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[315]

Upon all these roads the rebels had placed obstructions within a radius of three miles from Fairfax Court House, the Headquarters of General Bonham, of South Carolina, who is styled in the orders of the rebel Commander-in-chief, “the commandant of the advance guard of the Potomac.” There was work for the skirmishers upon all the roads, but in every instance, as soon as the head of the advancing column made its appearance the rebel force retreated hastily, and in evident confusion.

All the casualties reported at Headquarters on our side are one officer and three men slightly wounded.

General McDowell went forward at the head of the centre of the column, the Second division, under Col. Hunter, which was composed as follows:--

First Brigade, commanded by Col. Andrew Porter, United States Army; Capt. Griffin's battery United States artillery; three companies United States cavalry, under Major Palmer; a battalion of several companies of the First, Third, and Eighth United States infantry, under Major Sykes; a battalion of United States marines, under Major Reynolds; and the Eighth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-seventh Regiments of New York Volunteers.

Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel A. E. Burnside, of the Rhode Island Volunteers. The First and Second Regiments Rhode Island Volunteers, the Second Rhode Island battery of flying artillery, one section of Captain Barry's battery of United States artillery, the Second Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers, and the Seventy-first Regiment New York State Militia.

This division marched with its left brigade in front, consequently putting Colonel Burnside in advance. The movement was conducted with care and decision. The whole of the Second Rhode Island Regiment were employed as skirmishers in advance of the division. Their lines extended from half a mile to two miles on each side of the road. The First Rhode Island Regiment followed at the head of the division. After it came the Second Rhode Island battery and a section of Barry's battery. This was followed by the Second New Hampshire and the Seventy-first New York Regiments.

The First brigade brought up the rear in the following order:--Griffin's battery, Major Sykes' United States infantry, Major Reynolds' United States Marines, and the Fourteenth, Twenty-seventh, and Eighth New York Volunteers.

In this order the centre of the column left its bivouac, about six miles from Fairfax Court House, at ten o'clock this morning. The first barricade, made of trees felled and thrown across the road, delayed the head of the division only a few minutes. This was encountered about three miles from the Court House. It was cautiously examined by the skirmishers, but no sign of a rebel force was discovered. The pioneers soon cleared the road with their axes. The barricade was erected at the foot of a long hill, the top of which was covered with a dense thicket, affording an excellent covert for sharpshooters. The second barricade was of a similar character, and was cleared in a similar manner, occasioning only a few minutes' delay in the march. The third barricade was more formidable. It was at the entrance of a deep cut in the road, commencing about half way up a steep hill, crowned on one side with a thick wood, and on the other by an open field. To pass this a road was made through the field, enabling the army to pass around it.

At this point there were stationed two hundred rebel cavalry, who, without waiting to ascertain the strength of the advancing force, fled upon the first appearance of our skirmishers, firing at them one rifle shot, which did no harm.

Up to this point, about one mile from the Court House, the people living upon the roadside were at home quietly pursuing their usual avocations. The first house beyond this third barricade belonged to a man named Goodwin, who had hastily left the premises when the rebel cavalry retreated.

It was here ascertained that the division had reached a neighborhood thickly populated with the most rabid rebels in the county, prominent among whom is one Esquire Broadwater, a county magistrate; and also that about half a mile ahead the rebels had a fortification erected, and a battery planted, which was defended by a force of two thousand men, and that the rebel force in and around Fairfax Court House, guarding the different approaches, amounted to from ten to fifteen thousand men. The fortification was encountered about half a mile from the Court House. It consisted of a simple intrenchment, extending for about four hundred yards on each side of the road. It was pierced for eight guns. The embrasures were formed of sand bags, and so placed as to command the road. The fortification was at the top of a steep hill, at the foot of which meandered a small muddy creek. The trees upon the hillside for a distance of an eighth of a mile had been cut down, so as to allow no cover from the guns of the fort. This fortification had been occupied for about three weeks by the Second and Third South Carolina Regiments, under Gen. M. L. Bonham, the successor in Congress of the notorious Brooks, and the commandant of the advance guard of the Potomac. In approaching this point our skirmishers had a brush with those of the rebels, in which a corporal of the Second Rhode Island Regiment received a flesh wound in the thigh, and a rebel officer was captured by Capt. Dyer.

The advance of Burnside's brigade reached the fortification in time to make one prisoner, a South Carolina officer, who surrendered to Major Mission, paymaster of the Second Rhode Island Regiment. The inside of the fortification presented abundant evidences of the haste with which it had been abandoned by its late


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