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66 ADVANCE OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.
Advance of the Army of the Potomac.—The Thirty-third taking up the line of march.—Flint Hill.—General McClellan decides to move on Richmond by way of the Peninsula.—Embarkation of the Thirty-third at Alexandria.—Embarkation Scene.—Mount Vernon.—The Monitor.—Arrival at Fortress Monroe.—Agreeable change of the climate.—Hampton.—Reconnoisance to Watt's Creek.—Rebel Epistolary Literature.—Bathers shelled by the rebel gunboat Teaser.—Building a Redoubt.
On the 10th of March the Army of the Potomac unfurled its banners, and began the forward march. Comprised of legions of brave men perfected in discipline through long months of drill; supplied with everything pertaining to the material of war, and headed by a General the very mention of whose name inspired to deeds of daring — in this grand army were centred the Nation's hopes. The long delay was ended, the public pulse quickened, and with light heart and elastic step the volunteer moved away, confident that he moved to victory.
The Thirty-third took up their line of march at 3£ o'clock in the morning, while a severe rain-storm was prevailing, which continued during the day, rendering the roads almost impassable. Four and a half hours were consumed in marching the distance of two miles, and many of the wagons were stuck fast
in the mud before reaching Lewinsville. The brigade encamped the first night at Flint Hill, on an abandoned rebel site, having marched ten miles. The men, weary, hungry, foot sore, and wet to the skin, hailed with feelings such as they had never before experienced, the orders to "halt, stack arms, and encamp for the night." The division remained in this locality four days, being again reviewed by their commander,
It was here that the men began to learn, for the first time, to their chagrin and mortification, that the enemy had retreated southward. After beleaguering the capital, blockading the river, and keeping our army at bay for more than six months, they had quietly absconded, taking everything with them.
Fairfax Court House, informing them that he had previously determined on moving forward towards Richmond by the way of the Rappahannock; but further deliberation had led him to abandon this route for the one via Fortress Monroe. Thereupon every preparation was made for transferring the scene of operations to the Peninsula. The larger portion of the army had proceeded no further in the direction of Manassas than the Court House. A small force, however, had advanced to the Rappahannock, ascertaining that the country was clear of rebels to that river.
On the 15th of the month General Smith's division resumed the line of march, and passing through
Embarkation at Alexandria.
Fairfax, encamped at Cloud's Mills, near Alexandria. The Thirty-third remained here along with other
EMBABKATION SCENE. 69
troops, until Sunday the 23d, when it marched to Alexandria, and embarked on vessels for Fortress Monroe. Six companies proceeded on board the Metamora, previously employed on the Hudson river; three on the Naushon, and the remaining Company on another small steamer. The embarkation scene was one which will long be remembered by the participants.
Transports of every size and description were riding in the river, or moored at the wharves, receiving on board regiment after regiment. National ensigns and banners appeared in every direction, flying from the forests of masts, over forts in the distance, or unfurled at the head of the regiments. Beyond the city were visible long lines of glistening bayonets, winding over hill and through dale as far as the eye could reach, and the gentle breezes which blew from the southward bore to the ear the music of a hundred national bands. They steamed away at the close of the day, amid tremendous cheering, waving of handkerchiefs, and singing of the "red, white, and blue;" the setting sun shimmering on the water; the dark outlines of the capitol looming up in the distance. All hands crowded the decks to catch a lingering look of Washington, rebellious Alexandria, and the surrounding region, where they had spent the first months of their soldier-life.
Dropping down the river, the three steamers bearing the Thirty-third lay off Fort Washington until the next morning, when they "hove anchor," and started for Fortress Monroe. When opposite Mount 70 ARRIVAL AT FORTRESS MONROE.
Vernon, the bells were tolled in memory of the illustrious dead. The first of the Monitors, since lost off the coast of North Carolina, lay at anchor further down the river, and attracted much attention. So diminutive, so insignificant in appearance, it seemed impossible that this little "cheese-box" could be so formidable an engine of destruction; able to blow the largest man-of-war afloat into "one long porthole." Passing numerous barges, sloops, and other water-craft, in the employ of the government, the steamers reached Fortress Monroe at midnight, and the troops disembarked at Old Point Comfort during the following morning.
Forces belonging to General Heintzelman had already arrived, and were encamped in the vicinity of the fort. The change in the climate was very perceptible as well as agreeable. Instead of the bleak, cutting winds and unhealthy climate of Camp Griffin, a warm genial south breeze was blowing, and the mild, balmy atmosphere was alike bracing and exhilarating. After the long confinement of the more northern winter months, it was far from disagreeable to be transferred to a spot where the peach trees were in blossom, birds were singing, and flocks sporting in green meadows.
On landing, the Thirty-third marched to the ruined village of Hampton, and after tarrying a short time to partake of refreshments, and examine the various objects of interest, proceeded three miles beyond, and encamped close to the James River. Prior to leaving Washington, General Heintzelman had re