Apparently after some deliberation, the Executive
acted, for about 1 A. M. on July 18, Johnston
received a telegram.
It is worthy of study as a model not
to be followed in such cases.
It was as follows —
came to make his report of the battle of Bull Run
he wrote as follows of this message :—
‘About one o'clock in the morning of July 18 I received from the Government a telegraphic despatch informing me that the northern army was advancing upon Manassas, then held by Gen. Beauregard, and directing me, if practicable, to go to that officer's assistance, after sending my sick to Culpeper C. H. In the exercise of discretion conferred by the terms of the order, I at once determined to march to join Gen. Beauregard.’
took great offence at this language and ordered the word ‘after’ before the words ‘sending your sick’ to be erased from the report in the records.
He resented also Beauregard
's speaking of this order in his report as only permissive, and not mandatory.
And even in his book, written after the war, he claims that the order was a ‘positive’ one, and considers it ‘strange that any one has construed it otherwise.’
The words ‘if practicable’ are always of such doubtful interpretation that they should be excluded from all important orders.
They leave matters in doubt.
Every order should be distinctly either the one thing or the other.
used the phrase at Gettysburg
, in ordering Ewell
to press a routed enemy, and lost his victory by it.
It is notable, too, that this order not only failed to urge haste, but, by injunctions concerning sick and baggage by rail, implied that time would permit, which it did not. Exclusive use of the railroad by the troops was absolutely necessary.
felt any reluctance to the movement, or had Patterson
's attitude been in the least threatening, excuses