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curiosities amongst our party had their researches richly rewarded.
As to the value of the fortifications, I could form no opinion. To me they appeared of the rudest and poorest description of earthworks ; and I fancy were intended rather to protect the retreat of the army in case of a sudden attack, than to keep off the enemy. On the other hand, the position of Manassas in itself was obviously a strong one. The wide plateau on which it stood sloped down rapidly towards the North ; so that an army advancing from Washington would have had to mount this slope, exposed to the full fire of the enemy's batteries. At this time, by the way, there was an embittered discussion going on in the American press, as to whether the Confederates had manned their works with wooden cannon, in order to give a false impression of strength. The anti-slavery party asserted positively that such was the case, and that McClellan had been frightened from attacking Manassas by a scarecrow. The democratic party asserted as stoutly that the whole story was an invention. Curious to say, the fact of the existence of the “quaker guns” was never either demonstrated or disproved. I can only say, that soldiers I saw at Manassas assured me that they had seen the wooden cannon on their first arrival. On the other hand, persons who took more trouble to investigate the truth came to the conclusion that there was no evidence of the fact; but to me the
definite result seemed to be that, from some cause or other, the Federal commanders failed invariably to obtain reliable information as to the position and movements of the Southern army.
Our visit was but a short one, for the train had to return early, in order to avoid the risk of travelling through that half-hostile country after dark. On our return to the cars, we came upon a strange living evidence of the results of this strange war. Huddled together upon a truck were a group of some dozen runaway slaves. There were three men, four women, and half a dozen children. Anything more helpless or wretched than their aspect I never saw. Miserably clothed, footsore, and weary, they crouched in the hot sunlight more like animals than men. They seemed to have no idea, no plan, and no distinct purpose. They were field-hands, on a farm some score of miles off, and had walked all night; so at least they told us. Now they were going North as far as Washington, which appeared to them the end of the world. They had no fear of being recaptured, partly, I think, because they had reached Northern troops, still more because their home seemed to them so far away. With the exception of one woman, who was going to look for her husband, who was hired out somewhere in the District of Columbia, they talked as if they had no friends or acquaintances in the new land they were travelling to. For the present they were content that they
could sit in the sun without being forced to work. Some of our party gave them money, and broken victuals which they valued more. I overheard one of the men saying to a woman, as he munched some white bread he had picked up, “Massa never gave us food like that.” Poor things, if their idea of freedom was white bread and rest, they must have been disappointed bitterly! As strangers and guests of official personages, it was impossible for us to do anything for them. We got them a lift upon the truck to Alexandria. But whenever I think of that incident, I wish that we could have done, that we had done, more. Before we reached the town they got down, and our roads parted. What became of them heaven knows.
Instead of returning by the river from Alexandria, the train carried us to the foot of the long chain-bridge which crosses the Potomac in front of Washington. For hours we found it impossible to cross, as a division of 16,000 men were marching over on their way to Alexandria, to embark for the peninsula. With colours flying, and bands playing, regiment after regiment defiled past us. In the grey evening light, the long endless files bore a phantom aspect. The men were singing, shouting, cheering ; under cover of the darkness, they chanted “John Brown's Hymn," in defiance of McClellan's orders, and the heavy tramp of a thousand feet beat time to that strange weird melody. As the New England regiments passed our train, they shouted to us to tell the people at home that we had seen them in Dixie's Land, and on the way to Richmond. Ah, me! how many, I wonder, of those who flitted before us in the twilight, came home themselves to tell their own story?
TOWARDS the middle of last April Washington was growing empty. Willard's Hotel was rapidly losing its customers, and the managers were fast becoming oppressively civil, even to a single one-trunk-andcarpet-bag traveller like myself. Pennsylvania Avenue was no longer crowded with artillery and baggagewaggons. Officers had become few in number, passes had ceased to be required for crossing the now-deserted lines, and the weekly receptions of senators and representatives were being dropped one by one. All these symptoms were hints to a traveller to move elsewhere. Indeed, I should have gone some weeks before, but for three causes. The first was, that after some two or three weeks of spring as warm as most English summers, we had heavy falls of snow, covering the ground for days together; the second was, that my introductions had made society in Washington so pleasant to me, that it was with reluctance I parted from it; and thirdly, and lastly, I experienced a difficulty which