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MANASSAS ABANDONED BY THE REBELS.
was very successful in driving before tent; and so skilfully was all this perhim a body of Mississippi troops, station- formed, despite Gen. McClellan's “secret ed at the town; these presently retired service force,” to give information of to Hillsborough. Leesburg was oc- the rebel doings, that, when our army cupied on the 8th of March, the rebels reached Manassas, there was not a gun under Hill having hastily evacuated it. left to be captured, or hardly a straggler Sixty-seven prisoners, over one hundred to be taken prisoner. On Sunday evenhorses, and a quantity of stores were ing, March 9th, the last of the rebel force captured.
abandoned Centreville, retreating in perJackson evacuated Winchester, March fect order, leaving the formidable line 11th; it was immediately taken posses- of fortifications on the ridge entirely sion of, the next day, by our troops, empty, save a few wooden painted logs, under Gens. Hamilton and Williams. which had been placed in the embraThe fortifications at this place, which sures. The famous stone bridge over had been supposed to be formidable, Bull Run, and another over Cob Run, were found to be hastily constructed were destroyed in the retreat. and of no importance. The brigade of Gen. McDowell, with the advance of Gen. Shields was now quartered at the army, arrived at Centreville on the Winchester, where Gen. Banks also 10th of March, and dispatched a cavalry established his headquarters.
force the same evening to Manassas, This movement, threatening as it did whence the last of the rebel troops had the left flank of the rebels, hastened departed in the morning. Nearly their retirement along the entire line everything of value had been removed, from Aquia Creek to the Shenandoah. and nothing remained but the refuse of Well advised of the progress of vast the camp, the lines of rude huts, etc. military preparations on the Potomac, It was a mortifying confession, but it and aware that one large force was be had to be made, that the rebels had got fore them; that another was fast gather the better of us, and that their retreat ing from Harper's Ferry, on their flank; on this occasion was equivalent to a and that probably speedy movement | victory. It required all the public conwould be made by the Chesapeake in fidence heretofore placed upon Mctheir rear, the rebel leaders resolved to Clellan and his forthcoming victories, to decline a battle, which had been for escape the conviction that the number of months eagerly expected by the people the rebels had been greatly over-estimatof the loyal states. Retreat, at the pre-ed, and that we had given them an adsent, was their policy, and retreat they vantage, especially in the way
preaccomplished in the coolest and most paring for defence against our advance, scientific manner. The heavy artillery which was likely to protract the con
at Manassas was leisurely re- test far longer than any one as yet had
moved, the railroad leading contemplated. south answering the purpose of trans- McClellan, having entered upon the porting men and munitions to any ex- active duties of commanding the ad
vance movement of the army, did not At a council of the generals comexpect certainly that any change would manding army corps, held at headquarbe made in his official position as gene- ters, March 13th, it was deemed most ral-in-chief. By the war order, however, expedient, Washington being properly which was issued on the 11th of March, secured against attack, and Manassas it was ordered: “Major-General Mc being occupied in force, to proceed to Clellan, having personally taken the the advance upon Richmond by way field at the head of the Army of the of Fortress Monroe. The president and Potomac, until otherwise ordered, he is war department approved this plan of relieved from the command of the other operations, and urged immediate, ener. military departments, he retaining com- getic action. mand of the Department of the Poto- Before proceeding further, however, mac.” By the same order, Gen. Halleck with the narrative of military operawas placed in command of the Depart- tions in Virginia, we must call the ment of the Mississippi, and Gen. Fre- reader's attention to the celebrated en. mont in command of the Mountain De-counter between the Merrimac and the partment, i. e., the region west of the De Monitor, not only because of its general partment of the Potomac. Each of effect upon the progress of the great these commanders was ordered to re- contest, but also because of its marked port directly and frequently to the importance in the history of naval warsecretary of war.*
fare in modern times. Certainly, nothAlthough not a little mortified at the ing which has ever occurred in connec course which had been pursued towards tion with ships of war, and with athim, McClellan, three days afterwards, tempts to render them invulnerable, is issued a spirited address to the soldiers of more remarkable and more significant the Army of the Potomac, in which he de in its results than this memorable enclared, that, though he had held them counter. back, it was to discipline them and fit It will be remembered, that when them to “give the death-blow to the the rebels seized upon the navy yard rebellion.” He also assured them, that at Norfolk (see p. 24), the U.S. steamer he was ready to share all dangers and Merrimac was one of the vessels which trials with them, and that he held it an was scuttled and abandoned by Capt. honor to belong to the Army of the Macaulay. Subsequently, she was raisPotomac.t
ed and placed in the dry dock, and * McClellan, in his Report, states that the first know- special care was bestowed upon fitting ledge he had of this order was through the newspapers. her out in such wise as to be invincible ! He addressed a note to the president, cheerfully acceding to the disposition thus made of his services, and to all attack, and consequently able to declaring that no consideration of self would in any act as a universal destroyer. Her hull manner interfere with the discharge of his public was cut down, and a bomb-proof cover
+ The rebel batteries on the Potomac at Cockpit ing of wrought iron put over her main Point and other stations were abandoned soon after the deck. Her bow and stern were sharpretreat from Manassas
, and the river was once more free ened and clad in steel, with a projecting from annoying and vexatious obstructions.
angle of iron to pierce any adversary in and the confederate flag flying from a ber path. Her engines were stated to staff
, she steamed directly for the frig. be 510 horse-power, and all her ma- ate Congress and the sloop-of-war Cum. chinery was below the water line. berland, which were stationed off James Armed with ten guns, 80-pounders, River to guard the blockade and prorifled; with a furnace for heating shot; tect the camp on the shore at Newport manned by ten lieutenants and 350 News. Both of these were sailing vespicked men; and presenting the appear- sels, and had consequently no opporance of a submerged house, with the tunity of manæuvring in presence of so roof oniy above water, the Merrimac, or formidable an adversary as this massive as the rebels re-named her, the Virginia, steam ram. The other vessels in the was a formidable antagonist indeed for Roads, at Fortress Monroe, were signalthe doomed vessels then blockading the ed to the aid of the Congress and entrance to Norfolk, and the mouth of Cumberland. They were the flag-ship the James River. * Buchanan, the com- Roanoke, the frigates Minnesota and mander, after forty-five years connection St. Lawrence, and soine half dozen with the navy, had deserted the flag of gun boats, which were employed in his country, and was now ready to do towing the frigates into position,—the all in his power for the new master Minnesota not having full steam on at whom he was serving.
starting, and the Roanoke being disOn a pleasant sunshiny day, Satur- abled by a broken shaft. day the 8th of March, the Merrimac Whilst these noble vessels were getleft Norfolk, and about noon was seen ting under way, the Merrimac moved coming round Craney Island, accom- slowly onward on her mission of despanied by two gun boats, and heading truction. The Congress and Cumberfor Newport News. Several other land, meantime, prepared to meet the armed steamers joined and followed in assaults of the Merrimac. The former her train, and were prepared both to mounted fifty guns; the latter twentygive aid and share in the confidently ex- four of heavy calibre. The Cumberdected victory of the Merrimac. With land opened fire at about a mile distant ; nothing visible but her smoke-stack but the iron roofed monster gave no
* The navy department was quite freely censured sign, until within 100 yards of the frig. for not being more attentive to the critical condition of ate. The broadsides of both the ships affairs at Hampton Roads. It was well known that the bounded harmlessly from the mailed Merrimac was all prepared to do her work ; Gen. Wool had sent a carefully drawn up statement to the authori- sides of the Merrimac. Equally unaties at Washington respecting the monster ram, affirm. vailing were the shots fired from the ing as his conviction that nothing in the Roads could withstand her onset; and yet apparently no steps were
powerful battery at Newport News. taken to save the splendid vessels in the harbor, beyond Six or eight times the Cumberland reordering the Monitor to the scene of action. Providentially, the Monitor arrived before it was quite too late, peated these broadsides from her masand also proved equal to the fearful emergency. But sive guns, but to no purpose ; a single see, for a defence of the navy department, Boynton's shot, however, from the Merrimac kill. “ History of the Navy during the Rebellion,” vol. i., p.
ed five of her men. 317. etc