock, ravine or hill to get a shot at each other.
The distance is so great that it rarely happens that any one is injured by this useless kind of warfare.
It is to be hoped that the officers on both sides will put a stop to this species of fighting, which resembles more the practice of the speaking savage than the open hand-to-hand fight of civilized nations.
The pickets have had many a skirmish over the peach orchards between their lines.
Our soldiers have had a feast of fat things which were intended for the Washington
market, and they esteem it a frolic to go in sight of the enemy on picket.
Yesterday, while on duty, Capt. Wall
, of the Prospect Company
, brought in two bipeds of General Scott
They had the ‘"sweet German accent,"’ and, as we could not understand their ‘"musical lingo,"’ we had to use an interpreter to learn from them, what we knew before, that they were fighting for pay. While we were looking over at the enemy, and lying carelessly about our posts, some six or eight cannon balls came over our heads and took us by surprise.
gallantly came to our assistance with the balance of the regiment and a display of artillery, as if for battle, whereupon they kept remarkably quiet the rest of the day. Capt. Spencer
, (Company K,) with ten men as a body guard, meantime performed a hazardous enterprise.
Several females, frightened by the firing of the artillery, passed out of our lines, and had gone through a skirt of woods, occupied partly by our men and partly by the enemy.
For fear that they would give important intelligence to the enemy, the Captain
determined, if possible, to bring them back.
After advancing to a house in the open field, where he supposed them to be, several of our boys noticing a squad of men in Yankee garb making towards the Captain
, with their guns ready to shoot, brought two to the ground and received their fire without effect.
As the door was closed against the party, and as it was not known in what numbers the enemy might be on their own ground, it was thought best to retire.
Enough at present.
When we take Washington
, I'll write again.
H*****, 18th Reg't, Co. K.