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[618]

XXXVIII. the Potomac—Ball's Bluff—Dranesville.

  • Scott a failure
  • -- Gen. McClellan called to Washington -- brings order out of Chaos -- great increase of our army -- no advance -- Ball's Bluff -- Drauesville--“all quiet” -- the Hutchinsons expelled -- Whittier's Lyric.


the disaster at Bull Run, and the amazing imbecility betrayed in allowing several of the regiments there routed to continue their panic-stricken, disorderly flight over the bridges into Washington, whence many soldiers, and even officers, dispersed to their respective homes, had dispelled all lingering illusions as to the capacity of Gen. Scott for the conduct of a great war. Though it was still deemed a military necessity to conceal the failure of his faculties, to excuse his blunders, and even, in some instances, to eulogize his abilities as well as magnify his services, the urgent, imperative need of replacing him by a younger and more vigorous commander was felt by every intelligent Unionist. It was he, Winfield Scott, and none other, who had precipitated a third of our forces, on or near the line of the Potomac, into a decisive conflict with seven-eighths of the Rebel strength in Virginia, in defiance of every dictate of prudence and of common sense. Neither the President, nor the Secretary of War, nor Gen. McDowell, nor the maligned and detested Radicals — who were naturally anxious that our 75,000 three-months' men should not be disbanded and sent home without having been of the least positive service — had ever desired or expected any such conflict as this. It was Gen. Scott who had given the orders under which Gen. McDowell advanced and fought on Sunday, the 21st of July. Gen. Cameron, the Secretary of War, who was at Centerville during the preceding day, saw plainly that our regiments at the front were not so many as they should be, and returned hastily that evening to Washington to procure a countermand of the order for battle; but arrived too late to see Gen. Scott and obtain it. Badly as Patterson had behaved, he had reported, on the 18th, by telegraph to Scott, his flank movement to Charlestown; which, any one could see, left Gen. Johnston at perfect liberty to hasten, with all his available force, to the aid of Beauregard at Manassas. And, on the 20th--the day before Bull Run — he had telegraphed to Scott that Johnston had actually departed on that errand.1 Though Gen. Scott remained nominally in chief command until the last day of October, he was practically superseded

1 Gen. Scott, in commenting on Gen. Patterson's testimony in a deliberately written statement, made to the Committee on the Conduct of the War, says:

As connected with this subject, I hope I may be permitted to notice the charge made against me, on the floor of Congress, that I did not stop Brig. Gen. McDowell's movement upon Manassas Junction after I had been informed of the reenforcement sent thither from Winchester, though urged to do so by one or more members of the Cabinet. Now, it was, at the reception of that news, too late to call off the troops from the attack; and, beside, though opposed to the movement at first, we had all become animated and sanguine of success; and it is not true that I was urged by anybody in authority to stop the attack; which was commenced as early, I think, as the 18th of July.

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