Army of the Potomac.
[our own correspondent.]
Dumfries, Nov. 19th.
The prospect of an immediate fight at Centreville
was gone; all hope of a skirmish even had been given out, and the place was fast growing blue with dullness.
Nothing in the world was stirring.
The fun and sport of camp life had given place to intense quiet, and soldiers moped around like children in the darkness.
The morning drills went off heavily and the remainder of the day was spent in starting at the coals, or in getting up Their arrangements for personal commit in and around the tents.
The wind whistled over the Bull Run hills
and across the valley, keeping up an incessant and weariness ly. Towards evening, however, a report came in that there was a prospect of something down on the river; and as the wind had died away, your ‘"own"’ turned his home toward Dumfries
, in the hope of picking up an item or so for the benefit of his friend, ‘"the public."’ Just as the sun was setting behind the western hills, a solitary nobleman might have been passing through Manassas
, driving leisurely over the Centreville
, and , enjoying the calmness of the hour and the beautiful scenery along the The shadows of evening were list the posing into night as he swam his and drove through the dense woods until the m appeared above the horizon, when he turned into a to seek shelter and rest for the night.
He met with a warm re tion and was before a blazing fire dispensing news to an audience of eager listeners, and repeating stories to the small children and clustered around his chair.
The ride from Centreville
was an agreeable one, although made solitary and alone for there were companions along the route to keep pass away the hours.
At this season of the year no one who has an eye for the beautiful can fail to be pleased with all about him. As some one has truly said, autumn with us is a season; it is the carnival of a stare that ushers in the ‘"tent"’ of winter.
The first breath of autumn air is dearly welcome for it tells us that the burning heat of summer is over, and that it brings a healthful temperature to counteract the lassitude produced by the August sun. It is the har of cool refreshing nights, with blue , and stars that sparkle with frosty brilliancy, and days of golden glory and temperate warmth.
We rejoice to watch from day in day the changes it produces as the frosts, that tell of the coming winter, grow more frequent.
As the autumn draws to a close how fully we realize the line some poet sings.
‘"How like a monarch regal Autumn dies"’
The forests do not perish with us as in other countries, but they gradually give up their summer green for richer and more varied lines.
After the harvest moon the woodland is the theatre of a masquerade more Brilliant than that of carnival weeks in Rome
, or of any the old world pageants royalty has established.
The maples come out in a suit of gold, the beech comes on the stage in sliver; the walnut figures in rich straw color, the dogwoods effect carmine; the pines and hemlocks retain their green, and every twig and shrub done some fantastic livery.--The oak, the monarch of the woods, comes out conspicuously in the revel dressed in royal purple.
With this gay scene carnival autumn glosen and lenten winter appears, mel only by the delightful Indian
summer days, which, like a dream of pleasure past, comes to soften the trials f to-day.
is not the sad season English poets in melancholy reverse, but it is the brief period which contains the holidays of the year.
But pardon this digression — to my story again.
After good night's rest, morning found me in the saddle once more, and on the road to Bacon Race Church, where Hampton
's Legion is encamped.
Being little acquainted with the officers of the Legion, I spent but few moments there, and then hurried to my journey's end. The sound of heavy guns upon the river caused me to push on more ' rapidly, and in less than two hours Dumfries
On the early history of the town I know scarcely anything, and conversing with the bitan's who ought to be well posted in its local records, has added little to my slender stock of information.
An old lady sixty-three years of age, Mrs. Cannon
, is probably the only person born in Dumfries
, who now resides in it. The old families have all removed, and their houses are either destroyed or are occupied by emigrants who have purchased them at a low price, and who struggle on from year to year against poverty and ruin.
I have never seen a more desolate, God forsaken looking town, not even in Bohemia, or on the steppes of Wallachia
Once it was a place of some note, and bid fair to be a powerful rival of the port of Haarlem
, which afterwards became New York!. It was settled by a company of Scotchmen
, as its name would indicate, immediately after the settlement of James town
by the English
It was first laid out upon the Potomac
, but as the bay was capacious and, the river navigable for some five miles, it was removed up the Quantico to its present location.
It grew very rapidly, and was soon the most important town in the whole country.
Long before the United States
existed as an independent government, when Virginia
was a colony of Great Britain
was a thriving place, and contained several large were houses, numerous stores, a church, a court-house.
In which the colonial records were kept, a jail, and other public buildings.--Gradually, as time crept on, the trade grew, and consequently new ware houses and stores were erected.--When Alexandria
was called Bell Haven
, this was the great trading port of the country, and merchants were accustomed to purchase their goods here, and the country farmers for many miles, throughout the counties of London, Fauquier
, and still beyond even, brought their grain and tobacco for It became an incorporated town; it was made a port of entry; it carried on an extensive trade with Europe
, and vessels of the largest six loaded and discharged their cargoes at its wharves.
Ships were built and launched upon the shores of the Quantico.--In proportion to its increase of commercial wealth, grew the prosperity of its people.
Elegant private residences were built; the stores were enlarged and multiplied; there came new factories and mills; a bank was chartered, and to show how the tastes were developed with their increasing wealth a flue brick theatre and another church were erected.
This was in 1755, at which time Dumfries
was in a very prosperous and promising condition.
There seems to have been considerable wealth among the people, who were public spirited and liberal.
They encouraged commerce, agriculture, and learning, and while they grew rich in the pocket, did not hesitate to give liberally for the support of schools and other public institutions.
At last the old Court-House became too shabby and small for the elegant town of Dumfries
— almost a rival of its Scottish namesake — and brick and corner stones were imported to build a new one.
There were more than sixty stores on the main street, and sometimes the school children had a hard task to get through it for the many wagons and carriages that crowded it even up to the shop doors.
Huge barrels of tobacco stood on every side, and the drays were continually occupied in hauling it to the ship, while the creaking of the cranes, as it was swung on board, was heard all day long.
One by one, the vessels would spread their sails and go out to sea, perhaps never to return again, and their place alongside the wharves would be occupied by some new comer from across the ocean.
Those were white-letter days for poor Dumfries
, alas ! that they exist no longer!
When the country around became cultivated and settled quite thickly, it was found that the freshet and heavy rains were washing the soft soil into the river, and that it was gradually being filled up. First one and then another of the wharves and warehouses were rendered worthless from this cause, and so rapidly did the land encroach upon the stream that it became a source of much alarm.
It was well known that fine harbors had been completely filled up, and that the islands of the sea had been washed away.
The phenomenon of land changing its position was known and consequently dreaded.
We read in history of terrible inroads by the sea, and of new island covered with vegetation, being formed upon coral reefs.
In the year 1856.
I remember, the set washed away several acres of the island of Langrode in the German Ocean
, taking in the church-yard and many private residences.
The same year the bar at the mouth of the Weser grew several feet.
Little by little the harbor of Dumfries
was closed up until it became impossible for a vessel to get into the river, and those of light tonnage even were forced to lay off in the bay, until finally the bay itself became shallow.
This was the turning point in the fortune of Dumfries
, and thereafter its prosperity declined.
In the meantime, however, the American Revolution
broke out, and of course crippled the trade of the town, causing a high old panic among the thriving merchants.
It suffered somewhat from the war, and was shelled by the British fleet from the Potomac
, fragments of the projectiles being occasionally found at this late date.
Whether it was ever occupied.
I cannot say. After the war, new and better harbors were discovered, new towns built and new channels for foreign trade opened.
Capital will go wherever there is a chance for investment, and the wealthy traders of Dumfries
, closed their shops, and, taking up their Penates
, bid farewell to the old town.
After this, disaster followed disaster.
The houses were deserted, and soon went to ruin; the stores were labelled ‘"to let,"’ and followed fast in the same way. In 1846 or '47 there was a large fire which destroyed all the lower portion of the town, and time and neglect has nearly carried away the upper.
The once busy town has become a ruined burg; the elegant Dumfries
about as sorry a place as any one cares to see.
Of its present appearance I will try and give some idea in my next, but my candle admonishes me to draw this letter to a close.--Candles are scarce, at 20 cents a piece, and good old Georgia
light wood and fat pine splits cannot be found in this section of country.
I may say however, in conclusion, that the prospect of a battle here is very good, and Dam firmly of the opinion that McClellan
designs attacking the batteries at Evansport
, and at the same time making a demonstration across the Occoquan
There is a sufficient force here to meet him, and, for the present.
I presume, none of the troops will be withdrawn from Bull Run
The man here are anxiously waiting the attack, and will fight like tigers against Hodds
cannot come too soon.
arrived here this evening, and is now staying at General Whiting
's head quarters.
He will remain here a day or two inspecting the army and then return to Centreville
His arrival has been a source of much rejoicing, and hundreds have been in town to-day, to get a glimpse of their Chief, out have returned disappointed.
They will have an opportunity to-morrow.