from The Southbridge Journal, 18 Oct 1861(Volume 1 #35), contributed by Mike Branniff
| Letter From The Potomac
The only news to us is the daily arrival of troops. Gen. Bakers Brigade of 4000 strong passed here this evening en route for Conrad’s Ferry, five miles beyond us, up the river. Leesburg is exactly opposite this town and partly in sight. General Banks is below this point at Davis Town, nine miles. Seneca River six miles below, is in the Division of Gen. Stone, and is held by a large force with artillery. Taking this line from Big Falls, twelve miles this side of Georgetown to Conrad’s Ferry, there is a very heavy force, which is being daily augmented by reinforcements in points much needing them. There are certainly 55,000 men, and I have no reason to doubt, but that there are more, for my information was obtained on Sunday, and Gen. Baker did not leave Washington till that day. The arrangement of troops in this sector having been changed of late to the crossing, the increase of the cavalry force here by an entire regiment and two companies of regulars and cavalry, the making of boats on the canal, the collection of large cable ropes and hands at the river, all indicate to my mind, preparations for crossing the river. These I have seen and they are facts which most here know of. What the strength of the force on the other side, I do not know, though their camps are so near the river that our pickets hear the beating of their drums, drill and reveille and tattoos and some time bands of music. They have taken care to pitch their camp tents usually in such a position that we cannot see all of the ground and sometimes not any of it.
I saw a negro who swam the river, and escaped to Capt. Watson a short time since. He was a bright nineteen years old, worth in good times $1200 to $1500 dollars, but the poor fellow has got to go back it seems. His owner is not a secessionist, as they say, though the man that hires him is an officer in the rebel cavalry. He gave us quite an account of matters of the forces at Leesburg, &c. But he did not detail half as much as one who has since come across, and who has been already put in tow for “back to old Virginny” to hoe the corn. He belonged to a widow somebody, and as General Stone is bound to do the fair thing, and give the law its full meaning, and nothing more this darkie will have to go back to his owner. He is the widows mite, being nearly all her personal estate. He has given us a long account of things, accurately in part as we know from other sources.
Last night there was great rejoicing in Leesburg. The bells rang a long time, the band came out, and shout after shout rent the air. This was all heard distinctly on this side of the river. It was no doubt at the news of (Bridges??) success in Missouri, though we do not know certainly. The rebel troop (had?)……………………….. from Leesburg down the river and returned again today. They were attracted by firing at Davistown and meant to be on hand if any advances were made by our troops. Thus you see the rebels are vigilant and careful to be ready at any point, but I am mistaken or they will have more to hold the west wing of their position for thirty days to come than they will to gain any advantage they have obtained since the war began.
With the present information, if they suffer our army to cross, several points they hold must fall, at least enough to let western Virginia have a clear route northward. By an agreement of Generals, the firing among army pickets across the river is suspended. But last Saturday night three of the rebels undertook to come over in a small boat, but when midways of the river were fired upon by our pickets, so they put back. This was another foolish move which set the general to raging some. “Why did not the fools let them land?” he said “and then take them.” There were forces enough, a company of men within 50 rods, who were all on sentry duty. The pickets are not always shrewd, if they were they would have taken four rebels who came across last week and exchanged papers, treated a Corporal of ours to whiskey, and he got into the guard house for it within a few hours. But time will learn them something of the strategy of war. I hope, if it does not folly will reign in our army.
There are a few rank secessionists in this parish, but they do not say much now. Two weeks ago they said and boasted a great deal of the strength of the forces across the river. But a day or two since, one of them, a Mr. Got, who lives near, said he should be compelled to join with us for he did not think Virginia could stand against the federal army, but should not forsake his sympathy of feeling for it would be an unjust triumph. I understand many of his class talk in this way here secretly. They do not intend to vote in state affairs. So Montgomery county is sure for Union, for this party will turn out generally. The country candidates are in the field already. There are many good Union men here among whom are Dr. Poole after whose family the district was named and Dr. Brace, with whom I am stopping, the latter formerly a Bell-Everett man in politics. Poole is the wealthy man of town, owns very large estates and many negros, is a fine man, respected by the army and by citizens.