Letter from Austin, Matthew S.

Soldier: Austin, Matthew S.
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 5th Infantry
Home State: New Jersey
Date Written: Friday, March 14th, 1862
Location: Lower Potomac
Correspondence Type: Letter
Subjects: Commanders, Comrades, Contraband, Eastern Theater, Family, Newspapers, Rumors, Tactics, Weapons
Camp Fifth NJV

My Dear Father~

Yours of the 12th was rec’d this P.M. - contents all right; for which receive my thanks. My last letter referred to the abandonment of the rebel batteries on the other side of the river. I will refer to it again so far as to say that the Washington correspondent of the NY Tribune has made a most stupendous exaggeration of the capture of Cockpit Point. What I said before was strictly true. I might say further that two escaped negroes who crossed from Freestone Point on Friday night reported the evacuation of the place. These two negroes were brought into our camp and lodged in the grand house, where they related many things, which we have since found were true - such as killing of some of their men by our shots - the bursting of one of their guns by which two persons were killed and finally, the evacuation of the place. These contrabands were sent to Gen. Hooker’s headquarters, who doubtless, received much valuable information. Cockpit Point was totally and entirely vacated on Saturday 8th inst., saving perhaps, three individuals who were there at that date - left to destroy what they could not take away. On Sunday P.M., at the time of the reconnaissance of the gun boat “Anacostia” there was not a soul left to reply to her shots - so that the silencing of the batteries by the gun boats was the work of the corresponders and not the guns of the “Anacostia”. The gun boats have not condescended to throw any missiles at the famous batteries since the time the “Yankee” was struck by a shot from Cockpit Point (in January I believe). The no. of shot, reported as thrown, by the Tribune correspondent is 14,000!! Judge of the music we should have enjoyed were it true. I do not suppose the fellow who wrote the article thought he was coming very close to the correct figures but thought it would be a good joke to tell the C.S. that they had fired a large number of shots without effect.

On Monday last, the 5th took possession of the Point (Cockpit) and destroyed all the property that was not worth taking away. I was with the party (some 700) and will tell you, in my next what we saw in detail. It will be enough for the present to say that we got a quantity of shot (canister, ?, shell- conical & round - fuse and percussion) and that we threw three of their guns into the river - destroyed the carriages (burnt them) as well as everything else that would burn. Found that the large rifled gun had burst as the contrabands had said - the gun having been thrown from the carriage and turned entirely over - the muzzle in the opposite direction from the point aimed at. The piece blown off was about 21 feet ling - on immense weight - being about 11 inches in diameter. Close be were two hundred conical shells covered with brush - charged but not ?. In the magazines of one of the guns were traps for exploding shells - they did not catch us asleep on that point.

More soon


M.S. Austin
C.S. 5th NJV