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Doc. 83.-occupation of Cockpit Point, Va.

New-York Herald account.

United States steamer Stepping Stones, Mattawoman Creek, Potomac River, March 11, 1862.
on Sunday, at noon, Lieut. Commanding Badger, of the Anacostia, observing the absence of the usual sentries at Cockpit Point, and the familiar sights incident thereto, concluded that the rebels had evacuated. Acting on this supposition, Capt. Badger ran alongside the Yankee and inquired of Commodore Wyman what he should do. The Commodore told him to take the Piedmontesa and reconnoitre. He did so, and the result was he was satisfied that the rebels had really left. Capt. Badger then went back to the Yankee and reported to this effect, and asked permission to test the matter by shelling the battery, when the Commodore gave him permission to do so at long range — not without reason — apprehending some diabolical trick. This was done. Shell after shell was thrown into the Point. Soldiers of General Hooker's division, who were at Stump Neck, where they could see every thing, declare that it was the prettiest thing in the way of firing that they had ever seen. Shot after shot went right into the battery; but, as it turned out, the enemy had “vamosed the ranche,” to use a Californian phrase. Finding that the shots were not returned, Capt. Badger went in closer and closer, and yet no response was elicited from the enemy. He now determined on landing, and a boat's crew, under the command of Acting Master John Williams, was sent a shore. Swiftly they climbed the hill, and quickly they arrived in the battery. But here a danger presented itself. The carriages of the rebel guns had been set on fire, and a lot of fascines were piled under each gun, rendering them nearly red hot. The heat was too intense to approach them for a time; but it was at length discovered that the guns had been spiked, in the rapid retreat of the rebels. A quantity of clothing, and even rations of fresh beef for the day, were found hanging on the trees, showing that [281] the evacuation had been effected with considerable precipitation.

Among the first of the duties devolving on the gallant tars who had taken possession, was the running up of the glorious Stars and Stripes. This was a matter of the most ordinary convenience; for the rebels, in their haste, had actually left the flagstaff, with its halyards, standing, and the Star-Spangled Banner was run up by Acting Master Williams--“Old Jack,” of Mathias Point — who has achieved a reputation for devotion to the American flag.

On further examining the fortifications at Cockpit Point, it was found that some dangerous traps were attached to the three magazines. By an ingenious contrivance, a flap on hinges, at the entrance of each magazine, was made to descend on the caps of conical shells of large calibre — the flap having iron plates fitting down on the caps — while heavy shells on the flap would give an impetus to the blow. Outside of the entrance, concealed strings were so contrived that, on touching one with the foot, the trap would fall, involving all near by in destruction. The sagacity of Mr. Williams, however, enabled him to discover the snare, and he counteracted it by sending on board the Anacostia for a pair of shears, with which to cut the accursed strings, as he thought the jarring of even a knife might have had the effect that the rebels contemplated. Perhaps they relied on the uncalculating impetuosity of seamen. If so, they reckoned this time without their host.

While these things were going on at Cockpit Point, fires were seen in Quantico Creek, and all along the line of batteries to Chapawamsic Creek. The rebels were evidently destroying all they could not carry away, including the burning of the steamer George Page, and other vessels in Quantico Creek. Accordingly, the Anacostia soon got under weigh, and stood down the river to Shipping Point. Arrived there, a landing was about to be effected, after shelling the batteries, when a canal — boat was seen putting off from Budd's Ferry, loaded with a company of one of the Massachusetts regiments, that, without orders from the general, were willing to do a little fighting “on their own hook.” Capt. Badger towed them to Shipping Point, and on the way lent the gallant boys a flag belonging to one of his boats. On nearing the shore, however, the tars were determined to be ahead of the “sojers” --not a hard matter with seamen, in their peculiar element. Influenced by this sentiment, they made a dash on shore, and soon Mr. Williams came up to the flag-staff, which, like that at Cockpit Point, was still standing, and hoisted the pennant, as a substitute for the Stars and Stripes that had been lent to the soldiers. The military, too, soon landed, when the American ensign was hoisted amidst the most deafening cheers from the vessels, and from both banks of the river. Here, as at Cockpit Point, great caution was observed, to avoid falling into snares, and to steer clear of the probable explosion of mines. But, by the exercise of that prudence which is always allied to true bravery, under the protection of Providence, whatever of danger there was did not reach our brave boys. As at Cockpit Point, too, the gun-carriages had been set on fire, and fascines, and whatever could burn, were placed underneath, rendering it both difficult and dangerous to approach to ascertain whether any of the guns had been left unspiked. The guns had been loaded nearly to their muzzles, into which bags of sand had been rammed to cause the guns to burst. Three of them did explode, but, happily, none of our men were near by at the time. Late in the evening, the increased heat caused two guns to be discharged. One of the shots passed between the Yankee and the Anacostia, which were lying close together.

The rebel fortifications are perfect gems of engineering skill, and had they been constructed to repel a foreign enemy, great credit would be due to the genius who planned and superintended their construction. But designed as they were to aid an unholy rebellion against a beneficent government, they partake of the nature of those fabled contrivances which Milton, in his lofty language, ascribes to Satan and his revolted legions of fallen angels when they “made impious war in heaven.” Your correspondent thus expresses himself because he never has been one of those who could admire ingenuity and skill, however great, when they were enlisted in a bad cause.

At Cockpit Point there are four heavy guns, one of which, a Parrott, was found to be in fragments. The magazines are most ingeniously contrived. On entering one of them you descend an inclined plane, and after advancing about four feet you find yourself in a passage barely wide enough to admit a man. You turn within to the right or the left, still going underground, to the distance of from fifteen to twenty feet, when you come to the magazine itself, which is filled with shelves of cedar plank, on which shot and shell and other ammunition are stowed. The passage-way is lined with cedar planks, to prevent the earth from caving in.

Back of the guns are a number of excavations, running underground, into which the rebel soldiers could run whenever they saw the flash from the Union guns, either on the river or on the Maryland shore. Of course, these “rat-holes” are bomb-proof, and, provided a man can get into one in time, he is safe from hostile shot or shell. Like the entrances to the magazines, these “rat-holes” are lined with cedar planks. Still further back, and at divergent angles, are a number of rifle-pits, where, in the event of the cannon being taken, the rebel soldiery could keep the Union troops at bay; and about half a mile further in the rear a large steel gun is, or rather was, mounted. This was surrounded by other rifle-pits, by means of which it was hoped that, even though the intrenchments in part might be carried, the rebels might make the last stand, and either repel the Unionists, or, if the worst came to the worst, secure their own final retreat.

The batteries extending from Chapawamsic Creek to Quantico Creek, embracing Shipping Point and Evansport, are provided with defences [282] in the rear somewhat similar to those at Cockpit point. Shipping Point may be considered as an island, for the only way to make the mainland from that place, is by means of a narrow wooden bridge, thrown across a deep and dangerous swamp. It was shrewdly calculated that this narrow passage would be a point of strength to themselves in case of a retreat, with the Unionists in pursuit; for nothing would be easier than to burn or otherwise destroy the bridge. And yet, though not pursued, the rebels forgot to destroy the bridge, showing that some unaccountable panic must have seized on them.

After the crew from the Anacostia had landed at Shipping Point, the gunboat arrived opposite the Point, and sent a boat on shore with some spikes; but it does not appear that many of them were necessary.

On Monday morning the Commodore, at the request of Gen. Hooker, towed over some canalboats, containing two regiments, one from New-Jersey, and the other from Massachusetts. They landed at Cockpit Point and Shipping Point, when skirmishers were thrown out, penetrating several miles into the country. In the rear of the fortifications at Cockpit Point they found an intrenched camp, a great deal of the materials of which were but partially destroyed, affording additional evidence of the hurried flight of the rebels, but of the rebels themselves not a trace remained.

I annex the following memoranda of arms and munitions found at Shipping Point:

A gun, weighing nine thousand and sixty-eight pounds, marked “W. P., no. 4.”

A long thirty-two-pounder, weighing six thousand two hundred pounds, cast in 1845, mounted on a pivot — carriage, which was destroyed.

A six-inch rifled pivot-gun, mounted on a pivot-carriage — carriage destroyed.

Fragments of a six-inch rifled gun, cast at the Tredegar Iron-Works, Richmond, Va., mounted on a pivot-carriage — carriage burned and destroyed.

Six long forty-two-pounders, on pivot-carriages — carriages all destroyed.

A seven-and-a-half-inch rifled gun, cast at Low Moor, England, weighing ten thousand seven hundred and fifty-nine pounds, cast in 1861. This gun is in good order; it was mounted on a pivot-carriage, which was cut with axes in order to weaken it.

One hundred and sixty-nine nine-inch shells, with five second fuses.

A large quantity of thirty-two pound shot and canister.

Thirty-five six-inch rifle-shells, in good order.

Two furnaces for heating thirty-two pound shot. Some shot were in the grate, with fire under them, ready for heating.

Three passing-boxes.

To which may be added three “dummies” or wooden guns, placed in position to make the battery look more formidable than the reality. They were playfully spiked.

The shot and shell have been removed. The guns at Cockpit Point had their trunnions broken off, after which they were precipitated over the bluff into the river. Some of those at Shipping Point and other places remain.

Among military and naval officers the evacuation of the batteries on the Lower Potomac is considered as a military necessity, after the fall of Roanoke Island, the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, and the occupation of Nashville, taken in connection with the advance of the grand army of the Potomac; but the precipitation with which they left their batteries hard beset, and the panic with which they were evidently filled, are not so easy of solution. Perhaps they were apprehensive that if they lingered, their retreat would be cut off by Gen. Heintzelman's division, stationed at Pohick Church. Perhaps, too, the throwing up of several rockets from the Yankee, on Saturday night, was taken for signals, indicating an early cooperation with the military. At all events, it seems to be a fact that the rebels intended to manage their retreat as secretly as possible, and to take away all they could with them; but they were circumvented by the vigilance of the flotilla. Hence their rapid flight from Cock-pit Point, and their simultaneous firing of their combustible goods and chattels from Quantico Creek to below Aquia Creek. No doubt, when they found that Cockpit Point was in possession of the Union troops, they feared a simultaneous movement from across the river and from Pohick Church, and thought it prudent to evacuate as quickly as possible, to save several thousands of their troops from capture.

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