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Army of the Potomac.

[our own correspondent.]
Manassas, Dec. 17th, 1861.
Those who love to read Shakespeare, will remember in ‘"King Henry V."’ the grand expedition into France, and the plans formed by Bardolph, Nym, and Pistol, to better their condition. Each had his hopes and wishes and saw before him the ambition of a lifetime almost as surely realized as if France were indeed partitioned between the three.--But ancient Pistol exceeded them all in those qualities which indicate the shrewd man of business, for he chose the position, which in all ages has been more profitable than any other, that of sutler to the army. He saw in the future all his own wants supplied, and so much did the prospect soften his heart, that he began to look out for the fortune of his friends. ‘"Ah!" ’ says he to corporal Nym, ‘"A noble shalt thou be,"’ and then after promising him a bountiful supply of worldly goods, plenty to eat, and wine from his own cellar, he continues: ‘"For I shall sutler be unto the camps, and profits will accrue; give me thy hand."’

No person can fail to admire the sagacity of ancient Pistol, and especially those who have been for the past three months in the army of the Potomac can realize fully the feelings which prompted him in his choice of the spoils of the expedition. Who wonders, after seeing the tradesmen of our army coining money day by day by a system of most unmitigated swindling, that the position is desirable to men who, like Pistol, are determined to make a fortune? One by one, for a long time back, small shanties have been erected in the vicinity of the Junction, which, even before completion, have been filled with goods purchased at a low price, to be retailed to the soldiers at most exorbitant profits. Every one of these places have been crowded from morning until night with men anxious to purchase at any cost some of the luxuries of life they are accustomed to have at home. I have previously spoken of the merge stock contained in a majority of these shops, and need not repeat it; suffice it to say, none of them contained a first-class article of any kind, but yet the prices in every instance were prodigious. Two or three hundred dollars is enough to purchase a stock of goods upon which twelve hundred can be realized. I have heard one sutler boast that he had made one thousand dollars clear profit in a single month, and another, who come here with nothing and purchased his stock on credit, that he had a large bank account after paying his debts. The proprietor of one of the smallest establishments here told a friend not long since that he had taken in fifteen hundred dollars since opening, and he might have added, that he had taken one-half that amount out of the pockets of soldiers fighting for their country at eleven dollars a month. Since the Provost Marshal has forbidden any more sutler shops in the place, large sums have been offered for partnership and interest in old establishments. On Monday of this week an order was issued by Gen. Johnston closing every sutler shop in Manassas but two; this made a great scattering among the speculators, but a few yet remain here trying in some way to get a chance at the money of the volunteers. Some of these men are honest and fair in their dealings; and, I presume, it was on account of this that all the shops were not closed by a general order. Sitting at dinner in the Warrenton Hotel, a few days since, I overheard a short conversation between two men, in which one of them boasted that he had now got the thing fixed to his satisfaction, and that he could not make less than one hundred dollars a day off his contract to supply bread to the army, and that he should be much disappointed if he did not clear two hundred a day. Who the speculator was I am unable to say, but it is right that attention should be called to such things in the beginning, for we all know that the corrupt system of speculating in the old Government was the primal cause of its destruction. It was the conversation mentioned above that caused me to speak of army lers and speculators.

A few nights ago, while sitting in my tent enjoying a fragrant ‘"Havana,"’ from which the smoke floated upward in blue wreaths, forming the web and woof of many pleasant fancies, a small box was handed me upon which was the following note:

"Martinsburg, Va., 1861.

"Bohemian--In your letter of Nov.--, you say 'my candle admonishes me to draw my letter to a close.' Knowing how disagreeable it is to have the candle go out while one is engaged in writing, and not having another near to replace it, I take the liberty of sending you a small box of home-made candles, and hope they will answer every purpose.

‘"I have read all your letters with pleasure, and while in Centreville endeavored to find out who you were, but failed. Woman's curiosity! -- --."’

The candles were packed very nicely in a small box, and I am sure they will do me very good service. One of them illuminates the page upon which I am now writing. For some time past I have looked with envy upon the boxes containing so many nice things from home and friends that have been received in camp, and my sleep has been disturbed by dreams of smoking caps, dressing gowns, slippers, comforts, and all sorts of worsted things wrought by female hands. Now, however, I am as fortunate as any one; for, when I get envious and sad, I look at my little box of candles, and think that some one is interested in me, or at least in the labor of my pen. My fair friend has ten thousand thanks for her splendid gift.

Some time ago a box containing a lot of clothing for the First Maryland regiment, was forwarded from Pittsboro', Chatham county, N. C. The ladies of that town have been very patriotic, and have furnished the troops from their own vicinity with every necessary article of clothing. Their own people being provided for, the young ladies of Pittsboro' responded to the call made in behalf of the Maryland boys, and at once forwarded them a large box of wearing apparel. The box was sent to Mr. Zimmerman, at Manassas, who delivered it to one of Col. Stuart's men. Since that time nothing has been heard from it, and the ladies fear it may have been mislaid. There is little doubt but the box was received by the regiment, and that, although there has been no formal acknowledgment of it, the Maryland boys have been benefited by the present from the kind ladies of Pittsboro'.

The certainty that the army will winter somewhere in the vicinity of Bull Run, has caused quite an increase in the number of buildings in Manassas. Our friends of the Southern Express Company are erecting a new building which promises to be very convenient for their extensive business. The railroad company also are building a new freight depot, and several hospitals have been erected a short distance below the junction. Manassas now looks more like a town than ever before. Prominent among the new buildings is the telegraph office, a small wooden house about twenty feet square, containing two large rooms, a battery room, closet, and above a sleeping room for the operators. It is immediately opposite the depot and post-office, and in full view of the passengers as they arrive on the trains. In the room are four instruments connected with the wires running to Richmond, Lynchburg, Winchester, and Dumfries. Across one end is a counter to keep out loafers and a shelf for writing messages.

The second room is for private business, and contains a few chairs and tables for the use of newspaper correspondents, as the office is a place of habitual resort to three or four special individuals who remain here. At present, I am sorry to say, the tables are vacant, as our best and readiest writers are on a trip to Richmond, and are enjoying the hospitalities of that city. The plan of this new office is a good one, as it combines convenience with all the elegance that plain pine boards will furnish. The architect was Mr. J. T. Coldwell, the Superintendent of the line and of the field corps, and it was built under his direction. Quite a novelty here is the new sign, black letter on a white ground, looking, in comparison with others in the city, so very gay that it is positively gorgeous. The chief operator here is Mr. C. C. Clark, assisted by Mr. C. H. Barnes, for some time connected with this office. The change from the old car so long used as the telegraph office is quite an improvement.

Preparations are being made as rapidly as possible to put the army into winter quarters. Yesterday the Louisiana brigade moved this side Bull Run.


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