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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 087 [03-27-1862]

              73
         Porter�s Big Bethel Reconnoisance.
I was shown into a huge, six-bedded room, like
a stable.    Mutinying, I got inducted into Rawlings�,
the �Doctor� being away.   I was horribly diar-
rheaish and out of sorts and kept my bed but
intermittently.  One Capt. Aiken appeared at 12
and occupied t�other bed.

[newspaper clipping: first column]
     THE OCCUPATION OF BIG BETHEL.
		    ������������
	       How the Enemy Fled.
	{Correspondence of the Evening Post.}
		IN CAMP, NEAR LITTLE BETHEL,
				VIRGINIA, MARCH 27.}
  The reconnoisance of our troops towards Big Bethel
has just been completed with the most satisfactory re-
sults.  Preparations had been made for a movement in
force against the enemy at that point, on the supposi-
tion that we might encounter a stubborn resistance, but
the sudden flight of the Rebels left an easy prey to our
soldiers.  A strong detachment of cavalry, infantry and
artillery was detailed for this service; two companies of
Berdan�s Sharpshooters marching in the advance.  The
expedition was under command of General Fitz-John
Porter.
		         THE MARCH.
  Yesterday our skirmishers reported the presence of
Rebel spies at various points on the road to Big Bethel,
and during the march we kept a sharp eye upon every
bush and log house where an enemy might have been
concealed, but the Rebels carefully avoided us, and
nearly all the houses along our route were occupied
only by the women and children.  A few Union far-
mers, honest-looking, fat and lazy, regarded our force
with interest as we passed, but said nothing.
  The face of the country over which we marched was
level and beautiful.  The road was smooth and solid; so
good, in fact, that a rail-track could be laid upon it with
little trouble.  Several fine mansions, surrounded by
spacious grounds, dotted the landscape at intervals, but
they were invariably deserted, their owners having
taken service in the Rebel army or fled at our approach,
leaving only the house servants to take charge of the
premises.
  As we emerged from a stretch of forest through which
the highway ran, we saw the red sandbanks of the
Rebel earthworks at Big Bethel on our left.  Informa-
tion of the flight of the enemy was instantly conveyed
to us, and we marched quietly in to take possession.
Big Bethel was captured without a blow.

[newspaper clipping: second column]
		    THE REBEL WORKS.
  The fortifications erected by the enemy were five in
number.  Three of them were breastworks, each a few
rods in length and mounting one gun.  Two others were
of greater dimensions, and mounted six guns each.  The
works were all erected on the left side of the main road,
and were flanked on the right by a grove.  In front there
is a broad space, sloping to the river, fully commanded
by the guns of the works.  The place was thoroughly
defensible, and had the Rebels made a stand we should
have had no little difficulty in dislodging them.
		 	A CHASE.
  A small party of rebels having been observed on the
opposite side of the river, our sharpshooters were de-
ployed to pick them off.  At the same moment our right
flank reached its destination and sent a few shots among
the enemy, causing a stampede.  Away went the Rebels,
pell-mell, each for himself.  In their retreat they stopped
long enough to try to tear up the planks of the bridge,
but the bullets of our sharpshooters again fell among
them, and the flight was suddenly resumed.  Our men
followed fast, soon replaced the two or three planks
that had been torn up, and tore after the flying men,
but the chase was ineffectual.  The Rebels ran well
and were soon beyond reach.
		      A QUIET RETREAT.
  A search of the houses in the village resulted in one
curious discovery.  Our soldiers entered a small cot-
tage, and were assured that �a sick woman� lay in a
chamber; but, having reason to suspect a trick, they
explored the premises, and discovered a Rebel soldier
snugly hidden between the sheets.  He was clothed in
a gray uniform, and had retired without taking the
trouble of removing his boots, which were covered with
mud and water.  He was seized as prize of war, and
conveyed to headquarters, when he acknowledged that
he had served in the Rebel army from June to October,
and had recently been assigned to duty in the works at
Big Bethel.
  Our forces are now in full possession of the place.
The force of fifteen hundred Rebels who were so sum-
marily driven out have left the results of their labors
for our benefit, and our soldiers, although quite disgust-
ed that they had no chance to fight, are in the full en-
 oyment of the enemy�s resources.

[Gunn�s diary continued]
  The above account of the Big Bethel reconnoisance,
written by Boyce, of the N.Y. Evening Post, and
published in direct defiance of the censorship, pro-
voked much indignation on the part of the other re-
porters, who regarded it as a stolen march upon               
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