From The Constitution, Wednesday, February 1, 1865 (volume 28, number 1414)

War News.

An official dispatch from Admiral Porter dated “Off Smithville, N. C., Jan. 20,” gives the details of the blowing up of Fort Caswell by the enemy on the 16th and the subsequent evacuation of all the other works in that vicinity, including Bald Head Fort, Forts Campbell and Shaw, and the fort at Smithville, all of the very strongest character, and mounting eight, nine and ten inch guns, and one Armstrong 150 pounder. The total number of guns captured in these works was 83, which added to the number captured at Fort Fisher makes 155 cannon as the trophies of four days’ operations. Two blockade runners, the Charlotte and Stag, had been captured by running into the river past Fort Fisher, only to discover one fleet inside. Another was captured by the fleet outside.

Further details of the attempt of the rebel fleet to come down the James River and attack City Point show that the fleet was composed of three iron clads and five gunboats. One of the iron-clads, the Fredericksburgh, ran through the obstructions, but in attempting to follow the others got aground and daylight coming on, our batteries, Forts Brady and Parsons, opened with effect, driving back the entire fleet with the exception of the gunboat Drewry, which remained aground and was blown up by a shell from our guns, which exploded her magazine.

The total number of guns captured at Fort Fisher and the other fortifications on Federal Point, was 72; the number captured at Fort Caswell, Campbell and Shaw, and at two small batteries on the Cape Fear River was 83. Total 155.

The limits of the Department of the South are extended so to embrace the State of North Carolina. The headquarters will remain at Hilton Head. The department will, until further instructions, be subject to the orders and control of Major General Sherman.

Jeff. Davis has appointed March 10 as a fast day.

Sixteen deserters from Tenn. regiments came in Thursday and took the oath, and state that many more are watching a like opportunity. Sixty scalded officers from the steamer Eclipse arrived yesterday. Twenty-two were killed and many more missing.

Gen. Meade has issued an important order, intended to arouse a proper spirit of emulation among the enlisted men of the army. It provides by the recognition and reward of meritorious conduct by granting, under specified conditions, furloughs to such men as by attention to duty, proficiency in drill, conduct on the march and in battle, and care of arms, horses and equipments, have proved themselves to be the best soldiers in the brigades to which they are attached.

Admiral Porter reports to the Navy Department the capture of the blockade running steamer Blenheim on the night of Jan. 24th in Cape Fear River. She was from Nassau, bound in, not knowing the place had fallen into our hands. She has a valuable assorted cargo.

The Richmond Whig of Friday says it was reported in that city that Gen. Lee had been appointed General-in-Chief, and that Gen. Joseph E. Johnson had succeeded him in the command of the Army of Northern Virginia. It had been expected that Gen. Johnson would be assigned to the command of the forces confronting Sherman.

A dispatch from Wilmington, dated Jan. 19, received in Richmond on Thursday, reports the capture of the pirate Olustee, alias Tallahassee, while attempting to run into New Inlet.

The Blairs – Peace – A Humbug!

The visits of the Blairs, Sen. And Jun., to the rebel capital have caused the circulation of peace rumors in every form. The special correspondent of the N. Y. Times states that it is a failure. Jeff Davis will not listen to terms until the confederacy is recognized, after which an armistice may be agreed upon. This is all well enough. The rebel leaders have not yet been brought to that state, in which submission to the authority of the United States will be found preferable to the wrath of an outraged and woe-stricken people. It has been asserted by the rebel organ that the act appointing a General-in-Chief has passed Congress and been approved by the President. They undoubtedly hope by the appointment of some person as General-in-Chief, Gen. Lee for instance, that new strength and vigor will be imparted to their arms. The troubles that have come upon the inhabitants of Dixie have taught their leaders that by separate state action they can do nothing. With this fact acknowledged Jeff Davis now appeals to the States, pointing out to them the injurious and mischievous effects of separate action, and advising them to act together in all matters pertaining to the accomplishment of their independence. As the end draws near, Davis and his advisors will not only see that it is necessary to have one acknowledged head of government for one idea, but in all things. States can control their affairs so as not to conflict with each other and the general government. As the south has thus frankly acknowledged her error in this case, so will she in secession. The old union of States will be restored stronger in unity than ever, for old troublesome ideas will be swept away, giving a clear and unobstructed pathway to the high position among nations which this country is destined to occupy.

GWIN, THE NEW VICEROY.

A report comes to us from California of the establishment of Wm. M. Gwin, formerly Senator from California as Viceroy or Duke over the northern provinces of Mexico. The last time Gwin was heard from he was arrested on a California steamer by Gen. Sumner, on the ground that he was a disloyal man and working for the interests of the secessionists. There is some reason to believe the truth of the report. The provinces over which he is said to have control, are rich in mineral resources, all that is required, being its settlement by an enterprising people. Then again, as the rebellion wanes, the leaders will be looking for a safe place to retreat, and what better place will offer, than the new country just mentioned. The said Gwin, having intimate relations with the rebel leaders, will probably induce many of them to emigrate, by reviving their old dreams of a great slave empire. Napoleon is a wily schemer, and nothing would please him better than to populate his newly acquired territory with the refugees of the south.

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The Illinois Legislature have repealed the black laws, with the exception of that prohibiting the marriage of blacks and whites. Among those foremost in this repeal were some who had figured in their adoption.

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Destruction by Fire of the Smithsonian Institute, Washington.—The Smithsonian Institute, at Washington, was partially destroyed by fire, on Tuesday afternoon last, caused by a defective flue, in the loft above the picture gallery. The fire was confined to the main building, and above the first story, the latter containing the museum, which was considerably damaged by water. The wings and corridors were not much injured, neither was the large library in the west wing much damaged.

Local News.

Fair and Festival.—The Fair and Festival given by the ladies of the Alert Club, comes off on Wednesday afternoon and evening of this week. The friends of the soldier will bear in mind the cause for which they endure hardships and privations and make liberal contributions to the entertainment now in hand. Donations may be sent to the McDonough Hall until 12 o’clock Wednesday.—Now is the opportunity, and let the citizens of Middletown and vicinity improve it, and give of their bounty in such a manner that the soldiers will have cause to remember them.

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Dr. L. Jewett of the 14th C. V., who was wounded at the battle of Reams Station on the Weldon R. R., has recently received his discharge and is now at his home in Middle Haddam.

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Skating.—There has been good skating on the river for the past week. Saturday afternoon the skaters could have been counted by the hundreds. The ice boat is out every day.

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Registration of Births and Deaths.—We are requested by the Registrar of this town, to call the attention of some of our delinquent Physicians, to the importance and necessity of their making complete returns of the births and deaths, (more particularly of the former,) which have occurred in their practice, the past year. The Registrar informs us, that as the returns now stand, the deaths exceed the births by forty-five. This surely cannot be so; and such a statement to be published and circulated abroad, (as it will be unless speedily corrected,) would most certainly have an injurious effect upon the interests of this town, and we trust that those Physicians who have neglected their duty in this matter, will no longer delay in making the proper returns.

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An important witness in a case before the Superior Court in session at Northampton, Mass., being absent last week, the sheriff was sent after him. The officer returned and said he had found the man, and wanted to know if the Court insisted on his presence. The answer was yes; but after the officer explained that he was sick with the small pox, the Court suddenly changed its mind.

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In the Boston police court, recently, a man arraigned as a common drunkard, put in a peculiar plea in defense. He said that he believed the world was coming to an end within a year, and meditating upon this momentous event “staggered” him. The court did not see it in that light, and sent the staggerer to the House of Correction for five months.

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A guerrilla attacked the shop of a lonely widow in Hawesville, Ky., the other night. He broke the window and pushed his head in, when the widow laid him out with a billet of wood, called for an axe, and deliberately made mince-meat of the body.

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