Saturday, October 31, 2009

Letter From Baltimore

BALTIMORE, April 12th, 1862.

EDITOR MESSENGER – Sir: Without previous notice, I venture to write you a few lines for publication in your paper.

My recent trip to this city was very pleasant, with the exception of some inconveniences arising from being thrown “out of time” on the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road. Recent heavy rains caused much injury to the road-bed on this line, and for some days trains made only irregular trips. All is now in order, and each train departs and arrives “on time.” Those who have not yet passed over the B. & O. Road, this side of Cumberland, since its partial destruction by the rebels will find, on making the trip, quite a different state of affairs existing along the line, so far as the road itself is concerned, compared with that of even one year ago.

At Martinsburg I counted twelve locomotives, still standing where left by their destroyers. Some of them, I presume are rendered entirely worthless, having been burned until the rods and other smaller parts are warped and twisted into almost every conceivable shape. How many more there may be thus left as the footprints of an inexcusable mob, I cannot say, as I only saw those standing upon the “side-track.” I learned from one acquainted with the place that there were many more.

At Harper’s Ferry the work of destruction seemed to have reached its highest point. In all the buildings still standing I could only see one which seemed to be occupied, save those used by our troops stationed at the place. The large brick hotel, where many a hungry traveler has refreshed the “inner man,” is gone – nothing left but a mass of rubbish. The Government buildings are all destroyed with one exception – that being probably the largest. The machinery was taken from this, but the walls and roof are uninjured. This building is now occupied as a government stable. The “Odd Fellow’s” Hall, which some may remember having seen standing back on the hill with the end towards the river with “I. O. O. F.” plainly in sight, is now used by the Quartermaster’s department. The “trestling” along the bank of the river here being of stone and iron was not much injured. Among the buildings escaping destruction is the “Engine House,” the “Headquarters” of John Brown. Strange to say, it still stands, and the traveler naturally says, as he looks upon it, “John Brown must have been crazy.” And so it does seem, for a man might as well try to fortify himself in the Athens market house as in this “Fort,” selected by John Brown. Almost every trestle from Cumberland to “Point of Rocks” was destroyed. The fine bridge at the Ferry has been replaced by temporary trestle work, which seems to answer every purpose. The "piers” of the bridge were not injured. Two other bridges crossing the Potomac – one at Berlin and the other at “Point of Rocks” – were also badly burned, nothing being left but the stone piers to mark the place where those noble structures once stood. The company is seemingly doing everything in its power to thoroughly repair the road. Vast numbers of men are engaged upon its re-construction. The Government seems determined not to allow this great thoroughfare to be again closed, as it has furnished men sufficient to guard it its entire length. Already vast amounts of freights are coming from the west, and from present appearances, the full capacity of the road will be required to do the business offered.

Business in this city is anything but brisk, save in those channels where the Government operates. All eyes are now trained toward Yorktown, and, as much depends upon the success of our army there, everything like business here, as elsewhere in the East, will stand still until the result of that battle is known. The Government is doing a large business here, by way of building gunboats, and fitting out other vessels of war. Two large “Iron-plated” boats are now under way in the “basin,” in sight from the place where I am now writing. “Federal Hill” presents quite a war-like appearance. A large Fort – earthwork – has been built here, mounting fifty-six guns, varying in size from a six to a sixty-four pounder. This Fort is near the center of the city and can, if necessary, be burned to the ground. The Fort is now occupied by six companies of the 3rd New York regiment, from Albany. They claim to be the oldest three years regiment in the service. They lost seventeen men in the battle at Great Bethel. Fort Marshall, in the lower part of the city, on the road toward Philadelphia, is occupied by the balance of this regiment. Several regiments are stationed in and around the city, and the streets glisten with brass buttons. How much “secesh” there may still be lurking around this city, waiting for a favorable opportunity to burst forth in its former strength, I cannot say; but in justice to the masses here, I must say that I believe the civil power now fully sufficient to maintain order. Many who, in the onset of our National difficulties, unhesitatingly spoke and acted for the rebels now measure their language, seemingly disposed to claim the friendship of “Union men,” as also to put themselves in good shape to rejoice at the triumph of the Government, whenever rejoicing shall become popular.

Every regiment passing through this city is fed by the citizens. A large dining hall, convenient to the R. R. station, has been fitted up, where those men who are fighting to maintain the rights of all the people, as they pass along, can eat and drink without money.

A large reading room, called the “Union Reading Room,” has been fitted up for the benefit of the soldiers stationed here. At this place they can peruse all the daily papers of the city, as well as nearly ten hundred others, from different parts of the country, all without cost to them. This room furnishes many a poor soldier with such news as he now most needs, without constantly calling on his pocket for a half-dime to buy a paper. Besides this, he can here often find a paper published at his own home – thus giving him, besides the news of the day, a history of events transpiring among those so near to him. The Messenger, with many other Ohio papers makes it regular appearance at the “reading room.”

A few more days will decide much either for or against our country. If favorable then our difficulties will soon end – if otherwise, renewed energy, on the part of our rulers, with the people, will be necessary. I have no fears for the result. For the benefit of those persons who may visit Baltimore this season, and who have formally stopped at the “Howard House,” I would inform them that the above named house is now closed. The “Maltby House” is now the resort of Western men.

Your Friend,
F. M. C.

– Published in The Athens Messenger, Athens Ohio, Thursday, April 24, 1862

No comments: