Army of the Potomac.
[our own Correspondent.
Outposts, (Near Fairfax,) Dec. 8th, 1861.
Still everything is quiet on the outposts, and there are no signs of any advance on the part of the enemy.
The weather continues fine, and the roads as good as they ever are either in summer
No objections could now be offered for not fighting, on the score of had roads, for they are in excellent condition for the use of artillery and for the transportation of army stores.
As there is nothing in the shape of war matters to employ my pen, I will give you the story of
, the Scout
who was captured by the Federals
at the battle of Lewinsville, and recently escaped from their clutches by scaling the walls of the jail in Washington
While Gen. J. E. B. Stuart
, then Col. Stuart
of the 1st Virginia Cavalry, was in the army of the Shenandoah, he was joined by Burke
and his two sons, all of whom enlisted in the cavalry; but the elder was retained as special escort and guide to Col. Stuart
through the mountainous country of Northwestern Virginia
.--After coming into the Army of the Potomac Burke
was retained in the same capacity, and did some good service while our forces occupied Munson's hill.
He was constantly in the saddle, and kept the Colonel
, then in command of the outposts, well posted in regard to the movements of the enemy, and watched every advancing party with cat-like vigilance and stealthiness.
Perfectly fearless, and yet possessing the requisite coolness for a successful scout, he soon became a great favorite with Col. Stuart
, and when the latter was made a Brigadier, Burke
was attached more closely to his person, and because his constant companion in the skirmishes with the enemy, at that time of almost daily occurrence.
Daring the battle of Lewinsville, on the 23th of September, Gen. Stuart
to make a reconnaissance in a small patch of wood near by, where some men had been seen, and ascertain whether or not they were the enemy.
Being perfectly confident they were our men, Burke
rode up to it without the proper precaution, and ran into an ambuscade, where some fifteen or twenty men lay hidden.
They sprang up and pointed their guns at him; but still supposing them friends, he cried out, ‘"Don't shoot me, I know you."’ They then gathered upon him, and burke, seeing it was no use to struggle against so many, gave himself up. At that moment a section of the second company of the Washington Artillery, under Captain T. L. Rosser
, came into the fields and placed their guns in battery.
who had frequently seen the gallant Captain
shoot, had no idea of risking his life by standing before his howitzers, and so begged to be taken to the rear.
They took him back across the fields to a spot near Gilbert's house, and there he was met by the Colonel
of the New York Seventy-ninth, who ordered him to dismount.
‘"That is a fine horse you have,"’ said the Colonel
‘"Yes,"’ was the reply; ‘"he is worth $20 more than on the day I got him."’
‘"Where did you get him?"’
‘"Down here in Prince William county
,"’ said Burke
‘"What did you pay for him?"’
‘"Nothing; I took him from your people at the battle of Bull Run
--the saddle, too."’
showed them the mark, U. S.
, on the hoof, and also the name on the saddle.
was rather nonplussed, but took his horse and arms and sent him to Griffins battery.
After the fight he was taken upon a caisson and carried to Gen. Smith
Here he was closely questioned by an officer.
‘"Why did you come out to fight?"’ was asked him.
‘"For liberty,"’ said Burke
‘"I have come to the conclusion,"’ said the officer, ‘"'that you are fighting merely for the sake of fighting."’
‘"I don't see how you could come to such a conclusion as that,"’ said Burke
‘"Well, what were you fighting for?"’
‘"To repel the invaders from my State."’
‘"Which is your State?"’
‘"I am an Irishman by birth, but a Virginian by adoption."’
The officer turned to his writing, giving an order to turn him over to the Provost Marshal
, and a sentinel came in with a pair of handcuffs.
‘"Are you going to put those on me?"’ asked Burke
‘"I thought we took all those from you at Bull Run
We never put them on the meanest of your privates, and I protest against having them put on me!"’
The handcuffs were put on, notwithstanding the protest, and he was then confined in the guard-house.
The next morning an officer took the handcuffs from him, and said they had been put on contrary to orders.
The officer inquired particularly for Gen. Stuart
, and said he had known him well in the old army.
In the morning Burke
was taken to the Provost Marshal
‘"Who are you?"’ said he.
, Aid to Col. Stuart
‘"But a Colonel is not entitled to an Aid."’
‘"I don't know what the rule may be in your army, but it may be in ours."’
They would not believe the story, because Burke
had a red flannel
shirt on, and looked as rough as a ditcher.
‘"Where is your uniform?"’ asked the officer.
‘"We don't go in much for uniform,"’ said Burke
;" we don't fight for uniform either.
Some of the highest officers in our army are dressed in citizens clothes.
While in the Provost marshal
's office he sat by the window reading a newspaper.
A crowd soon gathered around the house to see the rebel prisoner, and one fellow looked at him fiercely and said, ‘"D — n you, I should like to shoot you."’ Burke
replied that he had no doubt of it, but if they would give him a chance, he should have a fair fight, either on horseback or otherwise.
Insulting remarks were made to him by the crowd until the officer in the room became ashamed of such treatment to a prisoner, and ordered the crowd dispersed.
While at the headquarters of Gen. Smith
he met a man by the named of Burns
, orderly sergeant of General Stuart
's old company of United States Dragoons, who made very particular inquiries about Stuart
, and regretted he could not be with him again.
said he had recognized Gen. Stuart
on the battle-field of the 21st, and that his love for him was so great that he could not fight well against him. If he had an opportunity he could not hurt a hair of his head.
The next morning Burke
was taken before Gen. McClellan
, who said he wished to have a little conversation with him. Burke
replied that it would please him very much.
‘"I want to ask you a few questions,"’ said Gen. McClellan
, ‘"and you can answer them or not as you please.
There will be no compulsion about it."’
‘"I am much obliged to you,"’ said Burke
, ‘"I understand you to say I can talk as I please."’
The General continued his writing for a few minutes and then said:
"I desire to know what you want — what you are fighting for, and what you intend to do?"
’ The General
‘"I can only answer for myself,"’ was the reply, and not for others.
I am fighting for liberty and against despotism.
We have our slaves and hold them as property.
You say slavery is a curse — we think differently.
We find the negro better off with the white man for a master, and the history of the world has proved it."
‘"I cannot understand how the negro can be more happy a slave than he could if free.
You do not seem to appreciate the blessings of liberty.
All men must be free and equal to insure happiness and prosperity to the country."’
‘"I see new your feeling,"’ said Burke
, "you are trying to abolish slavery and you are
fighting us for this alone.
You are trying to destroy an hereditary institution of the South
and in the attempt you strike at the hearts of the people.
You are mistaken."
‘"We do not desire to abolish the slavery, but only to prevent its extension.
That should not make us enemies."’
‘"But you have done more,"’ said Burke
‘"you have nullified the laws of Congress; in eleven States you have passed Personal Liberty bills; you have annulled the Dred Scott
decision, and you have taken from the people the right of the habeas corpus.
‘"But the Constitution
says that in the time of rebellion it may be suspended."’
‘"I know it does, but it says, also, every man shall have a speedy trial by a jury; but you have refused it, the decision of the Supreme Court to the contrary notwithstanding."’
says that when he told him that no more questions were asked him, and in a short time he was sent back to jail.
There he found a number of Confederates who had been captured before him. While there he was indebted for comforts to the Southern
people in Washington
When he wanted any articles of clothing he told the keeper of the prison, who immediately got them in a store, requiring a receipt in payment, and the storekeeper knew where to get his money.
ladies were very kind.
At first they crowded the prison, but were soon stopped from coming.
All the money on Southern banks was exchanged for them by the parson who visited them almost daily.
One day the chaplain, who was a Southern man, told Burke
that in Baltimore
he had seen $500 in Confederate treasury notes exchanged for gold at only two per cent, discount.
There were several Yankee prisoners in the jail and they were very envious of the attention paid the others.
They spoke very highly of our army, and said everybody acknowledged that we had the best officers.
Finally an opportunity offered, and Burke
, with the aid of his fellow-prisoners, scaled the wall, and made his escape.
The fall lamed him somewhat, but with difficulty he managed to hobble beyond the sentinels, and took to the country.
He was five days in passing the Yankee
pickets, and had many very narrow escapes.
The second day out, Burke
became very hungry, and started towards a light which he saw in the distance, in order to get something to eat. As he approached the house he heard a man inside cursing the Yankees
, and he at once knew that was the hotel for him. Sure enough, he met with a good reception, and was concealed until his foot recovered, when he was assisted on his journey.
On arriving at the Potomac
he happened to find a few plank that the high water had thrown upon the bank, and with the aid of these he swam to the opposite shore, and stood once more on Virginia
From the river Burke
ran up to Shepherdstown
, and arrived there just in the early evening.
The news spread rapidly that he had returned, and his friends turned out to give him ‘"a wake"’ at the hotel.
By some means the Yankees
were informed of his escape and arrival in the town, and sent over a party to capture him. Before they came Burke
had gone out of the village, and was quartered with a friend, but in the night the house was surrounded by the Yankees
, who loudly demanded his body.
Hastily running up stairs in his night dress, he was assisted upon the roof of the house by a young lady, where he remained hidden until the enemy had left.
The cowardly ruffians accused the young lady of assisting Burke
to escape, and one of them struck her in the face with his fist, knocking her down, and injuring her severely.
The people of Shepherdstown
insisted strongly upon his remaining a day or two, but he refused, and hurried on to report to Gen. Stuart
He was received here with much pleasure, and he now has a seat at the General
's table, and is once more engaged in the daring exploits incident to the life of a scout.
One little incident is worthy of record.
The day before the fight, Capt. Manning
, Aid to Gen. Longstreet
, gave Burke
his spur to put a new rowel in. The spur was carried in his pocket through his captivity, and the first thing he did on arriving in Martinsburg
was to put a new rowel in it, and, on arriving here, the spur was duly returned to its owner.
is now a great favorite among the officers on the outposts, and is doing his country good service in keeping the Generals
well posted in all movements of the enemy.
He is one of the characters in this war that will live in history, and will furnish material for numerous tales and romances when the war is over and peace restored to the Confederate States
I have taken the story from his own lips.