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Things in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York — condition of the Cates and of the people — Historical Reminiscences — services of Norfolk citizens.

[special correspondence of the Dispatch]

Norfolk, Jan. 31, 1862.
I have very late and reliable intelligence from the Northern cities, and from Washington and Baltimore. The New York of 1862 is far different from the swarming, hivelike, noisy, driving, dashing, thriving Empire City of 1860. You may perambulate about town now without the danger of being knocked down and run over in the hurry of affairs. Business is dull; the people complain bitterly of the continuance of the war. Real estate has fallen in some parts of the city below zero; hundreds of stores are closed; fires occur frequently; the people are dissatisfied and restless, and the low rumbling of a storm that will shake the mammoth city to its deep foundations are already heard.

Philadelphia is a slow-looking place, compared to its business like and cheerful appearance in days of prosperity. Baltimore looks more like going ahead, but, judging from the suppressed murmurs that are heard, there may soon be an eruption of the volcanic fires that are struggling for vent. Washington is a muddy place. An armed soldiery is the great feature, while the beautiful public structures of stone form a striking contrast to the modest looking private buildings.--There, the contractors, office-seekers, and all the crowd of scramblers after money, are as busy as ever; but Washington too, presents the sad effects of the war waged by misguided fanatics and unscrupulous demagogues.

If the historic chapters relative to the present stupendous revolution, which are to be read by coming generations, shall present a truthful record of events that marked the commencement of the struggle for liberty in Virginia, some exploits in this section of our noble old State will be recorded as possessing vast importance. There are some names, too, still unwritten upon the scroll of fame, that will descend with those of the heroes of those days, far down the track of time.

There was a time here when men hesitated, waited, reasoned, while the plot was thickening for our subjugation and enslavement. That brief period unimproved, and the tramp of hostile forces would have been heard in our streets; our peaceful homes and altars would now be invaded, and the seaport of Virginia, unless its buildings had again fed the flames as in '76, would have been in the hands and at the mercy of the vandal hordes of the North.

One of the enemy's powerful war ships, was so close at hand that the boatswain's whistle could be distinctly heard on shore. Her great guns pointed towards our peaceful dwellings; but her officers knew not of the determined spirit of resistance that fired the hearts of some who were ready and eager to step forth to the hazardous task of duty, just when the deep-toned mutterings from the black storm-cloud of revolt were first heard in the distance.

In the report from the office of Detail and Equipment to the Convention, by Captain Barron, there are allusions to important measures taken here relative to the magazine, &c., and the report may have been necessarily brief. A few additional particulars will not be inappropriate here.

It was decided by one or two bold and daring spirits to remove the vast quantity of powder stored in the Government magazine upon the shore, a mile below the city. And so well devised was the plan, so cautiously was it executed, so eagerly and so rapidly, and yet so quietly, was the work done, that thousands of the citizens knew nothing of the important matter until the labor was accomplished. Shall we particularize with regard to those who so bravely and so carefully toiled in behalf of their country's honor on that night, when the explosion of a single package would have been death and ruin, and revealed the plot by a wide-spread destruction?

At the beginning of active hostilities here many of the volunteer officers and men of the revenue, as well as the navy officers, most gallantly did their duty; and much might be said, too, of that valuable class of men in a seaport, the pilots.

Our esteemed fellow-citizen, Capt. Richard Evans and Capt. Osmond Peters, on the opposite side of the river, nobly stood up to their duty in spite of infirmities and regardless of exposure; indeed there seemed to be on hand just the men wanted for the occasion.

On the 20th of April, the day before the great Navy-Yard fire, Lieut. Jas. F. Milligan, a removed officer, took command of the Empire, two days after she was steaming off to Richmond, with the first guns forwarded from the Navy-Yard, and a few days later she again passed up James river, loaded with powder, shot, shell, &c. Returning the last time, she had to run the blockade, which she did safely, notwithstanding she had two barges in tow. The zeal and the efficient and able services of Lieutenant, now Captain Milligan, then and since, have been deservedly appreciated and acknowledged in proper quarters. No one has labored more willingly and untiringly. As signal officer, his services have been specially useful, and his system of signals is believed to be equal to any that has been adopted.

The steamer Raney quickly followed the Empire to Richmond, and indeed was the first steamer that got off with a full cargo of powder for that city. She was in command of Captain William Face, a Virginia pilot, who was very prompt and energetic in the performance of the important duties assigned him, when men of nerve and action were in demand for special service.

Capt. R. K. Hudgins and his worthy son, Lieut. W. E. Hudgins, also of the revenue service, should be mentioned among the best men in the stirring scenes enacted during the period alluded to. Other brave men were active in urging forward those measures which were so requisite for safety, and in securing the defences of our city and other parts of the State.

On the 10th of April. some of our citizens, under the very guns of the Cumberland, seized three light-boats, towed them in the darkness of the night nearby the formidable looking war ship Cumberland, and sunk them in the channel of the river where they now lie, concealed from the watchful foe that looks with a covetous eye up the well guarded shores of the Elizabeth.

At another time, I may allude to the active part taken by others, resident here and elsewhere, and connected with the army, the navy, and in private life. Now, time and space are insufficient.

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