[our own correspondent.]
Fairfax, Oct. 10, 1861.
Desertions are becoming very frequent from the Federal
Yesterday three men came into our lines.
Through the courtesy of Col. S. B. Paul
, the popular Provost-Marshal
of this post, I was allowed to converse with them.
Having been for some time on the out-posts this side of the river, they were not well acquainted with the state of affairs in Washington
, and knew comparatively nothing beyond what could be gleaned from the newspapers.
From a young man of much intelligence, from New Jersey
, I succeeded in getting a few facts that may be interesting.
His name is Wm. S. Clark
, of Newark
, belongs to the 3d New Jersey regiment, and has been five months in the service.
While on picket near Bailey's cross roads, he was detected in giving papers to our men, and was ordered under arrest.
He was court-martialed, but the result of the trial was not known to him, and he was immediately returned to the guard-house.
As there had been so much shooting going on for trivial offences, (I give his own words,) he concluded the safest way was to "slope for the land of Dixie." The next business was to obtain an opportunity, and Clark
"I wanted to wash, and got permission from the officer of the guard to go to the stream and return in three hours. A guard was sent with me, but we procured some liquor, and in a short time he got very drunk, and, while I was washing, fell asleep under a tree.
I took advantage of the chance, and ran to where I had seen some of your pickets.
I waved my haversack to them, and said I surrendered and was a deserter.
They brought me here.
"Soldiers are coming this side the river every day. They are fresh arrivals, but are nearly all drilled.
There is a great deal of cavalry — some say as many as fifteen thousand, and some more.
It is generally thought that Geo. B. McClellan
has 95,000 men under him. General McDowell
has command of a division of the army now in Alexandria
.--Brigadier Generals Kearney
have command of the advance.
"They are responsible for everything outside the fortifications as far as the pickets go General Kearney
's command consists of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th infantry regiments of New Jersey
, battery A of Hoboken
, seven brass pieces, and three or four companies of Colonel Young
's Kentucky cavalry. General Franklin
commands the first division of the army of the Potomac.
His own brigade is composed of four New York regiments, a light battery of more pieces than the Hoboken
battery, and some cavalry.
These generals have been made responsible for all property embraced in their lines.
If any man is caught firing any house, barn, out-building or hay-rick, he is to be shot.
"I cannot notice any diminution in the war feeling, judging from the papers, but I know of many brigades that are opposed to the war. All the New Jersey
papers that spoke against it have been destroyed.
I recollect three now that have been mobbed, the 'Newark Evening Journal,
' the 'Burlington Democrat,
' the 'Trenton Journal,
' and some others, but the names have escaped me. The general impression among the men is that they are going to whip in the next fight, and that it will settle the war. All believe they will be at home by the Christmas holidays.
"The excuse offered by those men who are ashamed of the whipping they got at Manassas
is that the troops were all enlisted for three months, and as their time was out, or nearly so, they did not care to fight.
is very generally liked by the men. He is so kind to everybody and does not only bow and touch his hat, but will converse familiarly with his men. He often rides about amongst them examining the tents and provisions.
The morning that your men left Munson's hill we heard that McClellan
had slept in Fairfax Court-House, and there was great cheering at the news.
I have heard it said that McClellan
is not ready to advance and will not be for two months, and that he will resign if the Administration insists upon it. He wishes to drill his cavalry.
"Our men are well provided with all kinds of equipments, and of the best quality.
Our tents have floors.
We are not allowed straw, but have our heavy over-coats and the large army blankets.
The men grumble most at the meat.
We have nothing but salt junk, that appears to have made several voyages around Cape Horn
Occasionally we get fresh beef.
Most of the brigades have a bakery.
The companies are allowed three cooks each.
The messes are variously divided, but some regiments have company messes.
The living is not very good.
We get but little liquor.
If any person is caught selling it in Alexandria
he is banished — that is a new mode of punishment they have adopted.
Negroes are at once put to work as cooks, officers' servants or teamsters.
They are generally very hard upon them, and are less merciful, I believe, than their Southern masters.
The privates get thirteen dollars a month, and get it in gold every two months. I do not know of anything else that would be interesting to you. --I may say, however, that the fortifications around Washington
and on this side are very strong.
Heavy guns are mounted on them.
Some are mined.
I assisted in digging about one hundred feet under Fort Ellsworth
.--There is now a whole brigade of Fire Zouaves.
The New York men now seem the most rabid for the war. Our men are getting a little sick of it."
Some time ago, while the 12th Mississippi regiment were on picket near Springfield
, they were fired at from Fort Ellsworth
At the same time a portion of Col. Seibal
's rifles, the 6th Alabama, both in Gen. Ewell
's brigade, were attacked while on a foraging expedition.
Several shells were fired at them, but all fell short, or burst in the air, missing their mark by at least half a mile.
These shots were fired by McClellan
in person, and did not reflect great credit upon his skill as an artilleryman.
The accuracy with which our officers use their pieces is truly remarkable; for, from the time my friend Colquitt
sent his rifle balls whizzing through the Monticello
from his battery at Sewell's Point
, in every engagement up to the present the enemy have testified to the wonderful manner in which our guns have been handled.
Of the above firing Mr. Clark
"I was standing on the parapet of the fort when Geo. B. McClellan
and his staff came by. He said to me, 'Young man, do you see any men down there?' I replied that I did not. He examined with his glasses and said he saw several. 'Yes,' says he, 'there's a party getting hay. Man the guns, boys; I'm d — d if I don't give them a shot.' I rammed the piece, and McClellan
aimed and fired.
We all saw the shells fell short or burst in the air. The piece was elevated, and the last shot fired at Mason's hill, but we could not see the effect of it."
Since I have been writing the above another man has arrived from Washington
He says McClellan
has near 25,000 cavalry.
The Federals are expecting an advance from us. They do not understand the evacuation of the line of hills by Falls Church
A day or two ago a party of our pickets was wounded by the enemy.
Some scouts crept upon them, and succeeded in capturing two and wounding two others.
One of them was shot through the arm, the other through the chest.
The men were from Shepherdstown
, I believe, and belonged to Stuart
Yesterday, for the first time, the mail was carried to Fairfax Station, and thence to Manassas
, on the cars.
The contract has been awarded, and hereafter letters mailed here before 5 o'clock in the evening will leave for the Station
at 3 the next morning, and arrive in Richmond
the same evening.
This will be a great convenience to the public.
The breaking of a bridge somewhere below Manassas
has interrupted the mails, and for two days we have had none.
The papers have been brought through by couriers.
I understand it will be repaired to-day.
Three hundred and fifty copies of the Dispatch
were sold here yesterday morning in half an hour after they were offered to the public.
When all were gone, fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five cents were offered for a single copy.
A British nobleman is now the guest of General Beauregard
He is Sir James Ferguson
, of Scotland
, a young man of prepossessing appearance, agreeable manners, a member of Parliament, has a fine military education, and, I learn, distinguished himself in the Crimean war. His object is to gain a knowledge of the American
war in all its phases, by personal observation.
Yesterday evening General Beauregard
, his staff, and Sir J. Ferguson
, visited the Washington Artillery.
They mingled freely with the men, and seemed to have a good time generally.
Sir James expresses himself well pleased with our artillery, and says it has more celerity in its movements than the English
The encampments also are laid out in better style.
The infantry he thinks exceedingly good for volunteers.
The stalwart Kentuckians
drew his especial attention, and he spoke highly of the men from that State he had seen in a recent visit.
Prince Polignac seemed to enjoy himself, conversing freely in his own language.
As I write, the 16th Mississippi Regiment, one of the largest and finest in the service, is passing by on the road to Annandale
They go down for five days picket duty.
Last night, as a battalion was passing through the streets, a horse became frightened at the drums, and throwing his rider heavily upon the ground, dashed off in a frightful manner.
The street was filled with wagons and horses.
Plunging through them, he knocked down a soldier, ran over several, and charged into the regiment.
The men brought their bayonets to bear upon him, whereupon the frightened animal leaped over a horse, and filling between two, became entangled in the harness.
He was relieved uninjured; but caused considerable excitement.
The day has been very dull and dreary, and at present a heavy mist, which lacks only the name to be called a shower, envelopes the town.
There is every prospect of a heavy storm to-night.