|from The |
| From the Fifteenth Regiment
Washington,, August 20, 1861
Dear Sir: The place which by the force of circumstance we now call home, lies some two miles directly north of Washington, on the estate of the late Commodore Porter. From the top of his residence we command a very fine view of the city itself; the White House lying immediately in front; the Potomac, Georgetown and Alexandria. it is one of the old residences, and in its day must have been a splendid place.
But I turn to matters more near the seat of war which I presume will be more interesting to readers. By an invitation of one of the government officials, I started out Saturday for Alexandria. On reaching Long Bridge, our pass was demanded, and this became a thing of frequent occurrence throughout the whole route. No person is exempt from this strict surveillance. On reaching the Virginia side, we found that end of the bridge protected by strong earthworks, where heavy pieces of ordinance protect its approaches. A short distance beyond this we reached Fort Runyan, the road running directly through its center. The banks on either side must be thirty five to forty feet high. Away off on the right Forts Albany and Ellsworth are located. All the woods in their immediate vicinity have been cut down so as to give a fair sweep and cut off all covers for an approaching force. Arlington House, the estate of Gen. Le, now in seccessiondom, is at present held by Gen. McDowell as his headquarters.
But Alexandria is the most desolate, hopeless, and dejected place I ever saw. In its day it was a place of considerable note and influence, but the glory thereof has departed. I traversed the whole length of the wharves. There may have been six wharf houses open. One schooner was unloading wood at the commissary department and one ferry boat was running between there and Washington. Most of the best residences and stores are vacated and closed King street, the main avenue of the place, has actually got a pavement continuing half its length. It was laid one hundred years ago, made of all sized stones and decidedly the worse for wear. It is impossible to drive over a walk in any part of this desolated realm. This I understand to be characteristic of Virginia, and is an outgrowth of their peculiar institution..
I visited the house where Col. Ellsworth met his sad, yet honorable death. the flight of stairs on which he fell has been borne away, and the house and furniture completely riddled. it stands the picture of desolation. I see by the papers that an advance is expected upon our lines. I have learned from reliable quarters that such is the expectation of the government, and the recent requisition for troops seems to confirm it. We all retire with the expectation of a visit before daybreak. it is said they are to make a feint of marching upon Washington by way of Long Bridge, while the main body of their army will ford the Potomac at some distance above the city, and advance upon it from the north, so that we shall be likely to hear or see something of them as they go by. No harm can come from letting you know what they intend to do. Our programme is to receive and treat them with all due hospitality. They could do nothing better for us than to attempt to carry out such a programme. The difference, then, between a masked battery, and an open field, would be a settled point in southern philosophy. When we get any definite word you shall hear. In the meantime the fifteenth wait for any of the emergencies surrounding its new relation. Yours truly Grafton.