Army of the Potomac.
[from our own correspondent.]
field from Munson's Hill — the Hill
itself — a soldier's Shelter and Heddquarters — Munson
and Mason's Hill — Lewinsville — a little skirmish — the recent Artillery Duct — Fairfax
Faihfax C. H., Sept. 17, 1861.
The view from Munson's Hill is at this time one of the most interesting, and withal the most picturesque of any I have seen in America
The broad expanse of country that stretches out before you; the succession of hill and valley as far as eye can reach; a foreground of green fields dotted with white farm-houses; beyond it a valley covered with pastures and woodland patches; in the distance the Potomac
glistening the sunshine; the white sails that dot its bosom; the Maryland hills
beyond, and standing out boldly from all the rest — the point of sight in the picture — the dome of the Captitol in Washington
On every side one seen nothing but objects of interest or beauty.
On the left; is Hall's Hill
, and then comes Arlington Heights
From here we trace the Potomac
down by the roofs of the buildings, past the ponderous dome, by the city, the navy-yard, until it bursts into full view just above Alexandria
Below this is a hill from which the woods have been recently burned, disclosing several elegant residences, a camp of some four or five thousand men and a fine fieldfort, built with bastions, and upon which some heavy guns are being mounted.
Rising from the crest of the hill above this, (Shooter's Hill
I believe,) is the tower of the Alexandria
Theological Seminary, from the spire of which the ‘"Stare and Stripes"’ makes some feeble attempt to wave Still lower down can be seen the flag on Fort Ellsworth
; and then the eye glances along the horizon until it rests upon Mason's Hill, only a short distance to our right.
In the intervening valley several other of the Federal
defences can be distinguished, but I know very little of their nature.
In the woods and along the distant hillsides fires are smouldering, from which the smoke rises gracefully and floats away to join the cumulus clouds that sail slowly across the sky. Add to all this the fact that you are within eight hundred yards of the pickets of the enemy, who keep up a continual fire with their long-range rifles, and that there are occasional opportunities of hearing a Minie ball singing over your head, and that there is an extreme probability that the long guns on the opposite fort may send a shell at you, and some idea can be formed of the interest that is attached to this place.
Munson's hill is not much in itself.
It is small, barren, less than two hundred feet in height, and about the shape of half an orange.
A few small oake are standing upon its top, but beyond this there are no signs of vegetation.
Without referring to the military defences of the place, which encircle its head like a crown, I pass to the rear, where the shelters for the men are placed with the regularity of tiles upon a roof.
These shelters are on a simple plan and rude construction.
I will give you the modus operandi
of making them; Drive two forked stakes into the ground a few feet apart, place a pole cross these two, lay rails from this pole to the ground, and then cover with pine boughs.
An armful of straw or a few pine branches will serve as a floor, and then you have a house, if not as comfortable as a hotel, quite as useful to men who go to bed with their boots and spurs on, and who sleep with eyes and ears open.
In the enciente,
upon the crest of the hill, are the headquarters of the post — a little but facing the west, with fewer rails, less pine boughs, and less straw than any upon the hillside.
At its entrace is a 7 by 9 table, and scattered around are two chairs, a few boxes, large rocks, and a stump or two, for the accommodation of visitors.
A fieldglass hangs upon a tree, and the table is ornamented by a cavalry sabre and a pair of spurs.
Headquarters does not hoast of much elegance, but if you are content with soldiers' fare, and wish to meet a few gallant, manly, chivalric fellows, and be met with true courtesy and a hearty welcome, there is the place for you.
The Alexandria and Leesburg turnpike
runs around and partly over the hill, and then sweeps eastward into the valley towards Bailey's Cross Roads. Just at the foot of the hill is the residence of Munson
, (the former owner,) a barn and other out-houses.
and his family have taken refuge with their Yankee friends, having followed, in company with many of his neighbors, the fortunes of the ‘"grand army."’ The legacy he has left has been put to a useful purpose, and will, perhaps, still do us good service as it has done heretofore.
To the right, about two miles distant, is Mason's Hill, the largest and most important of all this line, which, as I have previously stated, is admirably calculated for making a defence against the advance of the enemy, and which can be fortifled until it becomes as impregnable as any position can be made.
It is exactly opposite the fort on Shooter's Hill
, and is, I think, within range of the heavy guns, although no serious damage could be done with them.
The hill is covered by a beautiful oak grove, in the edge of which is the residence of Mr. Mason
, from whom it takes its name.
From this point Washington
is plainly visible, and with a good pair of glasses many of its familiar spots can be distingnished.
One can look down upon Munson
's and Hall
's hills, and it can be seen at a glance that this protects them both, and that guns here could be used to assist in the defence of them, or in rendering them untenable should fortune place the enemy in the positions now held by us. The view from this hill is very much finer than from Munson
's, but on account of the distance, somewhat less distinct and the outline less sharply defined.
It would be a hard task to criticise either, or to institute any comparison between them.
Leaving my hospitable quarters with the Washington Artillery, a party of us rode over to Lewinsville, where the fight took place a few days ago, in order to make a topographical survey of the field.
There are now no relics of the fight, and few evidences that any unusual disturbances had taken place.
We found a party of our pickets at the cross roads busily engaged in chatting with two pretty young ladies, who had walked some distance to bring them a nice dinner and a can of buttermilk.
The pickets sprung to the saddle on our approach, and halted us some yards away, but upon giving the countersign we were allowed to come up. The alarm caused the little rebel hearts to beat rapidly for a moment, but when assured we were friends we were cordially welcomed, and were interested by remarks and criticism upon the character and habits of the Yankee
officers who have frequently visited their house in search of Secessionists.
Bright eyes are dangerous to roaming soldiers, so we tors ourselves away and turned into the fields.--While there we found one or two of the projectiles fired from the enemy's battery, but could find none of the shells that had exploded.
One only had the back part torn off, but both pieces went into the ground together.
Nearly all these shots fell short and lodged in a field immediately in front of our position.
While speaking of this skirmish, an incident connected with it comes to my mind.
Notwithstanding the assertions of the enemy, that they had accomplished their object and were returning, it was evident our men came upon them by surprise, and that the first shot thrown into their midst was what Mr. Richard Surveller
would call a ‘"staggerer,"’ Lt. Hancock
, who was among the advanced pickets, knew nothing of their presence until he found himself a prisoner, and to his utter astonishment surrounded by ‘"the Secessionists."’ He delivered up his sword with some reluctance, and with a sorrowful expression, but when he handed over his sash, his feelings were too powerful to be subdued.--‘"There,"’ said this patriotic man, ‘"there goes nine dashed dollars,"’ and he turned his head to prevent further contemplation of such sacrifice of property.
It was late in the evening when we reached Fairfax
, after an easy ride of eight miles over the road that passes through Vienna
The moon was shining brightly in the sky, and its beams falling through the grand old trees counter changed the road with ‘"dusk and bright,"’ like the mosaic floors of Damascus
The lovely night, the soft September air, she old associations connected with the place, and the fresh incidents of the past few months crowded upon the memory and effectually prevented any labor.
Sitting upon the balcony of our hotel we dreamed half the night away over our cigars, the blue smoke of which, curling around our heads, formed the web and woof of many splendid fancies.
have a saying that it is the true test of friendship to be able to sit in another's company an hour without speaking — to enjoy that secret communion of soul that cannot be expressed in words.
Thus we sat, my friend and I listening to the sounds of the night, when a band of young men struck up a song beneath us, a strangely sweet melody, which fell upon our ears as pleasantly as some barcarole across the lagoons of Venice
, or the serenade from Don Pasquale
heard on a summer night in Havana
The singers were young men from the Seventh Virginia Regiment, and the compliment to the ladies of the house.
They are welcome to the compliment, since we enjoyed the pleasure of litening to the singing.
This will do, I think, for half-past 12--midnight. There are several other things on my note book, but for fear of running out of facts I reserve them for another time.
To close, we will fancy the green curtain descending, and as it gradually unrolls, I step before it with my best bow, and say — good night. G. M.