Army of the Potomac.
[our own correspondent.]
Dumfries, Oct. 20, 1861.
The evening of Friday last found Centreville
in such a condition that it was difficult to say whether one was himself or some other man. To collect our ideas a little, as well as to drive off dyspepsia and the gout, threatened by high life in camp, a trip to Manassas
was decided upon.
Saturday morning found us in a quiet country farm house, not far from the village.
Standing beneath a trellis, over which sweet honeysuckles grow and shaded the porch, we waited patiently for ‘"something to turn up"’ to give employment to two roving pens.
Suddenly a dull, booming sound came to our ears from the direction of our batteries on the Potomac
‘"There's a gun,"’ said my friend ‘"Personne
,"’ who was quietly smoking his Havana
; ‘"and another, and another,"’ as the reports reverberated through the air in quick succession.
Every moment the firing increased, until the sounds run into each other, producing a continuous roar.
‘"They are rolling ten-pins down on the river,"’ said I.
‘"And there's a ten-stroke!"’ was the reply, as a Columbiad belched forth its contents, and shook the hills with its tremendous report.
‘"Shall we go down?"’
Ten minutes later saw us in the saddle galloping over the highway to Occoquan
The morning was very wet and disagreeable.
The rain of the night previous had put the roads in a navigable condition, and although the mud was deep enough to float a Mississippi flat-boat we concluded it fordable, and pushed on. Dark masses of clouds hung in the sky and at times turned up their watering-pots and sprinkled us, as gardeners do their growing vegetables, until chased away by the sunshine.
Between sunshine and shower, beneath giant elms, through oak forests, by dark perennial pines on we rode until the shadows of evening found us on a height overlooking the Potomac
As if to assure us of a fair ‘"to-morrow,"’ the sunset clear in the west and lit up the sky, gilding the prominent cloud and changing the background into the ‘"pink and rosy"’ hues of an ocean shell.
Before night came we galloped into the ruined port of entry — Dumfries
So much for the poetical part of the ride; but imagine two woe be-gone horsemen, with clothing covered with the dirtiest kind of mud; faces like that of a former classmate we used to call ‘"cleanly Jack
,"’ on the Incus a non lucendo
principle; horses jaded and bespattered; shoes full of most abominable ‘"slush;"’ bodies worn out with fatigue; stomachs guileless of food since early morning; two ragged and runaway chimney sweeps, and you have the other side of the picture.
In times of peace the good people of Dumfries
would have arrested us as fugitive lunatics; but, fortunately, an hundred thousand soldiers, more or less, have upset all the old rules of propriety.
As our object was simply to hunt a bate of news to serve up to a large party of literary epicures, everyman, woman, and child was stopped with inquiries.
The success that met our labors was in an inverse ratio to the distance traveled towards the point of excitement.
The story we had listened to in the morning was gradually whittled to a point, until we dreaded to question further, for fear of being forced to discredit our own ears.
Presently a human being, wearing an immense ante-revolutionary white hat, and riding on a mule that would have passed in a menagerie for any of the wild beasts, halted before us. Like Samivell Veller, your disconsolate ‘"Own"’ worked an imaginary pump handle in the direction of his friend, then a few paces in advance.
"’ took the hint.
‘"My friend, what was the firing about this morning?"’
‘"Wall, I dun'no, reckon they're firing at the Yanks.
I hearn they landed down by Occoquon."’
‘"But do you know anything about it?"’--with a peculiar emphasis on the know.
‘"Nary time,"’ was the facetious reply.
It was past growing dark as we rode into Dumfries
; but, judging from a casual glance, I should say it is not as large nor as thriving as its namesake on the coast of Scotland
The hotel was full.
Even a soft plank was denied us, and we pushed through the village towards Evansport
, and took refuge in a farm-house.
That night we slumbered sweetly on a white oak floor.
Hitherto nothing has been known of the important batteries that have been constructed at Evansport
, and the operations were carried on in the most secret manner.--It was known that we had in process of construction some kind of works, with the view of blockading the Potomac
; but the location of them was a secret.
The enemy got wind of the intention, and sent steam-tugs cruising up and down the shore, to examine carefully every point and headland.
Whenever anything suspicious was seen, a few shots were fired as ‘"feelers."’ Every spot from Mathias's Point
to the Occoquon
, was subjected to this test except the right one, and it singularly enough was passed by with a glance.--But few days since a steam-tug came up and burned a boat close under the guns, and within rifle distance of them.
Every day the Federal
men-of-war passed close by the insignificant cluster of pines behind which our heavy guns were concealed, and steamed on, satisfied that all was right in its direction.--Batteries in other places drew attention from this, and the works were completed without molestation.
Although the enemy are well aware of all the main facts connected with the batteries, there may be some points upon which they are not informed, and hence I shall not publish the details for their benefit.
Suffice it to say, that those already unmasked are three in number, and are situated upon Ship Point
, North Point
, and upon the headland where Dumfre's bay enters the Potomac
I may say, however, that there is a chain of batteries from Aquia Creek
to Freestone Point
.--They are very strongly constructed, with good protection to the men, and mount guns enough to stop entirely the passage of vessels on the river, should Gen. Trimble
see fit.--They have had frequent trials during the past few days, and the fact has been clearly demonstrated, that no vessel can pass up or down the river uninjured, unless allowed to do so. The distance, in a direct line to the Maryland
shore, is a mile and seven-tenths, if I remember rightly, and, with a proper elevation, balls can be thrown entirely across.
The rifles do this with little difficulty; and even the sea-coast howitzers throw their ponderous shot over the belt of water that divide the two States.
Opening of the batteries.
On Tuesday, the 15th, everything was completed, and the unmasking commenced.--Hardly were the last pine stopped over when the steamer Seminole
came slowly up towards the point.
As soon as within range she was greeted with a shot, which indicated the position of the batteries, and showed where the enemy lay. Her deeks were instantly cleared for action, and her guns made ready for a fight.
She drifted slowly along, with the Stars and Stripes flying, and soon opened upon the shore.
A brisk cannonading on both sides then commenced.
The man-of-war behaved most gallantly and fought each battery in turn working on slowly in her course.
It was a beautiful sight.
Evidently severely injured, the Seminole
fought until the tide had drifted her beyond the range of the guns.--Although an enemy now, it was impossible to forget, while watching her action, the old United States
pride, that had whilom swelled the hearts of the very officers who directed the guns against her. So well protected were our men that none were hurt in the battle.
The next day the Pawnee
came up and was also fired at. This vessel has been especially impertinent, and has thrust herself close to our guns in a very provoking manner.
It was with difficulty the boys could be restrained from giving her a shot before the batteries were unmasked.
It was a welcome sight to see her coming, and the men run to their posts with hearty cheers.
The guns were well aimed, and a shell was soon thrown into her, which produced a loud explosion, and, it was thought, set her on fire.
Thursday and Friday nothing was done of any importance.
Several vessels, outward bound, were fired at, and a large number stopped below, fearful to run the gauntlet.
Capture of two schooners.
Saturday morning, under cover of the rain and fog, two schooners, with steam-tugs attached to them, attempted to pass up the river to Washington
As they approached, the fog lifted and discovered them to the batteries, which opened fire and continued for half an hour, as they passed slowly up. A number of shots struck them, the principle going into the largest schooner, doing good execution.
The tugs were covered by the schooners, and were not subject to the fire directly, but it soon became so severe that they cut loose from the vessels and succeeded in making their escape up the river.
Both were very badly injured, one of them so badly that it sunk a few miles above the batteries.
The schooners were completely riddled, and were deserted by their crews.
As soon as the firing ceased, long boats were sent out, and the two vessels towed into Quantico creek
, where they now lie discharging cargo.
One was laden with wood; the other with 433 bales of flue hay, 500 barrels cement, and a quantity of elegant furniture, including one piano.
The firing from the batteries was very good, and the practicability of preventing vessels passing without serious injury fully demonstrated.
, of the Navy, has been put in charge of these batteries by order of Gen. Trimble
He has the force well systematized, and by carefully selecting the best gunners from the different regiments, has formed an efficient corps.
Up to this date, since the 15th, no steamer has passed uninjured.
Of course we do not care to waste powder upon the numberless schooners, flats, and oyster boats that go from the city.
It will be time enough to attend to them when the marine corps is organized.
The light batteries on the show do very good service and throw shot with great precision.
In this affair two were engaged--one under Capt. R. Snowden Andrew
, and the other under Capt. B. Lindsay Walker
The General speaks of both these gentlemen in terms of great p
I do not hear of anything new in Centreville
or its vicinity.
Opinion seems to be nearly equally divided upon the question whether or not the Federals
will come out. I believe the majority think McClellan
will be forced to fight, but possibly not on Bull Run