Army of the Potomac. [our own correspondent.]
Manassas, Nov. 9th, 1861.
There was a rumor here this evening that the enemy had advanced upon Germantown
, and had driven in our pickets.
This I believe to be untrue.
Yesterday I was some distance into the enemy's country, and quite three miles beyond our line of pickets.
We saw no signs of the Federals
beyond a small party on a foraging expedition, who fled at our approach.
Yesterday morning a scouting party, consisting of about seventy-five persons, under the command of Col. Jones
, of the cavalry, started into the enemy's lines to make a reconnaissance.
Starting from Gen. Stuart
's headquarters they went on the Alexandria turnpike
and thence by the Falls Church
road until the pickets of the enemy were seen.
A short distance this side of Falls Church
a party of Yankees were seen going into a house.
These were surrounded and captured.
Seven were taken, five belonging to the 30th New York regiment and two to the 23d.
It seems they were out on a thieving expedition and had been accompanied by others who had been gone but a few moments when our party came up. The men were very silly and uncultivated, and all seemed to care very little about their condition.
In fact, one would suppose they were pleased with it, for they kept up an incessant grin and laughed heartily every few moments as a man does after hearing some good news.
‘"If you had come a few moments sooner you would have caught our captain,"’ said one, and then all laughed loudly, as if the thought was a merry one.--They seemed to have no shame while giving up their arms, and talked in the most flippant manner.
They were men of no sensibility or spirit, and I could but think it was no wonder we whipped them in every fight.
On being asked why they were there, one replied, laughing all the while, ‘"We came out to protect this old man's pigs, the Garibaldians come out to steal them.
Now you have taken us they'll steal every one of them."’ Nothing but such silly talk as this could be gotten out of them.
They seemed to know very little about army movements — in fact very few questions were asked them for fear it might annoy them.
The 30th New York was on Upton's hill
, and the 23d close by.--Two fine Maynard rifles were taken with them and some muskets; I do not remember if all were armed.
They were sent under guard to Centreville
, and while coming into the village were met by a large party of boys who were standing upon the hill watching some experiments with spherical care.
They kept quiet for a time, but all could not be restrained, and giving three cheers, they crowded around the prisoners.
‘"Why didn't you come on us when we run from you at Fairfax
?"’ was asked.
‘"Yes, but you can't fool us; we know you'll fight,"’ was the reply.
This evening they arrived here, and, together with six companions taken in the fight at Leesburg
, will be sent on to Richmond
in the morning.
The village of Fairfax
looks quite deserted, but few of the citizens remaining in their homes.
The houses have not been disturbed by our pickets, who are now in the village, and all kinds of property has been respected by them.
But one house has been disturbed, and that was on account of a note that was found in it. It was as follows:
"Fairfax C. H., Oct. 1861.
"Will Gen. McClellan
please occupy this house as his headquarters, and protect the property of those forced
"His old friend an acquaintance,
I give the note from memory, but believe it is correct.
It was certainly very indiscreet in Mrs. Bailey
, if she be loyal at heart, to underscore the word forced, as if to make it appear she was a martyr, driven from her home against her will.
I believe none of the citizens were ordered away from the town with the army, but were merely advised to leave.
The enemy have been near the Court-House
but twice or three times since we fell back from it, and then only in small parties, which were probably out on reconnoitering or foraging expeditions.
On the Annandale
road we heard a few men had been up early in the morning, but saw none near by. Riding down the turnpike, we finally saw a small party, some eight or ten in number, who ran as we came in sight.
They seemed to be pickets, as they were posted on an eminence commanding a view of the country for some miles.
I believe they have some force near Annandale
, and along the line from there to Falls Church
From the top of the hotel in Fairfax
we could still see the Stars and Stripes flying from Upton's Hill
, and also the line of their fortifications by Taylor
's and White
No other changes were visible except those made by the fall of the leaves, which gave a less obstructed view of their works.
I believe there has been no advance since we left the town, except by small parties of scouts.
I cannot help believing, however, the statement made some time ago that McClellan
has tried to advance at three different times, but his men failed to come up to the mark.
Returning from Fairfax
, we called upon Captain Squires
, of the First Company, Washington Artillery, now on picket duty near Germantown
We found the camp on a little hill, in front of which was a valley and a small stream of water.
This stream has been a source of much amusement to the boys.
Having nothing to do, time hangs heavily on their hands, and they have nearly exhausted their stock of sports.
The other day, however, some tiny boats were made with paper sails, and now they have a regatta every day, sometimes betting heavily on the speed of the different boats.
One can hardly imagine the fun or the amount of excitement such simple sports will produce until he has been for a long time deprived of every amusement.
I recollect a few years ago, while on a voyage to Europe
, how hard pushed we were to occupy the time.
Reading was impossible; cords played out; chess too much labor; watching the petrel and the huge schools of porpoise had become an old story, and so we collected our party and formed a committee of ways and means to devise amusements.
It was laughable to see how old and young enjoyed the most childish sports.
Finally, St. Agnes light came in sight, and we run into the English Channel
When the pilot boat came in sight, bets were made as to which leg he would put over the rail first; whether he would wear a coat or a northwester; a cap or a ‘"stove pipe"’ on his head, or whether he was fat or lean.
The bets being made, there was great excitement until the little man was at the helm steering away towards Beachy Head
and the bets decided.
Some of the boats the boys had made were fine models, and had been made and rigged with especial reference to fast sailing.
Really, the yacht race was very interesting.
One could but remember the days of childhood, and the boat sailing period of his youth.
There is really nothing to write about of interest, and I almost give up all hope of a fight at this point.
Still, I believe our Generals
expect one before snow comes again, upon general principles merely.
If General McClellan
does not fight, the Government
can get no more men or money, and public opinion is pressing him very hard.
Thursday night, the Hon. W. C. Preston
, former Minister to Spain
, paid a visit to the Kentucky
camp, Col. Tom Taylor
, and spent the night with his friends.
During the evening he made them a speech, which was loudly cheered, and which gave great pleasure to the soldiers.
Visits from such men, and speeches to the volunteers has a good effect, and seems to enliven the tedium of camp life.
I wish it were more common.
Owing to the recent rain the roads have become in very bad condition, and in some places almost impassable.
A great many wagons have been broken down in the road, and between here and Centreville
, the road is strewn with wrecks.
If the bad condition increases as winter advances, it will soon be impossible to move artillery.
Whatever military operations that will be carried on this winter must be done quickly.