Correspondence of the Journal
On the Way to Manassas
Four Miles West of Fairfax
Friday, July 19, 1861
Corresponding under difficulties certainly, with a cartridge box for a table, and forty-five drops of ink, all in the country, the drum likely to beat at any moment for an advance.
Tuesday at 1 p. m. we left Camp Sprague, marched through the city over the Long Bridge. I have no time to tell you of our fine appearance, or the enthusiasm which greeted our march. We went about 12 miles, and camped in a large field near Annandale, where we were presently joined by our old friends, the 71st New York and the 2d New Hampshire, the whole constituting Burnside’s brigade of the 2d division, commanded by Col. Hunter of the regular cavalry. Next morning the column advanced, led by the 2d Rhode Island, who acted as skirmishers, scouring the woods for half a mile each side of the road. About three miles from Fairfax Court House we came upon the first barricade, consisting of large trees felled across the road for the distance of one hundred yards. Our axemen were ordered to the front, and soon removed the obstruction. We found two similar ones before reaching the town, but they were easily surmounted. Near the town was an earthwork, recently occupied by a battery of light artillery, which had been hurriedly removed. Behind it, at some distance from the road, were three camps. Paymaster Sisson, who was detailed with a party of carbineers to visit them, found much valuable booty, swords, pistols, muskets, clothing, and provisions of every sort. Their flight had evidently been most hurried. Indeed, our advance saw a small party at a distance making off as they entered the fort.
We immediately pushed forward, and entered the town without opposition. A secession flag flying from the top of the Court House was torn down in a twinkling and the stars and stripes substituted, followed by a violent ringing of the bell.
The troops were quartered about the town, and the stores and houses whence the secession owners had fled were thoroughly ransacked. Quantities of camp equipage and hospital stores, mostly marked “South Carolina,” were found, – sabres and guns of the most fantastic and obsolete description. But it would be perfectly useless to attempt a description of the heterogeneous assortment of plunder with which every man who took the trouble to forage was adorned. To judge from the uniforms about the camp, we would seem to have many of the Palmetto Guard and other crack secession regiments in our midst. Articles of the most cumbrous and useless description were taken, only to be dropped by the way.
Later in the day sentinels were posted in front of all the houses, and the “loot” was confined to the rebels camps.
Our companies bivouacked in the yards and lanes about town. Yesterday morning we moved one mile west and remained till 4 p. m., after which we advanced to this point. On the way we found pots and kettles and all sorts of camp furniture, cast away by the rebels in their flight. They found time, though, to burn one or two houses on the way. On reaching here we learned that Gen. Tyler’s division had suddenly come up on a masked battery which poured in a destructive fire of shot and shell, causing our men to retire. Many were killed and wounded, but you have much better information on the subject than we have. It is reported this morning that the enemy have retired from the battery. We expect to advance upon the Junction shortly. As I write, 12 secession prisoners, one of them a sergeant, are passing, guarded by a double file of soldiers. They are sturdy fellows. Some look defiant some downcast. I understand the Fire Zouaves took them. Sherman’s Battery, the Massachusetts 1st and New York 12th took part in the engagement yesterday. I do not mention any of the thousand rumors afloat respecting the loss yesterday, or the next movement to be made, because no accurate information can be obtained, by me at least. One thing is certain, Manassas must be ours, and the Rhode Island men expect to do their part in its reduction. That done, we will return content. I have been talking with the Quartermaster of the Massachusetts 1st. He thinks about 50 of his brigade are killed. A negro, escaped from the rebel camp this morning, reports dreadful slaughter done by Sherman’s battery.
Providence Journal 7/22/1861