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Army of the Potomac.
[our own correspondent.]

Centreville, Dec. 15th.
Rumors of an impending battle are thick enough, but are traceable to no authentic source, nor do they near any great amount of probability upon their face. From the immense sheaf of reports I can pick out a straw or two to show which way the wind blows. From below we hear that the enemy is about to advance towards the Occoquan, with the design of crossing at Colchester. Hampton's Legion has gone down to look after them there, and the other troops a few miles below are on the qui vive to catch a glimpse of "Uncle Dabe's" grand army. The forces in entrenched camps by the batteries on the Potomac have relaxed none of their vigilance, and, although chafing at the delay, have not become disheartened, and still cherish faint hopes of a battle before the winter closes. From above, rumor says a force seems to be gradually advancing towards Leesburg, and that the lines have been drawn very closely in that vicinity. This I put down as a mere on dit, and I may say, have some suspicion of the former. To satisfy public opinion I will not say that it is not impossible a battle may come off before the Christmas holidays, for nearly every day we get a pipe full of indications to smoke on for twenty-four hours.

As I have previously stated, all expectations of a fight are based upon the supposition that public opinion at the North will force the army on. McClellan is too much of a soldier to fight without some prospect of success, and so long as the responsibility of a defeat would fall upon his shoulders, will not hazard a battle without calculating well the chances of victory. He has yet a great deal to accomplish before he gets his organization perfected and his men up to the standard of good soldiers. The "grand review," where one half of his cavalry tumbled off their horses and where his infantry trembled in their boots for fear of marching upon "Rebel masked batteries," was only designed to quiet public opinion, and was not, as published to the world, the inactive of an advance upon the army of Rebels who awaited them. And what a "review" it was; and how suggestive of Falstaff mustering his recruits to see the doughty McDowell draw up his Bull Ruffners to salute the "big Indian" as he rode slowly along the lines. How it must have delighted the breach Princes. How the Rail-splitter must have chuckled!--Dr. Russell was there — and so was Jenkins.

Ah! well, the "Grand Review" passed off and had its desired effect. The public mind was quieted for a time; more volunteers came on; stocks became easier, and all at the expense of a few broken legs and collar bones, and the accidental shooting of a soldier or two by some excited Winkle. Secretary Chase borrowed fifty million dollars upon the strength of our evacuation of Munson's Hill, and he got the promise of more upon the strength of the "Grand Review." That was his object, and not to prepare for an advance upon his "on to Richmond" programme.--Still the feeling at the North--in fact all over Yankeedom — is decidedly in favor of active operations this winter, and who knows what a day may bring forth. Horace says, (Book I, Carmen IX, Ad. Thaliacus,) quid sit futurum cars: quauere non fuge; and acting upon his advice, we cherish the small amount of hope still left, and await a battle expectant of it.

The fortifications around Centreville are now completed, and present quite a formidable appearance. For field fortifications they are built very strong, some of the works being bastioned forts, constructed in a manner that shows skillful engineering on the part of somebody — Beauregard, I presume. Great care seems to have been taken with the embrasures, which are built to combine convenience for handling the guns with the best method for protecting the men. They are very strongly built with bundles and sandbag revetments, and will stand a heavy cannonading before giving way. The armament of these forts having arrived from a place where they make most excellent guns, they have been put in position, and all that is now asked is for Mr. McClellan to bring on his Yankees. Different artillery corps are drilled in these batteries nearly every day, and some have become proficient marksmen. All have obtained perfectly the range of any point where a hostile battery could be placed.

The New York Herald, of December 6th, contains a list of the number and name of the regiments and battalions now composing the Confederate Army, which seems to cause some considerable alarm in Richmond for fear it was furnished by some spy in the War Department. If there be a clerk who acts the spy, who furnished the Herald with such a list, for God-sake do not disturb him. His many blunders and accuracies will do the other side more harm than ours, and he may be looked upon as a public benefactor rather than a traitor. The fact of the case is, this list is made up entirely from gleanings from the newspapers gathered here and there, and then summed up as any skillful and energetic editor knows well how to do. When the army was in the process of formation estimates were made by Congress of the number of troops each State in the Confederacy could furnish. Ordinarily seven per cent. of the population of a country is the number that can be taken for soldiers without damage to its commercial and agricultural interest. In the Southern States, where the labor is performed almost entirely by a class of the population from which no soldiers are taken. It was thought that a ten per cent. ratio could be adopted. This caused some little rivalry among the States as to which should approach nearest the standard, and finally individuals began to argue the matter, each of course maintaining his own State was equal or superior to any.

The South Carolina papers published lists of the troops sent from that State, Georgia followed, and so on throughout the Confederacy. No paper in the South took the trouble to condense these various reports, but the Herald did; and some time in July last came out with a full list of the rebel army up to that date, giving at the same time a partial list of the regular Confederate officers which I had obtained from the War Department in Montgomery, and published during the second session of Congress. Everybody raised the cry of a spy in the departments, but by comparing the Herald's list with the files of Southern papers, it could be readily seen from what source it sprang. The recent list is hut a rehash of the old one, giving such additional facts as have been gained by close study of Southern journals. It will be observed that the Virginia regiments are given more accurately than any other, and that the Louisiana regiments are published under the same organization they came into the service with, while we know that there is scarcely one that has been unchanged. The reason for this is because the Virginia papers have been received with more regularity than those from the extreme South. To say there is a spy retained as a clerk in the War Department is a severs reflection upon Mr. Benjamin, and I wish to give the case a fair consideration before making such a charge. Who is there in Richmond that believes General Beauregard has his headquarters at Brentsville? or that General G. W. Smith is at Leesburg? or that Gen. Johnston is at Manassas? Who is there in Richmond, either in or out of the Department, that cannot point out one hundred errors in every column of the Herald's report? Sometime ago, when the Armada was preparing to sail from Hampton Roads, I sent you the number of ships composing it, the number of regiments on board them, the number of guns in the light artillery, and also furnished other facts which have since been found correct.--This information was not from any official source, but was made up from items gleaned from the Herald and other papers which contained items from time to time regarding the movement, while they tried seriously to throw a veil of secrecy over it. Like a witness on the stand who volunteers a few words to help his case and which a skillful lawyer turns to his injury, so in the case the little bit of news furnished in the aggregate the desired information. I must say, however, that my opinion in this matter is given, not for the purpose of convincing people there are no spies about, but to remove suspicion from those who may be innocent.

On Friday morning there was a cavalry brigade drill near Centreville, after which six battle flags were presented to the different regiments by Gen. Stuart. The cavalry was drawn up near the fortifications, presenting a splendid appearance to the few spectators who were fortunate enough to witness it. Riding up to each regiment, Gen Stuart, with a short and appropriate speech, presented the flags to the Colonels. Each Colonel responded as he received the banner from the hand of the General, pledging himself and his men to bear it safely through all dangers, and to rally around it in the hour of battle. The ceremony lasted about an hour, after which the cavalry returned to their camp, some three miles away. I am only sorry that earlier notice had not been given, so that a larger crowd could have been present.

I have just seen the paragraph in the Dispatch, of the 12th, asking me to inquire for Mr. George M. Morgan, for the benefit of a correspondent at "Camp Qui Vive." Being upon the outposts, I did not see the paper until my attention was called to it this evening by a friend. I am very happy to be able to assist your correspondent in any way, and shall make immediate inquires. There is an officer in Col. Hays' 7th Regiment by the name of Morgan, but his initials are, if I am correctly informed, T. S, instead of G. M. He was a Lieutenant in one of the companies, but has recently been elected Captain. Perhaps Lieut. Morgan may drop me a note upon the subject, to the "care of Telegraph Office, Manassas."


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