Doc. 47-occupation of Falmouth, Va.
Philadelphia Inquirer account.
Falmouth, Va., November 11, 1862.the Federal army, under the immediate command of Gen. Sumner, arrived within a mile of this place about noon yesterday, having made the march from Warrenton, some forty miles, in two days and a half. This may be set down as very good marching, as the corps was encumbered with a very heavy train of baggage-wagons. Shortly after the army got in motion yesterday morning, cannonading was heard some four miles in our advance. No one seemed to understand it, as we had no forces in the direction of the sound. Parties were sent ahead to ascertain what it meant, when it was ascertained that a body of the enemy had crossed the Rappahannock as a reconnoitring party, and while marching down towards Falmouth, the rebels opened on them, causing some considerable consternation in their ranks. About a dozen rounds were fired before it was ascertained that they were firing “on our own troops.” The fact of the rebels firing on their own troops proved to us that they had one or more batteries planted on the opposite shore, for the purpose of sweeping the road as we advanced. Gens. Sumner and Couch soon came to a conclusion that these batteries must be at once silenced, so that we might have free access along the river road. The Fifty-seventh New-York, Licut.-Col. Chapman commanding, and the Fifty-third Pennsylvania, Col. Brooks, advanced as skirmishers along the Falmouth road, until within a mile of the town. These two regiments were followed by the remainder of the brigade to which they belong, consisting of the Second Delaware, Col. Bailey; Sixty-sixth New-York, Colonel Pinkney, and the Fifty-second New-York, Col. Frank--the whole brigade commanded by Col. Zook, of the Fifty-seventh New-York. Capt. Pettit's battery, the First New-York artillery, and Owens's and Tompkins's two Rhode Island batteries followed. Instead of taking the main road, as the enemy thought the Federals would, that they might have a chance to pepper them, the commanding officer ordered them to make a detour around some high wooded hills into a valley, where a branch runs into the river; across this, and up on a very high and commanding elevation, directly in the rear of Falmouth. Captain Pettit's battery was at once placed in position on the brow of this high hill, with Zook's brigade directly in the rear, completely secured by the natural position of the hill. At about half-past 3 the first gun was sighted and brought to bear upon the enemy, which at once brought on a rejoinder. The first shot from the rebels burst directly over our battery. The firing from our battery became very rapid and precise, which had the effect of driving the rebels from their guns, thus completely silencing them. Once in a while one more bold than the rest would attempt to drag a gun away, when a shot from our guns would drive him away. What firing the enemy did do was first-class — every shot being a line shot — yet too high to do the slightest damage, as not a man was injured on our part. Owens's battery also opened and fired a few rounds. Just after the rebel guns were silenced, two trains of cars were observed leaving Fredericksburgh; our batteries opened on them, hurrying them away under a full head of steam. Col. Zook's brigade belongs to Gen. Hancock's division, and they seemed very anxious to distinguish themselves. Last evening they took a position at the ford opposite Fredericksburgh, to check the enemy attempting to cross over to Falmouth. Our cannonading was immense; the enemy could not stand its precision. Every shot fired went directly over the houses in this town, frightening the residents very much, as it came so unexpectedly. They had no idea of a “Yankee” army ever coming down here again. They presumed that if we attempted to go to Richmond it would be by the way of Gordonsville. This movement of General Burnside has completely taken them by surprise. As we stated in a previous despatch, our forces passed through Warrenton in three columns, Gen. Hancock on the right, General French the centre, and Gen. Howard on the left. This constitutes General touch's corps. The Ninth army corps, commanded by General---, and Couch's corps, are under the command of General Sumner. The troops took the direct road to Warrenton Junetion, early on Saturday morning, and encamped on the evening of that day in the vicinity of the Junction, and again started early on Sunday morning, making the next camp near the Spotted Tavern, in Stafford County, Fauquier being the county we had been passing through. Nothing of any great moment occurred during the march , except that it was conducted with great order — few or no stragglers to be seen — and such was the rapidity of the march that the citizens of the very few houses to be found were taken by surprise, not dreaming of an advance of our forces. The countenances of all whom we came across, plainly told of their astonishment. The first place of any name, after leaving the Junction, was Elk Run,a village consisting of two or three houses, with the usual outbuildings. A great majority of the dwellings in this county are built of logs, and are very uncomfortable within, invariably being heated by fires on the hearth — not the large fire-places where a quarter of a cord of wood can be used at once, but miserable little fire-places, narrow and contracted, of just sufficient size to freeze one to death at the opposite side of the room, away from the fire. The inhabitants of this region are indeed a “shiftless” set. The Spotted Tavern is about fifteen miles from Fredericksburgh, and consists of one house with a large barn. The original tavern was burned some time ago. Just previous to reaching this place, where the troops encamped, the marks of a former invading army can easily be traced, by fences being down,  roads through ploughed fields, no signs of husbandry, no shocks of corn fodder standing — all is gone. First came our forces, then came the confederates; away they go, and then our forces again. All these troops must be fed, and the consequence is, the whole country is skinned completely out. As most of the other armies passed in the summer, very little fire was used by the troops, consequently very few rail fences were destroyed. Now it is quite different; the cold snap has made a fire very agreeable; and as the rails make a quick and hot fire, they are used by thousands, much to the chagrin and discomfiture of the secesh farmers. Last night bright lights could be seen for miles, looking not unlike to a large city with all the street-lamps and stores lit up. The day opened on Sunday morning with a dull and heavy sky, giving evidence that a storm was brewing. By noon it cleared up somewhat, and the sun came out, warming the chilled atmosphere. Late in the afternoon it again clouded up, the weather becoming quite cold and raw. The weather all day yesterday was threatening, and quite cool. In the morning a very heavy fog impeded observation, and drops of it fell like rain. Once or twice during the morning it attempted to rain, but did not succeed. Late in the afternoon, the sun partially made his appearance. We all hope there will be no rain until the whole army is en route for its destination. Up to to-day the roads have been very good for the passage of an army, but one severe rain of a day or two will make them impassable. The soil is clayey in some places, while in many others it is very sandy and gravelly. The road here and from the Junction runs on a ridge, and is almost a desert, so far as water is concerned. What few streams there are running seem to be nothing but muddy pools. Water is very scarce, and the troops, after the long march, were suffering for the want of it. At the Headquarters of Gen. Sumner there is a well of good water. The advance guard placed a sentry over this well, ordering him to allow no one to get water from it except an officer from headquarters. When Gen. Sumner heard of this order he went to the sentry at the well, in person, and gave him instructions to let all get water who wanted it, at the same time stating that he would rather go without water himself than to let his men go thirsty. Some of the inhabitants of this almost deserted region have been in mortal fear of the “Yankees” for some time past, as they had been told our troops kill women and children, and burn all dwellings. A female at the house used as Headquarters, near the Spotted Tavern, implored us not to kill her or the children, and was most agreeably surprised when she learned that that was not our line of business. She had heard we had been burning and destroying all within our reach. A number of our troops, while overhauling a wheelwright shop, some miles from the tavern, found an Alabama ambulance, and some twenty-five shot-guns, with patterns for gun-stocks, etc. The guns were rather roughly handled, and the remnants left as mementoes of the past. It is said upon good authority that there are five Mississippi regiments and Major Crutch's rebel cavalry brigade in Fredericksburgh to dispute our crossing. The Thirtieth Virginia, Col. Carey, is also supposed to be there, or ready to come, as houses have been cleared to be used as barracks for them. This regiment has lost a great many men by desertion, as the mass of them are conscripts, who invariably leave at the first opportunity-preferring to live in the bush rather than be soldiers. The mass of the Virginia troops say they will not go out of Virginia to go into winter quarters. Falmouth is a very old town, some of the houses dating as far back as 1717, and some claim a greater antiquity. A portion of the town has a neat; air about it, while the mass of the houses are old and ill-shaped. There is not a public house in the whole town, or any place for strangers to stop. The best houses are white frames, while the old antiquities are the old-fashioned bricks, with heavy garret-windows. Very few men are to be seen, but there are an abundance of women and children. During the silencing of the batteries across the river the utmost consternation prevailed among the inhabitants. The children seemed very much frightened. During the early part of yesterday morning a ferry-scow, belonging to Mr. Fichler of Falmouth, was destroyed by the rebels to prevent our crossing. The river is fordable in many places, and this will have very little effect in keeping back the troops of Gen. Hancock's division, and the remainder of the column. This morning has opened again threatening rain, but our army is safe, the mass of it having got over the roads; in fact, the roads have been first-rate for the artillery and teams. During the march to this point our troops were in the very best spirits ; their merry, echoing voices rang through the forests, raising the spirits of the weary ones in the rear, all hurrying on to-ward this point. The “Philadelphia brigade,” known as Burns's, now commanded by Colonel Josh. Owens, of the gallant Sixty-ninth Pennsylvania, were in the left column during the march. They are in General Howard's division. Col. Baxter's regiment of Fire Zouaves have been consolidated, and now have ten companies instead of fifteen, as formerly. Yesterday morning one of the teams belonging to one of our batteries was out foraging for fodder, and got within a hundred yards of the enemy's cavalry pickets, they not observing the rebels. The teamster drove into a corn-field, the enemy not interfering in the least. The only reason we can give why they did not capture the whole party is, they feared it was a trap set to catch them. Our army has made a very sudden change of base. But the other day Harper's Ferry was the centre of attraction, then Warrenton, and now Fredericksburgh. In one of our letters we dated  “Head-waters of the Rappahannock” --now we are within a short distance of its mouth. What a transition — from the Blue Ridge mountains almost to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, and in so short a time. The two trains of cars that were observed leaving Fredericksburgh last evening carried away with them, no doubt, many a guilty head whose cowardly consciences feared to let them meet the Union forces. Each discharge of our battery at them, as they hurried away, must have caused their cheeks to blanch at the prospect of receiving a shell in the trains. The enemy succeeded, last night, in getting their battery away. About dusk they brought a limber over a bridge that spans a branch stream, and our battery gave them a parting shot just as night came on. The Harris Light cavalry arrived in town this morning, and it is presumed they will cross over the river and examine the country. The First New-Jersey cavalry is also on the scout in this neighborhood. No sign of an enemy is visible on the opposite shore. Gen. Lee telegraphed to the citizens of Fredericksburgh, yesterday, that we were coming in two columns. He was mistaken, as we came in three, with the artillery on the road, making the fourth.