Letter from our Army Correspondent.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Near New Bridge, Va., June 4.
This is a rainy day with us in camp, in fact, showers and thunder storms seem to be the normal characteristics of the climate here abouts — such, at least has been our experience for the past few weeks. This unprecedented wet season has greatly impeded the operations of the army, and we now lie soaking on this side of the Chickahominy — swollen to a formidable river — when we might have been comfortably quartered in Richmond had the weather and the state of the roads permitted our advance. But here we are still, trying to put some bridges over the Chickahominy, which rises and falls in such an unaccountable manner as to put quite at fault the skill of our engineers. We make calculations for a bridge of 100 feet, and when about to put it down we find that three hundred feet won't answer, the size of the stream having increased so largely. If I recollect aright, early history tells us that Capt. John Smith mired down and was caught by his wiley foes somewhere abouts in this Chickahominy bottom, and from what little I've seen of it, I am not greatly surprised at the redoubtable Smith's mishap. I trust a similar fate may not await the army of the Potomac.
The character of the peninsula from Yorktown up to our present encampment, near New Bridge, is monotonous and uninteresting. The country consists principally of vast pine tracts and swamps; the soil is poor, and where it is cultivated yields but indifferent crops. The cereals and tobacco are chiefly raised. As we leave the Pamunkey and approach Richmond, the country improves somewhat, is more highly cultivated and thickly settled.
We passed a number of fine farms with handsome residences, on our march from White House, the proprietors in many cases remaining at home, though taking good care to send away their cattle, horses, negroes and valuables. As a general thing they are bitter secessionists, and make no concealment of it, yet they have the unmitigated effrontery to demand safe-guards for their property, and grumble if they miss a picket from their fences, or a chicken from their barnyards. — They send all their provisions to Richmond, where they get three prices for them, and then expect our commissaries to sell them supplies at government rates! They are farmers by day, guerillas by night, and traitors — always!
Our army is encamped on both sides of the Chickahominy, and holds itself ready for any emergency. From present indications a great battle must come off within the week, if the enemy intends fighting outside of his entrenchments. Heavy firing is kept up continually along our front — the boom of cannon and the rattle of musketry seldom ceases.
Our balloons, of which we have two — the "Constitution" and the "Intrepid," — are constantly in the air. All day they hang in the clear sky — when we have one — huge and motionless — hang like impending fate above the devoted city. The amazed citizens of Richmond, with a good glass, may readily distinguish the arms of the United States as they are painted on the silk covering of the balloon, or read the large characters that form, to them, that word of threatening import, the "CONSTITUTION." Much valuable information with regard to the character of the country and the movements of the enemy's forces, is obtained through these ascensions.
We hold the Chickahominy from Bottom's Bridge to Mechanicsville. I rode over our lines a few days ago, terminating my ride at Mechanicsville. The place consists of half a dozen houses, and is five miles from Richmond; the spires of the city are plainly visible from the tree tops. Quite a spirited skirmish took place here when our troops first took possession. The buildings are perfectly riddled with our ten pound shells, and the trees about also bear testimony to the severity of our fire. I noticed a large white oak through which a shell had passed. It cut a clean hole through eighteen or twenty inches of solid oak, as nicely executed as if bored by an auger. I took dinner here with a friend, of the 27th N.Y., who was on picket duty at the time. To our soldiers' fare were the added luxuries of green peas, strawberries and ice — all from the grounds of the rebellious lady whose grounds we occupied. The madam, so her servants said, denounced the Yankees in unmeasured terms, and refused to quit her house until it was twice struck by our rapidly advancing guns.