Army of the Potomac.
[from our own correspondent.]
Manassas Sept. 11th, 1861.
Not withstanding my proximity to the Headquarters of the army; I find it next to impossible to separate the few items of truth I desire to give you from the mass of exaggerated rumors that are constantly afloat, some of them as ridiculous as they are impossible and false.
All the fancies of many idle brains; the dreams and vivid imagining by the campfire; the tales of personal daring and bravery which willing friends circulate as freely; the facts and incidents of military life; come to us dressed in imagery that would be creditable to the Parisian authors, or read well beside the pages of Arabian Nights
It may seem astonishing that one in the very heart of the army should lack for news; but beyond the record of ordinary camp life nothing of general interest has transpired for several days.
The heavy cannonading that has been so frequently heard in the direction of Arlington Heights
, has given rise to assertions that there are daily skirmishes between the advance of the contending armies.
As I have stated previously, this firing is from Fort Corcoran, a short distance above Georgetown
, where the Federals
drill daily in artillery practice.
On Saturday and Monday they were using some heavy guns, probably seacoast howitzers, the report of which, echoing over the hills, could be distinctly heard at Manassas
The smaller guns and the light artillery can be distinguished at Fairfax
.--Occasionally, a few reports are heard at points lower down the river, but they are evidently for practice, or the signal guns by which the enemy maintain some secret communication.
Since the little affair at or near Great Falls
, where the Washington Artillery gave the Yankees
a terrible scare, and made them show the white feather, as well as the white flag, there has been no skirmishing of any importance.
Every one is looking anxiously towards Munson's hill and the vicinity of Chain Bridge in anticipation of some stormy scenes within a short time.
It is expected that the enemy will endeavor to drive our men from the hill, and that they, mindful of the former unsuccessful attempt, will come out in much stronger force.
Our men on the hill and in the vicinity are prepared for them, and nightly sleep on their arms, with the parks of artillery in position, to be used in less than four minutes from the alarm.
All the passes to the hill are carefully guarded and fortified, and it may prove a hazardous expedition should McClellan
try to get possession of the works there, which he undoubtedly wishes very much to do, and to pull down the ‘"rebel"’ flag that is continually floating in his sight.
One can very readily imagine that it must be an eye-sore to the fanatical Roundhead, and that it recalls unpleasant memories of Bethel
, Bull Run
, Stone Bridge
The possession of Munson's hill is at this time of much more importance to the Federals
than to us; and for this very reason it is desirable that it should not fall into their hands.
's and Mason
's hills, a most admirable line of defence could be formed, which, with the field works that could be easily erected, would resist any force that McClellan
can bring against it. Guns mounted on the redoubt on Mason's hill would sweep all the roads and approaches to Munson's hill, and could do admirable execution upon troops advancing by the Leesburg turnpike
, certainly the most desirable avenue of approach for any considerable body of men. From Upton
's, it is an easy matter to throw shell upon Hall's hill
, and it would be but little work to destroy entirely the house of Mary Hall, now used as a lookout or observatory by Federal pickets.
That house has now become quite a centre of attraction, and there are many visitors who climb to its roof in order to get a glimpse of the Confederate
camp near Upton's house.
On Sunday last a number were assembled in both houses, and stood peering at each other through glasses for some hours.
We in Upton's house waved a handkerchief to those opposite, and the salute was immediately returned; but soon after, possibly when it was suggested that the signal was for an attack, there was a general stampede, and we saw no more of them for some hours.
The line of hills now in our possession are of some importance as positions of defence, and for little else.
The Federals have erected powerful field works opposite them, with bastions having heavy guns mounted en barbette.
They have also several smaller fortifications, stockade forts, redoubts with redans and lunettes, and various kinds of shelters, behind which the light artillery could be safely used.
Every point that can be strengthened and made available for defensive operations is being fortified, and they are burning the woods in every direction, bringing to light houses that have been hidden from our sight by the intervening forests.
It is evident that hot work is expected here, and that McClellan
is using every exertion to perfect his defences before the blow is struck.
I have said this line of hills is useful for making a defence; but as a base for offensive operations, it is of less value.
As far as my judgment goes, I should say that the best that could be done would be to erect counter-works, mounting some of our heaviest guns upon them, and then, under cover of their fire, a successful advance might be made.
The present position of the two armies is one of much interest to an engineer, and there are many problems upon the bord that would require much skill and hard study to solve.
When the armies are so close to each other it is not surprising that some small sally should be made occasionally, similar to those brilliant sorties so common during the Crimean war. A brave, dashing man calls for a few volunteers and goes out on a scouting expedition.
He learns by reconnaissance of a party of the enemy, and endeavors by a surprise, or rapid charge, to capture them, which he possibly can do with the loss of one or two men. The history of all wars shows this practice to be common, and they serve to enliven the dull routine of camp or garrison duty.
In our war these small skirmishes furnish the ground-work for the telegrams which appear in our daily papers, received in a majority of cases from Yankee sources.
Last night one took place near the Chain Bridge
, in which one of our Captains
, a Lieutenant and a private were taken prisoners, and two privates killed.
I have not learned the full history of the affair, but you will undoubtedly have a report of it in the telegraphic dispatches from Washington
sooner than I can get it to you by mail.
The pickets still keep firing on each other, but thus far but little has been accomplished on either side.
There seems to be a number of amateur fighters on the Yankee
line — fanatical Abolitionists, who come out from Washington
, bringing sporting rifles of long range, and spend the day in cracking at our pickets whenever they come in sight.
I believe that we have lost but two as yet, notwithstanding many thousand Minnie balls have been aimed at every person who comes within a thousand yards of their line.
On Sunday a young man belonging to one of the Tennessee
regiments was hit while passing from one post to another, and was severely wounded in the side.
The ball struck one of the ribs, shattered it and passed outwards.
He will recover.
About the same time a spent ball struck another of our pickets in the foot, exactly on the sole of his shoe.
The ball was imbedded in the thick leather, but did not enter the flesh.
The blow caused some swelling of the foot and ankle.
These are all the late casualties near Munson's hill.
The weather to-day has been stormy and disagreeable, although but little rain has fallen.
It is a rare circumstance to have three pleasant days in succession. G. M.