Army of the Potomac.
[our own correspondent]
Another day in this antiquated and half ruined town has made me but little better acquainted with it, or with the character of it inhabitants.
Passing along the main road one sees on either side a Hue of old, dilapidated, and moss-covered houses, with narrow windows, creaking doors, broken shutters, and gable roofs.
The fences are broken down or entirely carried away.
Everything has an air of the past, and there are very few indications of modern thrift or present prosperity.
Formerly it was a place of much note.
But a few years ago the town boasted of ten thousand inhabitants, of an immense trade, both foreign and domestic, of large warehouses, a fine theatre, and many beautiful private residences.
It was a place of great wealth and refinement; and, being a port of entry, great expectations were based upon it, which were never realized.
How its power was destroyed, its wealth lost, its fine buildings carried away, and its bay and harbor filled up by the mountain streams, with earth from the hills, shall be recorded in another letter from this point.
To study all the objects of interest would require time.
There are old churches, old cemeteries, an old court-house, old jail, ancient buildings, and some rare old trees.
An old mill, too, now being fitted up as a hospital, is worth being preserved by pen and pencil, and before a long time passes I hope to visit it again.
For the present I must say good-bye to Dumfries
and pass on to Evansport
Taking a road to the left of the town, across the run, where formerly vessels of medium size discharged their cargoes at well-built wharves, we pass down to a farm house now used as General Trimble
's headquarters.--Tents have been prepared near the batteries, to which the General
and his staff will soon remove.
From here to the river the distance is about three and a half miles, the road passing through an unbroken line of woods until the river comes in view.
To the left of the road is Triplet's hill, upon which "Long Tom" has been mounted to bear upon the channel.
About a thousand yards from the base of the hill, and upon the point at the outlet of Dumfries Bay, is the first of the batteries that have been unmasked and discovered to the enemy.
Below are several more, and, as I have previously stated, situated upon the different headlands.
The locations of these defences are well chosen for the blockade of the river, and, protected by an entrenched camp, are invincible to the assaults of the enemy.
I am firmly of opinion that, taken in connection with a small marine battery, these works form a perfect obstruction to vessels going up or down the Potomac
From Triplet's hill a magnificent view of the country can be obtained.
Looking towards Washington
we see the river curving around a bold point on the Maryland
side, just off which three Federal war steamers are swaying in the wind, watching, with cat-like anxiety, the movements of the batteries below.
Small craft of every variety, sloops, fish boats, and yachts, pass by constantly towards the distant sea, looking like whice-winged pilgrims to some distant land.
shore is quite bold, and the land high as far as the eye can see up and down.
On this side the shore is in some places low, long points or shoals of sand stretching out for some distance into the river.
Generally, the shores are well cultivated; but there is still many miles of forest.
While speaking of the general characteristics of the river and its shores.
I am reminded of a curious old volume which now lies before me. Perfectly charmed with its quaintness, its peculiar style, and ancient dress.
I have been pouring over it for hours.
Reader, do you like old looks ? then read "Blunt's American Coast Pilot." It gives directions for sailing through every bay, and inlet on the American
coast, and gives curious descriptions of the land.--It commences with the following note, written as it will be seen during the war of 1812.
Note by the editor: "It is intended to subjoin a List and Forms of Paners used at the Court-House
; but as it is at present not determined whether they remain as they are; whether any or what alteration is made, it must be postponed till the present deranged state of our (not commerce, for that has again retired from the 'tempestuous sea of liberty,') commercial affairs takes a more favorable 'attitude.' When that long-wished for moment arrives, a correct list will be published, in a pamphlet form, at the Quadrant, 202 Water street, Beekman-ship, and delivered gratis to all purchasers of this work.
"June, 1812. Edmund M. Blunt
In the directions from New Point
Comfort up the Potomac
, he says:
; its entrance is formed by Smith's Point
on the south side, and Point Lookout
on the north side; the distance between these two points is about three and one half leagues.
On Smith's Point
is a light-house.
"If you are bound to St, Mary's river, you must give Point Lookout
, and also the shore about it, a good birth; and when you approach St. George's Island
, you must keep nearer to the main land than to the shoal, which extends from the island.
Your course into the river is N. W., and as it is all open to your view, you may anchor where you please in five or six fathoms water. * * * On the south, or larboard side, there are flats lying off from the shore, which in some places extend nearly one mile; come no nearer them than seven fathoms. * * * Corder Point is on the south side of the Pawtuxent river; the ground is low and sandy, and has some straggling trees standing on it. From this point a flat extends to the eastward, and also to the northward.
On the north side of this river there are high hills called clifts, with trees on them, and from this side also a flat extends, but the shoalings on each side of the channel are gradual, and the ground soft.
In the middle of the channel, there are eight fathoms water. "
He then goes on to speak of several points, and further says:
"You may anchor without these points, or you may go further up the river, always observing the following general rule in all the deep bays throughout Virginia
, namely: To every point, more especially where the land is low, give a good birth in passing, because spits or flats of sand extend from them, and consequently the water is shoal in such places.
"In going into the river you must keep your lead going, and keep in the middle, and go between two points of marsh, and you will have no more than three fathoms between the points — muddy bottom."
I must give one more quotation, even at the risk of becoming tedious to those whose tastes are less antiquarian than my own. In directions for going out of the river, he says:
"In going along on the south side, you shoalen your water from 5 fathoms, haul off to the northward, and keep in about 6 or 7 fathoms till you judge yourself nearly up with Willoughby's Point; go no nearer it than 7 fathoms.
By hauling to the northward you will deepen your water.
On the Horse-Shoe
side the bottom is hard sand, and on the south side it is soft bottom, until drawing on to Willoughby's Point, where it is hard: Therefore, being on the south side when the ground is soft, you may always know, drawing up with Willoughby
's, as soon as you get hard sand bottom.
Then haul off as before directed for Old Point
I have copied these extracts partly from the quaint English
in which they are written, and partly for the general descriptions of the character of the river.
there is but little difference: there are the same hills, woods, and marshes on the shore, and the same "spits or flats" of sand, which extend into the water.
A mile and seven or eight-tenths is, perhaps, the average width of the Potomac
at this point.
The captured schooners.
Looking down from Triplet's hill towards the river a large battery is seen, upon which two Confederate flags are flying.
Between this and the base of the hill is a small cove or bay, in which the two captured schooners are lying.
As I rode up this morning, a party of men were busy in landing their cargoes.--Severals flats had been obtained, and these passed to and from the vessels as rapidly as they could be loaded and unloaded.
The shore was strewn with bundles of hay, and men and teams were hurrying them away to be distributed among the different artillery and cavalry corps.
Entering a long boat a party of us, accompanied by Gen. Trimble
, paid a visit to the prizes.
The larger lay some six or seven yards from the shore, and the other but a few rods distant.
On approaching, we could read the name on the stern of the former, "Fairfax
, N. Y.
" It has been for some time engaged in trade between New York and Washington
, and is one of a regular line of packets owned by Safford
, No. 52 Front street. The agents here are Stephen Shiner, of Alexandria
, and McCobb
The vessel is a topsail schooner of some three hundred, or three hundred and fifty tons burthen, painted black, with clean spars and rigging.
The sails are new, and in good repair, except in spots where the cannon balls from our batteries damaged them.
On approaching the gang-way the marks of the shot were visible.
She first struck the side near the stern, but for some reason glanced, leaving a deep indenture, but doing no further damage.
One passed through the taffrail, one through the mizzen-sail,two through the galley, one of which broke through the side rail, another (probably a rifle shot) passed through the main- mast, nearly fifty feet above the deck, carrying away a portion of the shrouds on either side, and the rattlings for several feet.
The fore-sail, also, was damaged in two places.
The most important shot passed through the side, about midway the vessel, going through a heavy beam, tearing away a ring-bolt, and also through three bales of pressed hay, lodging in the fourth.--This shot was from the large sea-coast howitzer, and the ball was preserved; and we found it rolling about the cabin.
The deck was in great confusion, caused by the labor of unseaman like hands in unloading the cargo, but every thing gave evidence that ordinarily the vessel was kept in prime order.--The cargo, as I have stated in a former letter, consisted of 432 biles of pressed Northern hay, 500 barrels of cement, and a quantity of furniture.
The goods were consigned to the Government
, as they would indicate, but the manifest tells the story.
There was no clothing found on board, as has been stated, beyond that belonging to the seamen, who fled precipitately in their yawl, or else got on board the tug In
's cabin was found an excellent compass, a quadrant, a clock, and some other nautical instruments.
Hanging against the wall, in a wooden frame, was a list of the customary rates of freight between New York, Washington
, and Alexandria
An old copy-book was lying upon the table, in which trite maxims were written in an elegant hand at the top of every page, while under them, in a cramped, school-boy's scrawl, were copies that told the severe labor it cost the patient scholar in making them.
Beside it was a book of manuscript mathematical problems, in which the mysteries of vulgar fractions and the rule of three were fully explained.
A pair of rusty skates, and some memorandum books, marked "Charles Penfield
, Master Schooner Fal
fax," also lay upon the table A quantity of mixed paint was found, which was immediately used upon some pieces of light artillery on the shore.
Ship stores were not very abundant — a barrel of fine fish, (mackerel, I think,) a few barrels of bread, and one or two of beef and pork, were all, I believe.
In forecastle were the sailors' boxes and beds, but the clothes had been carried away.
The second schooner was a much smaller craft, and was laden with pine wood, destined for consumption in Washington
The name of this vessel was "Mary Virginia
," and I understand it was owned by a poor man in Maryland
, but that it was for the time currying out a Federal contract.
The value of these prizes is not great, but sufficient to pay the expense of the batteries.
The hay was particularly needed at this point.
Returning through the town of Dumfries
, we visited the hospital just organized by an old Navy friend, A. S. Garnett
, formerly Surgeon
U. S. steamer Wyandotte
, but now in the Confederate Navy.
He has everything very nicely and comfortably arranged, and so important are his labors that I shall make particular note of them in another letter.--He is the Surgeon
of Gen. Trimble
's Brigade, and is becoming very popular at his post.
Army of the Potomac, Manassas
, Oct. 23, 1861.
All the facts connected with the battle of Leesburg
have been furnished you by telegraph that I am enabled to give.
The prisoners captured arrived here last night, but I have not had permission to converse with them to get their statements of the affair.
By recapitulating somewhat I can give a general outline of the facts, but cannot send you any incidents connected with them.
It is difficult to separate the truth from the mass of rumors that have been sent afloat, but if my statement is in any way erroneous, I hope to correct it when additional particulars come in.
On Monday word was brought in that the Federal
were crossing the Potomac
, and that the advance had taken possession of Leesburg
Some time previous to this, Gen. Evans
had fallen back to a place called Goose Creek
, and the Yankees
considered, probably, that his main body being away, the town could be easily occupied.
Our force consisted of one regiment from Virginia
, and three from Mississippi
, the whole amounting to about three thousand men. The enemy had something over eight thousand, and some say as high as twelve thousand men. They commenced crossing early in the morning under cover of the fire of their artillery, succeeded in getting over a large force, when the fight began.
It was continued at intervals during the day, and with a serious loss to both sides.
Our men fought like heroes, and succeeded in putting about five hundred hors du combat,
in taking six cannon, six hundred prisoners, and a quantity of small arms.
The rout of the enemy was complete, and in their flight near three hundred were drowned in the river in their attempts to cross.
The exact number of our killed and wounded has not been ascertained up to this evening.
Last night five hundred and twenty of the captured Federal were brought to Sudley's Mills, about eight miles above here, where they remained all night, and were brought into Manassas
early this morning.
Of this number twenty-two were officers.
This evening the prisoners were sent to Richmond
on an extra train which left at nine o'clock. Hardly were the carriages prepared for them when a Captain reported one hundred and twenty-two more on route,
who would arrive in a short time.
Like their predecessors, they will be confined in the guard-house here until transportation to Richmond
can be furnished them.
The weather to-day has been severely cold and stormy.
This evening the clouds cleared away, but the sunshine failed to furnish warmth.
To-night, as I write these words, the northeast wind is howling dismally without, and I sit crouching over a camp chest with fingers and body benumbed with cold.